The big guns came out firing in Week 1 with Spencer and Hampstead cranking up impressive wins to confirm their pre-season promise. Hillcroft weighed in with a hard-fought win over Blues as early markers were laid down.
Opponents Hitchin and Bristol were not up to full strength but the powerhouses from respective sides of the river look hot in 15/16.
Spencer recorded a 12-1 triumph over Hitchin and the Men in Black blasted a 17-2 victory over Bristol.
But there was better news for the other Western outpost as Cardiff thumped fancied Purley 11-2 to mark a happy return to the Premiership.
East Grinstead, who pledged to bring it this season, lived up to their intentions and won well at Reading 8-4.
Spencer unveiled a new midfield unit featuring ex-Maryland player Martin Rogers and former Loughborough University captain Tom Stewart who bagged four on debut.
“It was a great first outing and we were pleased with the performance,” said co-captain Tom Leahy. “For a first game, the level of organisation in defence and our slickness in attack were great to see.
“Our newcomers played a great hand in the game, with notable mentions for Martin and Tom in midfield.”
Hampstead went to town on Bristol, jumping out to a 5-0 1st quarter lead and never looking back. Mark Dubrosky scored four with two assists and the rest of the goals shared around their potent midfield and offensive units.
The Bombers were without defensive lynchpin Matt Parkes and keeper Bob Simpson but skipper Pete Wilson was still pleased with the application and the team’s potential.
“It was an extremely frustrating game and I don’t think the scoreline reflects the game that was played. The two major absences weakened us and Hampstead took advantage and worked a lot of simple goals with a nice, fluid offense,” said Willson.
“Our offense took a while to get going but in the 2nd half we began to hold the ball for much longer periods and work Hampstead’s defense harder. We had at least 10 great opportunities but just struggled to connect, with shots hitting the bar, going wide or just being snapped up by their impressive goalkeeper. It was just one of those days but there were lots of positives to take from the game and lots to work on for the season. I think the potential of our players is exciting.”
Bristol scorers were James Williams and Rob Rowe, who joined from Hitchin.
The big arm wrestle in Banstead was won 7-5 by Hillcroft who had enough form and fitness to edge out their opponents. The visitors had the lion’s share of possession and Blues keeper Stuart McGregor Dallas had a busy day with 22 saves along the way.
Defense dominated the first half with Liam O’Mahoney opening the scoring for Hillcroft while Pete Ross and Ryan Walker replied for the home team.
“It was a great win and one we have been working towards but credit to Blues for a tough game,” said Croft captain Eoin Dunne. “It was a great response from the whole team after the disappointment of the previous two weeks results. It is a result I feel vindicated a lot of the hard work we have put in over the last couple of months and it feels like a launching pad for the rest of our season. We have a few tough games coming up and this was a nice win to get under the belt.”
Defender Ben Stothard, so often an unsung Hillcroft hero, provided the pivotal moment with a crucial strip, ground ball and charge on the cage which he converted for a rare goal to provide a crucial 5-3 cushion.
Goals from Dunne, Aaron Fox, Zak Jordan and Brian Potter were important but the skipper credited an outstanding defensive performance that pressurised Blues into unforced errors with Scotland international Tom Loake named Man of the Match.
“This was always going to be a difficult first fixture and with only11 players available due to injury and absence, maintaining possession and controlling the pace of the game would be the focus of the game,” said Blues captain McGregor Dallas. “However, Hillcroft had other ideas and came out fighting take three shots before finally finding the net as the first quarter ended 0-1. The second quarter was a different story as Blues mustered a strong offence pushing ahead,to take a 3-1 lead before Hillcroft could come back.
“Tiredness soon became an issue for Blues. Errors, dropped passes and too many penalties favoured Hillcroft as they powered through and capitalised.”
Purley had recruited well during the summer but they couldn’t live with the Welsh dragons as Cardiff scored an impressive 11-2 victory on their travels.
Another good away win was chalked up by East Grinstead who beat Reading 8-4 with England box international Jack Foster leading the way with four goals with Mark Behar, Tony Joseph, Tomos Rosser and Chris White getting the other strikes.
“It was a good start to the season,” said skipper Andy Price. “We didn’t get into the game until the 2nd half and then still didn’t play at the potential we know we can. We controlled the ball well in attack and created good opportunities but, although we failed to convert a lot of these and made some wrong choices in attack, the performance gives us great prospects for the season.”
Hampstead 17 – 2 Bristol Bombers
Purley 2 – 11 Harlequins
Reading 4 – 8 East Grinstead
Spencer 12 – 1 Hitchin
Blues 5 – 7 Hillcroft
Bristol Bombers v Reading
East Grinstead v Spencer
Hillcroft v Purley
Hitchin v Blues