COLCHESTER Rugby Club's seven-match winning run came to an end as a late try earned Harpenden a 27-26 win in what was yet another terrific, closely-fought contest between the sides, writes EDWARD MARRIAGE.

Trailing 19-0 after a nightmare opening six minutes during which they conceded three soft tries, Colchester fought back impressively and were minutes away from an unlikely win.

As it was, two bonus points, thanks to the one-point defeat and their four tries, keep Colchester well clear at the top of the league approaching the midpoint of the season.

Following the injury to Hamish Comonte, Jacob Bodkin started at outside centre with Connor O’Reilly coming on to the wing.

Colchester could not have made a worse start as Harpenden ran in quick-fire tries by Ben Campion, James Spiers and Conor McLean. While the hosts played like men possessed, Colchester looked stunned.


To add to their woes, Dylan Read came off after suffering a concussion, to be replaced by Danny Whiteman.

Colchester belatedly gained some possession and territory, forcing a series of penalties close to the Harpenden line.

With the hosts reduced to 14 men, Francois Rossouw appeared to have crossed the line, but Colchester’s efforts came to nought as they were pinged for obstruction.

Approaching half-time, Colchester again laid siege to the Harpenden line, forcing another series of penalties which led to a second yellow card for the hosts.

This time the pressure told as Rossouw forced his way over. Jayden Boschoff converted to make it 19-7 at the break.


Colchester started the second half as they finished the first, camped in the Harpenden 22, and soon had their reward as Jonah Varela finished off a patient move involving forwards and backs, Boshoff converting.

Yuki Takimura came on at scrum-half for Corey Button while Matt Edison was forced off with an ankle injury, to be replaced by Tahi Poasa.

But Colchester were soon level through the best move of the match.

James Mitchell started things with a forceful drive close to halfway.


With Rossouw an extra presence in the backs, the ball went left with Jimmy Mpailane finding Varela who flew in for his second.

Both sides now went all-out for the win. Harpenden got their noses in front through a penalty, but Colchester nudged ahead as Boshoff made a strong surge into Harpenden’s 22.

Bodkin and O’Reilly took it on, with Mpailane securing the bonus point.

Boshoff’s conversion put Colchester ahead 22-26 but there was to be one more twist.

A penalty to Harpenden was kicked to the corner, and from the subsequent line-out Adam Wilkinson crossed to break Colchester hearts.

“After the first five minutes when we allowed three soft tries in, the game was all ours,” said head coach Craig Burrows.

“We showed a lot of character today, just a little too late.

“We take it on the chin. Good teams do lose. The big thing is how they come back and I’m sure we’ll respond with a big comeback.”

Oli Pickett was named coach’s player-of-the-match, sponsored by The Lexden Crown, for a typical all-action display in the back row.

Colchester entertain Essex rivals Rochford on Saturday (kick-off 3pm).

On a mixed day for Colchester sides, The Ravens lost 15-12 at Bedford Athletic, the threes beat Felixstowe 65-7 but the fours lost 45-7 at Clacton.

Colchester: Mpailane, O’Reilly, Bodkin, Lewis, Varela, Boshoff, Button; J Mitchell, Rossouw, McMillan, Easton, Edison, Kerr, O Pickett, Read. Reps: Poasa, Whiteman, Takimura.