WESTCLIFF started life in National Two South with a painful 25-24 defeat to Dings Crusaders at the Gables.

Westcliff, who were promoted from the London & SE Premier Division last season, surged into a 24-8 lead in the opening encounter of the campaign.

But the visitors staged a late fightback to emerge triumphant and leave Westcliff team manager Rick Compton with mixed feelings at the final whistle.

“It was a promising start and two points were obtained but there’s also a sense of frustration and bitter disappointment in the way the game got away from us,” said Compton.

“Fair play to Dings who kept playing and took their opportunity but they got on the bus knowing they had picked our pocket and that if we had taken our opportunities or managed key moments better maximum points would have been ours.”

But Compton still felt there were pleasing aspects of Westcliff’s performance.

“It’s clear that there is much to build on but, while disappointing, it was also a performance of great promise,” said Compton.

“There is plenty for the coaching team to work on and significant room for improvement for a group with so many new faces in the coaching and playing set-up.

“A special mention should go to Elliot Croft and Chris Bolton for solid try scoring debuts and 17-year-old Jack Hogarth who debuted impressively from the bench.”

Westcliff opened the scoring with a try from Jim Smith before the visitors replied with a penalty.

However, the hosts got back on top and, after Bolton had broken at pace, he teed up Greg Bannister to touch down and, just moments later, Croft also wriggled out of a tackle to score.

Bannister added the conversion to put Westcliff 19-3 ahead at half-time but it was Dings who opened the scoring in the second half with an unconverted try.

Westcliff replied with a try from Bolton but the hosts wasted other chances coming their way and Dings began to take advantage.

A converted try and a penalty brought them back into the game before another try, eight minutes into stoppage time, saw them secure victory.

Westcliff: Bannister, B. Reynolds, Rossouw, Whiting, Kwassi, Croft, Bolton, Weston, B. Morrant, Binneman, Scogings, Dartnell, Vandermolen, Marsh, Smith

Replacements: Dellas, Maloney, S. Reynolds, H. Morrant & Hogarth