COLCHESTER Rugby Club celebrated promotion to the fifth tier of English rugby with a characteristically nerve-shredding win over Southend at a packed Raven Park, writes EDWARD MARRIAGE.

Going into the match knowing a victory of any kind would be enough to pip Harpenden to the final promotion slot from London One North, Colchester made it - but with precious little to spare, winning 28-20.

“I’m so proud of these boys,” said director of rugby Anthony O’Riordan after the final whistle, which prompted wild celebrations on and off the pitch.

“They are Colchester through and through.

“I loved every minute of that game. It was probably the first game I’ve enjoyed this year!”

Colchester were lead out by James Mitchell and Charlie Thorogood who together with another club stalwart, James Crozier, had announced their retirement before kick-off.

The first half was a classic Colchester affair.

Sam Easton, the coaches’ man-of-the-match, gave the hosts an early lead, latching on to a pass from scrum-half Dave Tonge.

But Southend replied within minutes through Jack MacVeigh.


With Southend down to 14 men after a high tackle, Adam Thomas stormed over for Colchester’s second try only for the visitors to hit back with their second through Tom Day.

Despite having another man sent to the bin, a penalty for a deliberate knock-on meant Southend led 15-14 at the break.

Colchester looked more in control in the second half, Southend not helping themselves by having a third player shown yellow for a desperate tackle to deny full-back Jonah Varela a try.

Colchester opted for a scrum from the resulting penalty, and a strong drive by Harry Pickett saw the ball spread left to Harry Bureau who still had plenty of work to do to blast over under the posts. Bureau added the conversion.

Yet again Southend hit back instantly, Tommy Justice’s try going unconverted.

The key moment came just after the hour when the referee awarded Colchester a penalty try for repeated infringements in the red zone.

Suddenly The Blacks were 28-20 ahead and though Southend had their moments late on, Colchester held firm.


“We’ve worked hard this season,” said captain Dan Whiteman, named man-of-the-match by sponsors Rugby Box.

“We’ve dug deep and to win on the last day of the season - you couldn’t have written it any better,” said Whiteman.

“We’re here to leave a legacy at the end of the day. We want to establish ourselves next year and push for promotion the year after.”

Whiteman paid tribute to Mitchell and Thorogood, suggesting he would have a go at changing their minds over retirement.

With matches next season against the likes of Sidcup, Westcombe Park and Bedford Athletic, O’Riordan is already looking ahead to the challenge of competing in a higher league.

“Recruitment is going to be the name of the game,” said O’Riordan.

“A lot of hard work will start next week. We’ll have a night off and probably get back to it on Monday.”

Colchester's second XV were beaten 20-19 against Southend while the Roundheads lost their bronze medal final 40-7 to a strong Ipswich YM.

Colchester: Varela, Flexman, Liversidge, Thomas, O’Reilly, Bureau, Tonge; McMillan, Thorogood, A Mitchell, Miller, Easton, Gerard, Whiteman, H Pickett. Subs: J Mitchell, Butler, Parker.