A stunning second half comeback saw the newly reformed Luton Vipers claim a 34-30 win over a powerful Cambridge Lions side in their opening East of England Division One clash on Saturday.
Hampered by injuries and unavailability, the Vipers started well, opening the scoring when half back Ieuan-Rhys Beal sprinted over the line and club captain Matt Jones converted.
The visitors then fell into a state of complacency and allowed the hosts to take a stranglehold on the game, as Cambridge ran in four tries to lead 20-6 at the break.
Lions began the second period by adding another converted score, but this was the spark that the Vipers needed.
A strong defensive set and a loose kick saw full back Matthew Card attack at speed, and he offloaded to winger Charlie Bennett, who touched down.
From the kick-off, loose forward Justin Harkin carried strongly, as did Tom Winch and Luke Chapman.
Hooker Jordan Marshall began to dictate play, and brought in prop Will Bennett, although Cambridge scored again to lead 30-10.
However, Vipers now had the bit between their teeth as further scores were added by Marshall, Beal, Chapman and Card, but it was again winger Bennett who produced the moment of the match.
Following a strong restart set, which included some superb running by Winch, the Vipers found themselves 10 metres out and on the fifth tackle.
Half back Beal put in a banana style kick following a quick defensive press, but as it looked to be heading out of play, Bennett leaped like a frog and acrobatically finished, dotting down inches from the touchline to seal victory.
Head coach Beal said: “We talked at half-time, and we knew that we had to forget that shocking first half performance and began attacking at speed, making 15/20 metres at a time.
“Cambridge were superb in the first half, but we were more disciplined in the second half and Will Bennett put in a stunning display to get us front foot ball.
“We know we didn’t play our best, but we will move on and come together Wednesday to work on ironing out those errors for our next game.”
Vipers host MK Wolves this weekend.