READING RFC slipped to a 28-7 defeat at Marlow on the topening day of the Southern Counties North season.

The hosts opened their account with only 10 minutes gone, following a drop-out which had gone straight out, they worked an overlap from a central scrum which resulted in a try under the posts.

Worse was to follow as almost at once missed tackles allowed Marlow back into the Reading 22 and although Reading regained possession, Chris Burch’s attempted clearance was charged down and Marlow crossed for another try.

Reading came back into the game but poor discipline, inability to win clean line-out ball and early-season handling errors continued to give the advantage to Marlow.

The visitors were, however, unlucky not to score from a line-out drive which was illegally stopped close to the line, but were then unable to make anything from the resulting penalty.

Marlow then showed their opponents how to turn pressure into points with another try from a scrum in the Reading 22 when two missed tackles allowed them through near the posts.

It was also Marlow who scored first in the second half when they patiently put phase after phase together to eventually force themselves over near the posts and gain a bonus point.

Reading struck back immediately when Ed Dixon, with a fine individual effort, caught the ball from the kick-off and stormed through into a good position.

When he was stopped the ball was recycled and a couple of phases later, he was there to crash over the line and complete the move he had started. Burch converted for what turned out to be Reading’s only points.

Marlow were then reduced to 14 men due to injuries, but they still held Reading out and indeed came close to scoring on a number of occasions. Reading continued to squander possession and give away penalties and they were reduced to 14 for the last 10 minutes when Stuart Borthwick, who had been one of their most prominent players in defence, was yellow carded for a high tackle.

There were aspects of Reading’s play which showed promise. The scrummaging, although it got off to a shaky start, became increasingly dominant with Josh Pallett, before he was injured, and Ed Whelan, who made a promising debut, doing well.

As the game went on they also matched their opponents at the breakdown and their scrambling defence was also good.

This was a tough test first up against a physical team which had been near the top of the table last term.

Reading’s strength in the equivalent fixture at the end of last season was their defensive organisation, but this was lacking at the start although improved as the game went on.

Reading coach, Ben Wills was unhappy with the team’s first-half performance which he said had cost them the game, but said there were a number of fixable issues which the team needed to work on before next Saturday’s game against league newcomers, Shipston on Stour.