Eton Manor kicked off the new London 1 North campaign at an emotionally charged The New Wilderness with a 29-12 victory over Southend Saxons.

In a week where Manor were saddened to learn of the passing of club legend Russell Stock, the excitement of a new campaign and the opportunity to christen the opening day of the season with a victory proved too big of an invitation to pass up for the Wanstead club.

With a new artificial pitch officially being opened and a crowd of more than 300 there to watch proceedings, this match had all the ingredients of a thrilling affair – particularly as this was Southend’s first game at this level for a number of seasons following a series of relegations.

It took Manor just five minutes to open the scoring as Jack Sullivan crossed the whitewash for a try following a rolling maul and, following the addition of the extras, it was 7-0 in favour of the hosts.

Southend’s response was emphatic, however, and they knotted the game up at seven apiece when they worked the overlap for the score following good initial forward work within three minutes of that earlier setback.

Then, with 15 minutes remaining in the half, Eton Manor restored their lead with a 30-metre penalty to make the score 10-7 in their favour.

The visitors though, would finish the half on the front foot and scored another try as one of the Saxons’ wingers crossed in the corner to make it 12-10. Although the subsequent conversion was missed, the Essex club had eked out a half-time lead.

Given the balance of play, and the scoreline in the first half, it was astonishing what transpired in the second as Eton notched up 19 unanswered points to claim the opening-day victory.

Following a penalty that saw Nick Horton send a kick into touch deep within the Southend 22, Manor capitalised clinically to retake the lead.

Again it was back to what had worked so effectively in the first 40 minutes for Manor as a driving maul breached Southend’s defences for the score to make it 17-12 – a lead they would not surrender for the remainder of the game.

While Southend continued to press themselves, it was the hosts who added another try as George Harman raced onto a kick, collected it and kicked ahead for prop Michael Byrne to finish and open up a 10-point lead at 22-12.

The try scoring was completed thanks to Horton, who collected the ball and sprinted a full 35 metres unopposed for Eton’s fourth try of the afternoon.

Reece Reed, now on kicking duties, added the extras to put the seal on an impressive 29-12 victory for Manor.