Gosport & Fareham failed to give new head coach Neil McRoberts a winning start as they lost their London one south opener 30-25 against Hove at Gosport Park.
McRoberts had the consolation of seeing his team pick up a losing bonus point but felt it was a game that slipped through their grasp.
In a tense finish, 19-year-old replacement Nathan Walton missed a penalty in front of the posts and it looked like the chance of a bonus point was lost.
However, within a minute Walton made no mistake with another kick from an identical position.
Back in the higher level after last season’s promotion via the play-offs, the home side learned quickly they cannot afford to relax.
‘We did enough to win the game and it was one that we let get away,’ said McRoberts.
‘When we played with real intensity we were better than them and they struggled to contain us.
‘For the first 15 minutes we really went at them but we took our foot off the gas towards the end of the first half.
‘We struggled for 10 minutes and that allowed them to get a foothold in the game.
‘Last year in London south two we could do that yet still beat teams by four or five tries.’
The home side trailed to an early penalty before hitting back to lead 12-3 with the Dugan brothers – Wayne and Wes – crossing for tries.
Wayne Dugan converted his own score.
But then the hosts were slow in reacting to a quick cross-field penalty which led to a Hove try out wide.
The home side then experienced a disastrous nine minutes before the interval during which they lost skipper Matt Smith with a dislocated shoulder.
They also conceded a penalty and a converted try and lost winger Vetaia Veiteve to the sin-bin – leaving them going in at half-time 20-12 in arrears and up against it.
In the second half, a Wayne Dugan penalty and a converted Mark Pollard try meant Gosport were still in touch – narrowing the gap to 27-22 with 11 minutes remaining.
Another Hove penalty made it more difficult but the hosts could have snatched a win at the death.
‘It was unfortunate we missed the first penalty in front of the posts,’ said McRoberts.
‘Whatever the outcome it was definitely the right decision to go for the posts.
‘When you get in the scoring zone you have to go for the points.
‘Come next April when we find out where we are all going to be it is the bonus points that can make all the difference.
‘The difference between the two teams was the kicking of their fly-half who knocked his over from all around the park.
‘If we’d had a frontline kicker it might have been different.’