COLCHESTER Rugby Club swept aside the league’s bottom team Norwich with a dominant 74-22 victory at Raven Park and now look well-placed for a serious tilt at London One North promotion, writes EDWARD MARRIAGE.

The 11-try win - including a hat-trick for centre Toby Eaton - was emphatic in the end, but looked far from that in the first-half as determined Norwich tackling kept Colchester’s lead to just three points at the break.

Colchester manager Jon Smith paid tribute to Norwich’s first-half defence but felt superior conditioning told in the end.

“It was our fitness, our strength, our power, our endurance which saw us through in that second half where we were at times kind of scoring tries at will.

"I’m really pleased – you can’t ask more than that.”

Colchester could hardly have had a worse start. Full-back Harvey Skinner had limped off with a pulled hamstring by the time Norwich took a surprise lead through wing Stuart Martin’s converted try.

But lock Sam Easton - fast becoming one of Colchester’s most effective and reliable operators - soon had the home side’s first try, squeezing over in the corner.

Replacement Dan Lewis, back from injury and on at fly-half for Skinner with Harry Bureau moving to full-back, kicked a penalty from in front and it was Lewis’s quick-thinking which resulted in the most eye-catching moment of the match.

Norwich number 8 George King unaccountably opted to take a quick line-out throw to himself which Lewis read brilliantly, swooping in to nick the ball and give himself a free run to the line.

By now hooker Charlie Thorogood had become Colchester’s latest injury casualty, a jarred back necessitating his replacement by Joe McMillan.

Colchester had their third try as tireless number 8 Harrison Pickett squeezed in at the corner after good work by Joe Flexman but Norwich stayed in touch - 20-17 at half-time - thanks to Oly Emanuel’s try.

After the break, the floodgates opened as Norwich wilted and Colchester exerted complete control.

Eaton galloped in for the first of his three well-taken tries to secure the bonus point following a lovely set move off a line-out.

By now Colchester’s scrum was in complete control and centre Adam Thomas cashed in, scoring try number five.

On his first appearance of the season, Connor O’Reilly made a number of typical searing breaks off his wing, several of which led directly to second-half scores, so was fully deserving of the sixth try himself.

Slightly less extravagant but no less effective was prop James Mitchell’s try from about a metre.

There was time for a debut off the bench for Cameron Cowley, replacing Oli Pickett, and Colchester rounded things off with deserved second tries for both Sam Easton and Dan Lewis – the fly-half finishing with 29 points.

Martin added a third try for Norwich with the last move of the match but it was no more than consolation.

Colchester go fourth, two point off the promotion places, and next travel to fifth-placed Harpenden on Saturday.