STOW-on-the-Wold started their new South West Division (Berks/Bucks & Oxon Premier) season with an impressive 34-12 home win over old rivals Chipping Norton.

In near perfect conditions, the opening league fixture saw both sides missing players but this did not detract in what was an entertaining game.

The early pressure came from Stow and this was rewarded when Craig Chapman drove over from the back of a maul to score. Nick Caffero converted.

Chipping Norton quickly replied when Stow were penalised just inside their own half, the ball was kicked to touch and, from the resulting line-out, the away forwards drove over the line.

Both sides had further chances but it was Stow who managed to turn them into points when Caffero broke through inside his own half and off-loaded to Alex Kelly who used his pace to score close to the posts. The attempted conversion was wide.

Just before the break Stow increased their lead when the outstanding Kelly collected the ball inside his own half and outpaced several defenders to score under the posts. With Caffero converting, Stow held a healthy 19-5 lead at the interval.

The second-half proved to be just as competitive and Chipping Norton could have closed the gap but failed to take their opportunities.

Stow scored their bonus point try when a line-out was driven close to the try-line, quick ball then went wide for Louis Miller to score in the corner.

A Caffero penalty edged Stow into an even more secure lead before the game was put out of Chipping Norton’s reach when Caffero made a great break in the centre and Kelly was again on hand to collect the ball and score under the posts. Caffero added the conversion points.

Stow lost a player to the sinbin in the final minutes of the game which Chipping Norton took advantage of to score their second try of the game and add the conversion.

A good start to the season for Stow in a game that was a lot closer than the final score suggests.