COLCHESTER Rugby Club can have no complaints as they were well beaten 37-29 by an impressive Harpenden team, writes EDWARD MARRIAGE.

A third defeat of the season drops the Blacks to seventh in London One North and leaves the coaches with plenty to work.

Colchester scored four tries to secure a bonus point and were only denied a second point by Harpenden’s slightly contentious penalty in added time.

They looked sharp in attack at times and number 8 Harrison Pickett was all-action as usual, in what was a highly entertaining match for the neutral.

But the game was effectively up minutes into the second half, as Harpenden scored two quick-fire tries thanks to weak Colchester tackling.

“Poor defence and poor awareness and a wasted opportunity,” was director of rugby Anthony O’Riordan’s blunt assessment.

“For whatever reason it didn’t feel fluid.

“It felt like we were stabbing at the game a little bit and trying to nick opportunities instead of building opportunities and you can’t play a good side like Harpenden like that."

Colchester started strongly with Dan Lewis kicking a penalty on ten minutes and only a marginal forward pass denied wing Joe Flexman a try.

But after intense Colchester pressure and four penalties conceded by Harpenden, Connor O’Reilly raced in for a converted try to put Colchester 10-0 up.

With their first attack of the match, Harpenden scored through hooker Alex Bloisi and poor tackling let in openside Ryan Gue for the hosts’ second soon after.

Colchester’s scrum had looked characteristically strong in the early exchanges, with Joe McMillan replacing prop James Mitchell on the half hour.

Typically quick thinking saw Lewis intercept and run in unopposed for Colchester’s second try.

But a yellow card for blindside Sam Easton meant Colchester were clinging on to their 17-14 half-time lead.

Then came the five minutes of horror at the start of the second half, a collective loss of concentration allowing Harpenden to seize control with tries by Luke Barber and Conor McLean.

Soon after Ollie Pickett replaced Cameron Cowley while James Mitchell returned to the fray for McMillan.

The last change saw a first team debut for Jonah Varela, yet another product of the Colchester youth system, who replaced centre Toby Eaton, forced off with a knee injury.

Minutes later, Ollie Pickett battered his way over for Colchester’s third try, but Harpenden re-established control through Ed Preston’s try and Tom Sweeney’s penalty five minutes later.

The match lost, Colchester laid siege to the Harpenden line in search of a bonus point try, the hosts soaking up pressure and cleverly running down the clock while conceding numerous penalties.

Reduced to 14 men, the dam inevitably cracked and Ollie Pickett squeezed over for his second try and Colchester’s fourth.

Tom Sweeney’s late penalty denied Colchester a second bonus point, Liam Pickett shown yellow for the ensuing melee.

Colchester visit second-bottom Leighton Buzzard on Saturday.