BANBURY made the perfect start to their season with a well-deserved 36-18 victory over Oxfordshire rivals Witney.

Scrum half Ed Phillips scored 21 of the north Oxfordshire side’s points, while debutant Tommy Gray (2) and Freddie Cracknell crossed for second-half tries at the DCS Stadium.

The enthusiasm of a new South West 1 East season may have got the better of Bulls winger Cracknell early on.

He was sin-binned after just 40 seconds for a dangerous tackle on Witney’s Lewis Collins.

Being a man down did not affect Banbury, though, and a Phillips penalty put them 3-0 in front just before Cracknell returned.

Witney responded well and a George Lewis penalty levelled the contest on 22 minutes.

The match turned scrappy, but Bulls enjoyed more territory and on 35 minutes Phillips picked up from the base of a ruck and darted over from five metres.

He converted his own try to make it 10-3.

Witney reduced the deficit on the brink of half-time, thanks to a Lewis penalty.

Banbury’s props started to dominate the scrum, while their backs took hold of the game.

Three Phillips penalties put Bulls 19-6 ahead and only a last-ditch tackle from Alex Foggett prevented a Cracknell try.

Witney hit back on 62 minutes, when Jack Birks dived over and Henry Lamb converted to make it 19-13.

But Banbury scored three tries in the final 12 minutes.

Centre Matt Goode was influential as two Gray tries were sandwiched by an eye-catching score from Cracknell. Phillips converted the latter to make it 36-13.

Witney refused to give in and Foggett crossed in the last play, but Bulls had already won the game and secured a bonus point.

Oxford Harlequins lost 34-20 at Old Patesians.

An unconverted score and penalty try saw the hosts lead 12-0.

But Quins responded through Guy Fairburn’s spectacular try on 20 minutes, Huw Dimond converting.

Patesians led 22-10 at the break as Scott Aldritt and Matt Dean crossed, while Dimond kicked a penalty for the visitors.

Another penalty from Dimond reduced the arrears, but Quins conceded a second penalty try, before George Angell went over to make it 34-13.

The visitors came back strongly and on 67 minutes George Tierney dived over with Dimond converting.

Quins pressed hard, but they were unable to cross again.

Bicester came close to winning their first game at level six, but lost 23-17 at home to Wimborne.

Charlie Bethell missed an early penalty, but converted moments later as the hosts went ahead on ten minutes when George Upton streaked over.

It was soon 12-0 as Peter Tarrega raced across.

The visitors replied when Ryan Maidment dived over and Harry Bazalgette converted.

A Bethell penalty attempt then fell just short as Bicester went into the break with a 12-7 lead.

Bazalgette kicked two penalties and converted his own try to put Wimborne 20-12 in front.

Tom Moysey’s drop-goal then extended their lead by a further three points.

But Bicester refused to lie down and, after Dan Spencer and Tarrega went close, Andrew Faulkner charged over for an unconverted try.

They pushed for another score, but were held up.

Grove started their campaign with a 31-14 win over Swindon.