COLCHESTER Rugby Club are a point off the London One North promotion places with four games to play after an entertainingly-chaotic 36-30 win over Old Haberdashers at Raven Park, writes EDWARD MARRIAGE.

The Blacks made heavy work of dispatching spirited but limited visitors, who played most of the game with 14 men.

So depleted were the Londoners they had no replacement for their tighthead prop, who went off inside ten minutes.

Colchester too were down to bare bones, with a number of regular players away, as this postponed match had been rearranged for what should have been a rest weekend.

“A win is a win,” was the verdict of Colchester's director of rugby Anthony O’Riordan, who conceded that the coaches had plenty to work on.

“That result puts the teams above us under pressure.

"It’s make or break now - every single game left has got to be a bonus point win."

Taking advantage of a stiff wind, Habs were quickly 10-0 up, Tom Jackson kicking a penalty and converting Conor Michaels’ try.

But with the one-man advantage up front, Colchester proceeded to make a predictable mess of the Habs scrum, repeatedly trundling them backwards at speed.

A beautifully-judged touch-finder by Brett Cutbush – starting at full-back - set up Colchester’s first try, Alex Burman taking the ball on and Sam Easton adding the finishing touch. Harry Bureau’s conversion held up in the wind.

An unfortunate bounce let Habs in for their second try, scored by wing Oliver Lockhart, but Colchester finished the half strongly, Adam Thomas latching on to a fine break by Oli Pickett. Bureau converted into the wind.

Turning round 15-12 ahead, Habs soon had their third, hooker Jake Turner seizing on a charged-down clearance kick and Colchester suddenly looked wobbly.

But three tries in ten minutes settled home nerves. Harvey Skinner latched on to another break by Burman, and the wing had his second minutes later after Habs were reduced to 13 players with a player sent to the bin.

It had taken an hour, but at last Colchester were in front, 22-20, and they soon had their fifth try, Joe Flexman doing really well to squeeze in at the corner, Bureau adding the touchline conversion on a challenging day for goal-kicking.

Colchester were deprived of a significant area of strength when the referee called for uncontested scrums as Habs’ hooker briefly left the field with a blood injury.

The biggest cheer of the day came with Colchester’s sixth try, scored by Adam Cook, making a welcome first team return.

The 36-year-old had answered the call on to the bench on the morning of the match after Jonah Varela pulled out with food poisoning.

Bureau released Burman, Cook doing the rest. Bureau’s conversion made it 36-20

With Joe Dunster and Toby Hill replacing Alex Mitchell and Andy Goodbourn, Habs secured a losing bonus point with a late converted try and a penalty.

Sponsors Stourgarden awarded their man-of-the-match to Harry Pickett, while Skinner picked up the coaches’ prize.

Colchester travel to Regents Park to play Belsize Park on Saturday (2pm kick-off).

Colchester: Cutbush, Flexman, Thomas, Dunning, Skinner, Bureau, Tonge; McMillan, Thorogood, A Mitchell, Burman, Goodbourn, Easton, O Pickett, H Pickett. Replacements: Dunster, Cook, Hill.