COLCHESTER Rugby Club opened their new London One North campaign in the best possible manner with a 27-15 bonus point win at Essex rivals Southend, writes EDWARD MARRIAGE.

While a touch of rustiness was inevitable given the 19-month hiatus since the team’s last league match, the victory against a callow but always-challenging Southend side was greeted enthusiastically by the large contingent of travelling supporters.

The result was never seriously in doubt, and director of rugby Anthony O’Riordan was an understandably happy man.

He said: “To come away to Southend, which is always a ding-dong, and to put in a performance like that and to remain composed, albeit with a bit of rustiness, says a lot about the team we’ve got this year."

Colchester were ahead inside nine minutes, a mismatch in midfield allowing fly-half Dan Lewis to break and feed Sam Butler, the hooker showing a turn of foot to gallop home.

On a breezy day, Lewis missed the tricky conversion.

Southend’s first try on 23 minutes owed something to Colchester’s mistakes.

A hurried clearance went out on the full, and good passing from the subsequent line-out allowed scrum-half Rory Inwood to touch down.

Lewis regained the lead for Colchester with a penalty on 29 minutes as Southend went off their feet, and the home side were down to 14 men soon after.

An opportunist grab by tighthead Alex Mitchell was the catalyst for Colchester’s second try.

Lewis calmly latched on to the bouncing ball from scrum-half Matt Wadling’s deft kick ahead. Lewis converted his own try.

Southend were just about in touch, 15-10 at half-time, thanks to a penalty after Ollie Pickett was adjudged to have illegally held on.

Colchester had their third try after a typically aggressive run by Ollie Pickett from a line-out, good work by the forwards leading to blindside Sam Easton acrobatically squeezing in at the corner.

Colchester rung the changes on the hour with Joe McMillan coming on for Alex Mitchell and new recruit from Brentwood, Adam Thomas, replacing Harvey Skinner, with Brett Cutbush moving to full-back.

Southend’s second try came despite Cutbush’s valiant effort to race back to touch down a speculative kick forward. He was agonisingly beaten to the ball by Alfie Justice.

Charlie Thorogood replaced Butler at hooker as Colchester pressed for the bonus point, which duly came five minutes from time.

Liam Pickett did well to steal a Southend line-out, which had by now gone to pieces, and wing Joe Flexman touched down for a try against the side he played for in his youth. Lewis converted to seal the victory.

O’Riordan said: “There are still some bits to iron out.

“We’ve got to work on our discipline, not in terms of penalties, but in terms of sticking to the script and making sure we are organising and controlling the game."

Colchester are now preparing for their long-awaited first league game at their new Raven Park home, this weekend.

They host nearest neighbours Sudbury, who like Colchester opened their season with a bonus point win.