In a last hurrah of summer sunshine, newly-promoted Hastings & Bexhill Rugby Club carried on where it left off last season.
The reigning Kent One champions produced a bravura performance of running rugby to win 51-22 at home to Bromley on Saturday, providing a peerless start to their London Three South East campaign.
Seven tries - and several more went begging - were a fair return for their confident ambition in attack and organised hard work in defence.
It has to be said that Bromley, who paid an unfulfilling flying visit to London Two last season and reportedly have lost over half their first team since, looked unexpectedly outgunned in all departments.
That the visitors briefly led, 10-5, after 20 minutes was due to their adept recycling and H&B’s initial disbelief that Bromley didn’t have more fire-power waiting to be unleashed.
A rampaging run-back from a 22 drop-out in the first five minutes by the ever-more-impressive lock Calvin Crosby-Clarke set up the opening score, with an offload to fellow second row Jimmy Adams, who found the first of many weak links in the Bromley defence for a try, Tom Waring’s well-struck conversion attempt floating wide.
Bromley missed one penalty opportunity at goal before slotting over another 10 minutes in. As the first quarter ended, a couple of strong carries initiated by Bromley’s number eight released their outside centre, who carved apart a back-foot defence for a converted try, and the lead.
Even then, H&B looked set for an unpredicted victory. H&B retook the lead when Waring ran a kick back at Bromley, the ball moving quickly along the backline for Harry Walker to stand up in the tackle, reach out determinedly and dot down over the line, Waring converting.
Waring kicked a penalty to stretch the lead to 15-10. Adams caught the restart in the air, hard running and good hands from Frazer McManus and Calvin-Clarke, a turnover won back at the scrum, and Tim Sills was away, touching down for Waring to add the extras.
H&B squandered one chance with a pass into touch before Eliot Parry broke from a scrum in the 22 to put Walker in, converted by on-form kicker Waring, for a 29-10 lead at the break.
The second half was more of the same.
Waring kicked a penalty, Jake Stinson stepped nimbly down his wing for a converted score and then, at 39-10, Adams - standing in as skipper for the injured Joe Umpleby - was yellow carded defending a rare Bromley incursion into the red zone. The visitors proceeded to finish off their attack decisively with a seven-pointer in the corner.
14-man H&B almost hit straight back, a speculative Walker kick chased by the turbo-charged Sills but knocked on in the act of scoring.
The pack kept the pressure on, John Hanagarth - on for Crosby-Clarke - bursting over from a scrum, the conversion sliced, 44-17.
With Adams back on the field and less than 10 minutes to go, Bromley lifted their flagging spirits and created their third try of the day, finished well by their left wing.
But despite Bromley’s sustained brave rally, it was H&B who had the last word. Another display of good hands and effective running lines put Ben Campbell in for the last score of the day, converted by Waring, 51-22.
You can only ever play what’s in front of you, and H&B did that with promising assurance and style to start their campaign on a welcome five-point high.
H&B: S. McManus, Brereton, Roche, Adams, Calvin-Clarke, F. McManus, Jones, Piotrowski, Parry, Walker, Stinson, Ackerley, Campbell, Sills, Waring. Subs: Hanagarth, Sewell, Field.