IAN Stock was delighted with the determination of his Oxfordshire teammates as they dug deep to secure an opening-day victory.

A gritty and hard-working performance helped beat Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire & Derbyshire 19-12 at Horspath in the Bill Beaumont County Championship.

The win puts Oxon in early contention to challenge for top spot in Pool 1 and a place in the Twickenham final.

With two games still to play in the group stages, prop Stock was thrilled with the way they started their Division 3 campaign.

And the Henley Hawks loosehead, who stood in as captain in place of the unavailable Tom Hall, believed it was more impressive due to the small amount of preparation time.

“We dogged it out, which was the most pleasing thing,” he said.

“Nil-nil in the second half just goes to show that this group of players – a lot of them were strangers two weeks ago – really came together and knitted as a team.

“It’s very difficult to add a lot of structure into two training sessions.

“But the most pleasing thing was the want and desire these guys came with.

“To come out in the second half and defend like we did – people were pushing each other out of the way to make tackles, which is a rarity at this stage in the season – was a fantastic effort from the whole team.”

Tries from Evan Davies, Zinny Norman and Pete Boulton helped the hosts overcome an early deficit to lead 19-12 at the break.

Oxon’s forwards worked hard throughout to keep their visitors at bay, eventually getting the better of a well-oiled pack to prevent their visitors from crossing in the second half.

Stock, who hailed replacement prop Boulton for his impact, felt the key was keeping their heads when their rivals were in control.

He said: “When we were under pressure we gave away minimum penalties.

“The boys worked so hard in there to keep their structure, move their feet, and we managed to get the change out of it in the end.”

Stock added: “It was a huge cameo from Pete.

“He really gave us that respite and a platform to play off when we had our best attacking phases.”

With head coach Matt Goode away, backs coach Matty Mountford was left in charge.

The former Chinnor full-back was thrilled to see so many players take their opportunity in a county shirt ahead of this Saturday’s second fixture at home to North Midlands.

“There were loads of positives,” said Mountford.

“Considering we had quite a few boys not available, the guys who played really put their hands up for selection again.

“We said before the game, make this shirt your own, keep it for the three games, and there’s now going to be a very difficult selection process.”