New coaches Sid Street and Mike Hoban began their Portsmouth reign with a 27-13 London two south west derby defeat at Tottonians.
Experienced hooker Greg Houlihan, however, believes the final score flattered the hosts.
He said: ‘The game was a lot closer than the score suggests.
‘We were missing a few of our regulars in the back line and lacked the necessary control.
‘Tottonians put it on us a bit in the first half and scored a couple of good tries.
‘In the second half we played it a lot tighter and got back to 20-13 with two tries of our own.
‘Tottonians then grabbed a breakaway try towards the end.’
Elsewhere, Ieuan Clements kept his nerve to land a difficult late conversion to give United Services a 24-23 Hampshire one win over Millbrook.
A Chris Marriott try four minutes from time had hauled Services back to within a point.
‘We played some excellent rugby against less-ambitious opponents,’ said director of rugby Simon Burns.
‘This result sees us laying down a marker for the season.
‘We have recruited well and also seen a lot of players returning to play for us again.
‘There were 25 players who could all have easily started.’
After conceding two early penalties, Services forged in front with an Anthony Reynolds try, converted by Marriott.
Straight from the restart, though, Kip Wapschoot saw his box-kick charged down to gift Millbrook a try.
Services hit back with two penalties to go in 13-11 ahead.
But Millbrook rallied in the and looked like snatching the win before the late drama.
Locks Heath Pumas edged a close-fought Hampshire two derby against Fareham Heathens 7-3 at Cams Alders.
Southsea Nomads suffered a disappointing trip to Ventnor which ended in a 23-0 defeat.