Colchester got back to winning ways in the best possible fashion with a dominant 46-10 win over Rochford, scoring eight tries to go 12 points clear at the top of Regional 1 South East.

Defeat at Harpenden was quickly forgotten as Colchester secured the bonus point shortly after the half-hour.

The win was doubly impressive given Colchester were without seven forwards through injury or unavailability, with the pack far from outclassed and on top throughout.

Trailing to an early penalty, Colchester soon took complete control as a goal-line drop-out was gathered by Jimmy Mpailane who spread the ball left, with Francois Rossouw, starting at number eight, busting through to touch down.

The second try came from a scrum penalty, kicked to the corner, as captain James Mitchell crossed from the subsequent line-out.

And the third was all about the backs as, from a line-out deep in Rochford territory, the ball went through the hands of the entire back division with Jonah Varela applying the final touch.

The bonus-point try owed much to Connor O’Reilly’s initial burst, with the ball recycled from a maul before Corey Button found Cam Kerr, who still had plenty to do.

Trailing 20-3 at the break and with a man in the bin, Rochford saw Kerr cross for his second try within 15 seconds of the restart.

With debutant Dan Lewis on in place of Harry Pemberton, Colchester were in no mood to let their visitors off the hook, with O’Reilly flying in for a fifth try.

Yuki Takimura replaced Corey Button, before a rare excursion into Colchester territory brought Rochford’s only try from wing Ewan Richmond.

The biggest cheer of the day came as Rossouw collected the ball on the 15-metre line and bumped off a tackler to storm to the line for his second try of the day and 15th of the season.

There was still time for Elliot Siddle to make his debut and, with Rochford without front-rowers, the referee called uncontested scrums.

From a scrum deep in Rochford territory the ball went left to Varela who completed the scoring with his second try, as Boshoff kicked his third conversion.

“We knew we had to get back to winning ways,” said head coach Craig Burrows. “The boys stuck to our game plan, stuck to our structure and it brought us a lot of joy.”

Referring to the enforced team changes, Burrows had nothing but praise for the players who had come in.

“It was one of those weeks when everybody had to dig deep and put in a lot of work. The second team players who stepped up have done really well.”

Varela and Rossouw took player-of-the-match awards from sponsors The Lexden Crown and Howden Insurance respectively, ahead of a home date with third-placed Oundle on Saturday (3pm).

The Ravens also got back to winning ways, beating Thurston 43-26 to go four points clear at the top of their league, as the threes won 60-7 at Thurston twos, but the fours lost to Braintree.

Colchester: Mpailane, O’Reilly, Bodkin, C Lewis, Varela, Boshoff, Button; Mitchell ©, Butler, Poasa, Easton, Pemberton, Liversidge, Kerr, Rossouw. Reps: Takimura, Siddle, D Lewis.