COLCHESTER Rugby Club secured a play-off place after beating Fullerians 10-5 to bag second spot in London One North with a game to spare, writes STEVE WHITEMAN.

But the Blacks produced a below-par display at Mill Road and will have to play a lot better than this, if they are to claim promotion.

Colchester round off their season at Diss this weekend and will then face a play-off against opponents from London One South, where Camberley, Sevenoaks, Brighton and Medway are still all in contention for first and second place.

In difficult conditions, the hosts nearly came unstuck against a feisty Fullerians side whose performance belied their lowly position in the league.

Indeed, for much of the game the teams were level at one try each and it was only due to stout defending that the Blacks did not concede any more points but rather scraped a win through a well-taken try in the latter stages of the match.

Unusually, Colchester's lineouts were often misfiring leading to turnovers by the visitors while the normally dominant Blacks pack was matched by a strong Fullerians scrum.

The front row was frequently penalised for offences that mystified Director of Rugby Anthony O'Riordan and team manager Jon Smith, who themselves are both ex-props.

Colchester kicked off and it wasn't long before they realised that Fullerians were up for the contest marshalled by their scrum-half, who proved to be an effective link between forwards and backs.

His Colchester counterpart, Brett Cutbush, also played well.

Indeed, it was an interesting comparison between these two as to who would have the bragging rights at the end of the game.

In the event, they both scored a second-half try but fortunately for Colchester, Cutbush's fellow Kiwi and man-of-the-match centre Brock Price had already claimed a try just before half-time giving the home side a four-point victory.

What did not help Colchester's cause was when the referee yellow carded two forwards early in the second half - flanker Oly Pickett for holding onto the ball in a ruck and prop Alex Mitchell for boring in a scrum.

The Blacks had to play ten minutes with 13 men, bringing replacement Rhys Hartley on at the expense of wing Harry Barton to boost the pack.

Young fly-half Sol Hyde put in a good shift in the first half before moving to the centre to make way for David Higgins, who kicked and tackled well for the rest of the game.

The best move of this rather stilted game from the home crowd's point of view was when, with the scores level at 5-5, Fullerians won a lineout on their 22.

The scrum-half box-kicked the ball downfield to fullback Damien Brambley who surged forward, fed wing James Crozier who in turn sped up the left wing before passing to Cutbush in support to claim what turned out to be the winning try.