AFTER finishing third in National One last season Blaydon have only promoted Hull Ionians below them following a third successive defeat.
But they were encouraged by the part they played in a full-blooded encounter with Esher, who were second last year and have started with three wins.
The visitors drove over for a try at the death to deny Blaydon a losing bonus point, the final score reading 35-25.
After defending courageously when under the cosh for the first half hour, Blaydon led 20-13 after 50 minutes. But they dropped their guard and were sunk by three quick tries.
They will have a few players back from injury shortly, notably Gavin Jones and Ben Morris. But their stalwart leader of recent seasons, hooker Matt Hall, is to have an exploratory operation on a troublesome ankle.
Blaydon lost centre Tom Penny through injury in the 17th minute, but replacement Tom Bramwell made an impact. He beat three men from 40 metres to score just before half-time and with Andrew Baggett adding the conversion to two penalties the hosts led 13-10.
When the other centre, Tom Banks, went through the middle to score it was looking good for Blaydon. But by the time flanker Rob Bell finished off a catch-and-drive Esher's ten-minute blitz had proved decisive.
Tynedale trailed only 7-5 at the interval at Old Albanians, but then conceded 22 points before late tries by Hamish Smales and Chris Harris made it 29-17 at the finish.
Joe Evans scored two tries for Billingham as they overturned a half-time deficit to win 25-17 at Penrith, making it two wins from three in National Three North.
Westoe suffered their second defeat, despite leading 17-5 at the break away to leaders Rossendale. The hosts turned the tables with three unanswered tries to win 27-17.
After narrowly escaping relegation from North One East last season Middlesbrough face another struggle after losing 34-3 at home to West Hartlepool.
Their refusal to pay is costing them dear in terms of players lost to other clubs. Two of their back row products, Rory Duff and Ollie Hodgson, are at Mowden Park and a third, Josh Burridge, was in Wharfedale's first team on Saturday.
It's much the same for West, but they have a stronger core of players and after playing at a higher level last season they were too strong for Boro.
West had ex-Horden skipper Owen Bennett making his debut in a dominant pack, in which No 8 Sam Miller scored the last two tries.
The backs scored the first, attacking up the left before moving the ball right for winger Scott Butcher to race over.
For the second West pushed Boro off their own scrum ball and Dan Boatman hacked on for scrum half Colin Cheslin to touch down.
Stu Waites's second conversion made it 14-0 at half-time and he exchanged penalties with Simon Moore before West pulled away in the last 20 minutes. Hooker Andrew Rollins finished a forward drive prior to Miller's brace.
Darlington hung on for a 35-33 home win against Guisborough in Durham and Northumberland One after relaxing when they led 32-7 midway through the second half.
The gap was down to 32-26 when replacement fly half Nick Baldwin landed a 30-metre drop goal in the 79th minute, so Guisborough's converted try at the death was not enough.
Mark Baldwin landed an early penalty before his brother took over after going on in the 23rd minute. He converted three of the four tries and landed a penalty.
Centre Dan Carter twice cut through to score, while props Joe Hargreaves and Joe Oselton both finished forward drives, the former from 25 metres.
Darlington hope to have Richard Snowball available for this week's trip to table-topping Horden, who won the derby at Hartlepool Rovers 29-19.
Promoted Bishop Auckland will have raised a few eyebrows with their 51-15 home win against Stockton. Fly half Tim Tombling converted all six tries and added three penalties, while also mixing up play with some astute kicking and good use of the pace outside him.
There was some powerful running from Fijian blind side Rateu Nareki and No 8 Mike Ross, who both scored tries, while Matt Fotheringham showed his class at inside centre.
Full back Zach Hole scored two tries and in the last move of the game winger Josh Pagan seized on a Stockton fumble on his own line and ran almost the length of the field. He was stopped five metres short, but lock Luke Bryan-Victory followed up to finish off.