CHELMSFORD Black Bull made a comfortable start in their bid to retain the Ridley League title but an ominous cloud was looming less than a mile down the road.

As the champions settled into their new home Little Waltham SC showed in a 9-6 success at the Compasses that they are this season’s team to watch.

The Birds were hit by the no-show of three stalwarts, with only five players available. They won three pairs, but the Bull cleaned up in the singles. Birds skipper Hazel Rolfe (07583 277 239) invites calls from darters of any standard.

Dog & Partridge skipper Mick Cain had a 148 double-in start at Felsted but Sarah Reed and Natalie Ramsey were the Dog’s big hits, beating women’s league champs Amanda Dodd and Donna Hazell in straight legs.

Results: Black Bull Birds 4, Black Bull Chelmsford 11 (1-6, 1-0, 1-0, 1-5); Chequers 7, Dog & Partridge 8 (3-4, 1-0, 0-1, 3-3); Compasses 6, Little Waltham SC 9 (1-6, 1-0, 0-1, 4-2).