Neil McRoberts felt his improving Gosport & Fareham team were unfortunate to slip to a 27-17 defeat at Charlton Park in London one south.
Both teams played the final 14 minutes a man short after Ben Lanigan and the home number eight were sent off.
Overall we didn’t play that badly against the team who were runners-up in our league last seasonNeil McRoberts
McRoberts and his players were disappointed not to come away with a win.
‘We showed a marked improvement and felt we were extremely unfortunate,’ said the head coach.
‘In the second half we looked good for the win until one or two decisions went against us.
‘The red card incident was a soft decision on the part of the referee.
‘It meant we had to go to uncontested scrums which was an area where we had been destroying them.
‘That was disappointing because it took away one of our big advantages.’
The home side opened up a 12-point lead in the first 18 minutes before centre Dave Cleary hit back with a try he converted himself.
A minute into the second half Jack Brawn levelled the scores with a 40-metre try and another try from back-row forward Simon Trivett took Gosport into a 17-12 lead.
Charlton Park rallied with a try and penalty of their own before clinching the win with a converted try late on.
Coach Bernie Rhodes was encouraged by the performance of Fareham Heathens despite their 35-13 home defeat to Millbrook in Hampshire one.
The hosts led 13-12 at half-time before having inside-centre Richard Green sin-binned early in the second period.
After the break, the powerful Millbrook side got 23 unanswered points.
‘The final scoreline was harsh on us,’ said Rhodes.
‘Overall we didn’t play that badly against the team who were runners-up in our league last season.
‘We can take a lot of positives from our performance.’
Forward Rikki Curtis, 18, was a revelation with his fantastic tackling and ball carrying.
Locks Heath Pumas enjoyed a 22-15 home win over the Isle of Wight.