COLCHESTER Rugby Club christened their impressive new ground in a grand manner with a seven-try win over a competitive Camberley side, setting them up nicely for the new league campaign to come, writes EDWARD MARRIAGE.

They ran out 43-17 winners in the pre-season friendly, which was a match with extra significance.

Not only was it the first to be played at Raven Park but it also represented a welcome restart after 18 months of enforced inactivity, so it was hardly surprising that there was a healthy crowd to sample the new facilities.

And while there were touches of rustiness from both sides, if this is a foretaste of the entertainment to come then Colchester supporters are in for a treat.

While the new artificial pitch generally got the thumbs up from the players, for Colchester first XV manager Jon Smith it was a satisfying afternoon all round.

Smith said: “You’ve got to say that was a good victory. It’s the best we could have possibly hoped for.

"For the last two or three seasons we’ve always had a really dominant pack, but the additional positive is that the new pieces we’ve brought into the system have worked really well."

To allow every player from the two squads a much-needed run-out, the match was divided into three 30-minute periods, resulting in a lot of comings and goings at the intervals.

Colchester’s three newcomers all made notable contributions. Toby Eaton, playing at outside centre, scored the first try, latching on to a break by Connor O’Reily.

Wing Fawaz Olabooye, a former Colchester youth player, caught the eye with his turn of speed and ball-handling before limping off with a hamstring injury.

Fly-half Dan Lewis, signed from Coventry but another produce of the club’s youth system, was player of the match, scoring two tries and making two more for wing James Crozier in the closing stages with deft kicks from hand.

His goal-kicking was also on point, including two impressive touchline conversions.

But just as encouraging was the form of some of the club’s familiar names, with O’Reily and Harvey Skinner adding tries to those scored by Crozier.

And while the back division was contributing all the points, the engine room looked to be purring too.

The ageless Mitchell brothers soon had Colchester in the ascendancy at the set scrum, all three Pickett brothers made a customary nuisance of themselves while captain Dan Whiteman seemed to relish his auxiliary role in the backline as much as his more familiar contribution up front.

Colchester may want to look at the three tries conceded, but such was the sometimes chaotic nature of a season curtain-raiser that allowances can be made.

Manager Smith had particular praise for Lewis, describing the number ten as “fabulous” while Eaton had shown what “a good, strong ball carrier” he was.

Colchester now have a two-week break before the London 1 North league campaign begins with a visit to old rivals Southend, on September 4.