A REMARKABLE second-half fightback maintained Colchester Rugby Club’s drive for promotion as a last-gasp try clinched a 24-15 win over outstanding opponents from Oundle, writes EDWARD MARRIAGE.

The bonus point victory takes Colchester 13 points clear at the top of Regional 1 South East, approaching the mid-point of the season.

Trailing 15-5 at the break, and unquestionably second best, three second-half tries and 19 unanswered points turned matters around in what was the best contest of the season.

“It was a bit too close for comfort,” admitted head coach Craig Burrows. “We didn’t have a great first half but things changed a lot in the second and we played them off their feet.

“The group we’ve got here at the moment is a phenomenal group and you know you can rely on each and every player to give their utmost. Everything’s building in a very nice way.”


Led out by front row stalwart Joe McMillan on his 250th first-team appearance, Colchester struck first as a long Corey Button box kick bounced wickedly, Danny Whiteman pouncing to score inside two minutes.

Oundle then dominated thanks largely to superior tactical kicking.

But it still took 20 minutes for them to draw level and there was an element of fortune about their first try, as a goal-line drop-out was charged down and 38-year-old hooker Wes Cope pounced.

The kicking battle continued and once again Oundle benefitted from a charge-down with centre Harry Winch scoring.


Ben Young converted and kicked a penalty to give the visitors a deserved 5-15 lead.

Colchester stirred into life before half time with James Mitchell held up over the line following a good break by Jacob Bodkin, but Oundle held firm.

A patient move started by the lively George Liversidge, with Bodkin, Jimmy Mpailane, O’Reilly and McMillan all involved, resulted in Button going over, Jayden Boshoff converting.

With Oli Pickett and Tahi Poasa on for McMillan and Sam Butler, Liversidge made another storming break into Oundle territory.

From a line-out, the rolling maul would have only one outcome as Francois Rossouw, now at hooker, inevitably got the final touch as Colchester at last went ahead, 17-15.

Dan Lewis entered the fray for the inexhaustible Whiteman with nerves jangling and the result in the balance.

A no-arms tackle earned Poasa a yellow card and a chance for Oundle seemingly to seal victory. But Young’s penalty drifted wide and from the restart Colchester made the game safe.

From Dan Lewis’s break, namesake Chris spread play left to Liversidge whose well-timed pass found Mpailane, the full-back’s off-load giving Bodkin a run-in.

Boshoff’s conversion deprived Oundle of a losing bonus point, the least they deserved.

For Joe McMillan, it was the perfect end to a memorable day as he became the latest player to reach 250 caps.

McMillan said: “It’s a real honour, it’s a real pleasure. I love Colchester rugby club and when I’m all done I’ll miss it.”

The player-of-the-match award from sponsors James and Lindsay went to Boshoff, while Liversidge took the coach’s award, courtesy of The Lexden Crown.

Colchester have a week’s break ahead of their next match, at mid-table Tring.

The Ravens completed an outstanding 61-17 win at Shelford to go eight points clear at the top of their league, while the fours won at Harwich.

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