COLCHESTER Rugby Club are one point clear of the promotion places at London One North with four games to go after an entertaining and chaotic 36-30 win over the Old Haberdashers at Raven Park, writes EDWARD MARRIAGE.
The Blacks did a great job of sending in spirited but limited visitors, who played most of the match with 14 men.
The Londoners were so exhausted they had no replacement for their tight-headed prop, who was gone in less than ten minutes.
Colchester was also wiped out, with a number of regular players absent, as that postponed game was rearranged for what should have been an off weekend.
“A win is a win,” said Colchester director of rugby Anthony O’Riordan, who conceded the coaches had a lot to do.
“This result puts the teams above us under pressure.
“It’s decisive now – every game remaining must be a bonus points win.”
Taking advantage of a strong wind, the Habs quickly led 10-0, Tom Jackson kicking a penalty and converting Conor Michaels’ try.
But with the one-man advantage up front, Colchester created a predictable mess in the Canadians scrum, repeatedly knocking them back at high speed.
A beautifully judged touch seeker by Brett Cutbush – starting at the back – set up Colchester’s first try, with Alex Burman taking the ball and Sam Easton adding the finishing touch. Harry Bureau’s conversion withstood the wind.
An unfortunate rebound gave the Canadians their second try, scored by winger Oliver Lockhart, but Colchester finished the half strong, Adam Thomas hanging on to a fine break from Oli Pickett. Office transformed into wind.
Turning around 15-12 in front, the Canadians quickly had their third, hooker Jake Turner grabbing a charged punt and Colchester suddenly looked faltering.
But three tries in ten minutes calmed the nerves of the house. Harvey Skinner hung on to another break from Burman, and the winger got his second minute later after the Habs were reduced to 13 players with one player sent to the trash.
It had taken an hour, but finally Colchester were ahead, 22-20, and they quickly had their fifth try, Joe Flexman doing a great job of sneaking into the corner, Bureau adding the sideline conversion on a tough day for goal- kicking.
Colchester was deprived of a significant area of force when the referee called for uncontested scrums as the Habs hooker briefly left the field with a blood injury.
The biggest cheer of the day came with Colchester’s sixth try, scored by Adam Cook, making a welcome return to the first team.
The 36-year-old had answered the call on the bench on the morning of the match after Jonah Varela retired from food poisoning.
Bureau released Burman, with Cook doing the rest. Bureau’s conversion made it 36-20
With Joe Dunster and Toby Hill replacing Alex Mitchell and Andy Goodbourn, the Habs secured a losing bonus point with a late converted try and penalty.
The Stourgarden sponsors awarded their man of the match to Harry Pickett, while Skinner won the coaches award.
Colchester travel to Regents Park to play Belsize Park on Saturday (2pm kick-off).
Colchester: Cutbush, Flexman, Thomas, Dunning, Skinner, Bureau, Tonge; McMillan, Thorogood, A Mitchell, Burman, Goodbourn, Easton, O Pickett, H Pickett. Replacements: Dunster, Cook, Hill.