COLCHESTER Rugby Club are celebrating after clinching promotion to the fourth level of English rugby with two matches of the season to spare, writes EDWARD MARRIAGE.

The Blacks' five-try victory at Oundle in Regional One South East sparked wild celebrations on and off the pitch at the final whistle.

The 27-12 win was Colchester’s 18th of the season in a quite magnificent campaign and means the team will now play at the highest level in their 100-year history.

Colchester captain James Mitchell said: “I’m just happy for the guys.

“They’ve worked so hard this year. I’m so proud of every single one of these guys. It’s thoroughly deserved.”


Changes to the Colchester team saw Alex Gerard making his first appearance of the season off the bench while Luke Rokomoce started on the wing in place of Connor O’Reilly.

On a very sticky pitch, Oundle played their part and were the better side in the first quarter, during which they took the lead through Harry Winch’s try.

Colchester gradually worked their way into the game and were level on 24 minutes. Jimmy Mpailane fielded a clearance kick and broke into the danger zone.

Chris Lewis took it on before the ball was recycled to Mpailane who crossed.

The visitors came close to their second virtually from the restart, but an interception by Oundle cleared the danger.

However, two quick-fire tries before half-time effectively settled the contest.

First great work from the forwards led to Jonah Varela sniping to score down the blindside, then came the strangest try of the match.


Corey Button kicked ahead from his own half. The ball rebounded off an Oundle player straight back into the arms of Button who gratefully accepted the gift to put Colchester 15-5 up at the break.

An accidental knee to the back of the head ended Lewis’s match at half-time, Dylan Read moving to 12 and Cam Kerr coming on to play at the back of the scrum.

Colchester had their bonus point try on 55 minutes, Francois Rossouw starting the move before the ball was spread right for Varela to make a typically forceful break. Read finished it off between the posts and Jayden Boshoff converted.

With Tahi Poasa and Gerard off the bench for Joe McMillan and Oli Pickett, Colchester were in the ascendancy as Oundle tired.

Colchester dominated the breakdown throughout with Jacob Bodkin to the fore, his battered face at the end testament to his contribution.

Oundle squandered a certain try by dropping the ball in the act of scoring and Colchester took advantage, wrappings things up with their fifth. Kerr latched on to a Mpailane break to scorch over.

Oundle got their second with the last move of the match, but the celebrations on the touchline were already underway by then as Colchester’s supporters hailed their heroes.

“We knew it was going to be tough,” said head coach Craig Burrows. “The defensive effort was outstanding once again. Really please with the outcome.

“We hadn’t mentioned the promotion word much, but this is a great relief.”

The coach’s joint players-of-the-match, sponsored by The Lexden Crown, were Danny Whiteman and Sam Easton.

The Ravens must wait to clinch promotion as they lost 40-24 at second-placed Newmarket and now lead their league by ten points, having played a game more.

Colchester threes won 39-21 at Brightlingsea.

Colchester: Mpailane, Rokomoce, Bodkin, Lewis, Varela, Boshoff, Button; McMillan, Rossouw, Mitchell ©, Easton, Edison, O Pickett, Whiteman, Read. Reps: Poasa, Kerr, Gerard.