STAY calm and weather the storm – that was the message from director of rugby Anthony O’Riordan after a grim day for Colchester at Raven Park, writes EDWARD MARRIAGE.

Colchester lost 38-17 to league leaders Shelford, but it’s the lengthening casualty list which is causing particular concern, with three players leaving the pitch with potentially serious injuries.

Add to that a late red card for utility back Brett Cutbush, who is now certain to face a suspension, and Colchester have a worrying shortage of available back division players.

O'Riordan said: “The problem is when you have injuries on top of injuries.

"You have a point when our lose-head prop is playing scrum-half. That sums up today.”


Maybe it was a portent that kick-off was delayed by an hour after the referee was caught up in queues of petrol hunters, but unbeaten Shelford started much the better, scoring the first of their five tries through hooker Miles Huppatz.

Shelford pride themselves on their defence, and it was 15 minutes before Colchester had a serious attack.

The threat was snuffed out as Shelford turned the ball over, and scrum-half Matt Wadling was soon walking to the touchline following a nasty blow to the head.

Shelford soon had their second, wing Louie Tang with an angled run to the line. Lewis Cracknell converted and kicked a penalty on the half hour for Colchester not releasing.


Prop Joe McMillan made way for Alex Mitchell, and Colchester’s most potent weapon, the rolling maul, was soon in evidence.

With Shelford reduced to 14, the hosts opted for a scrum from which James Mitchell touched down from typically close range.

Crozier converted to make the half-time score 17-7.

Hopes of a Colchester revival took a hit after the break as Faysal Olabooye limped off with a hamstring injury, but Crozier’s penalty closed the gap to 17-10.

That was the closest Colchester got as Shelford turned the screw with further tries for Tang, Callum Traynor and Tomos James.

Colchester’s problems multiplied as wing Crozier left the field with a dislocated shoulder, an injury which ultimately necessitated him going to hospital, and prop McMillan returned to the fray in the backline.

As if things couldn’t get any worse, Cutbush was sent off deep in stoppage time for throwing a punch. Shelford’s Harry Rogerson was shown yellow for the dangerous clear-out which sparked the flare-up.

Colchester kept plugging away and were rewarded with a second try for James Mitchell, Joe Flexman converting with the last kick of the match.


O’Riordan added: “For me it’s just a case of keeping calm, keeping on script and weathering the storm, because injuries heal and we’ll be back at full strength sooner rather than later.

“I’m really proud of the boys for digging in because in the end it came down to a war of attrition.

"We threw bodies into positions they’ve never played before and we stuck at it. That’s character”.

Colchester – now seventh in the league - visit Old Haberdashers on Saturday.