COLCHESTER Rugby Club maintained their promotion push but received an almighty scare as a fired-up Bedford Athletic came perilously close to ending their impressive winning run, writes EDWARD MARRIAGE.

The Blacks scored six tries in the 34-30 win, but joy was mixed with relief for the travelling support at the final whistle, a knock-on bringing an end to the drama as Bedford pushed for a winning try.

Colchester’s 15th win of the season keeps them 19 points clear at the top of Regional 1 South East, though that lead is likely to be cut to 14 on Saturday when Sudbury play their game in hand against bottom club Westcliff while Colchester enjoy a rest weekend.

Injury to Will Blakeman meant a back line re-jig with Corey Button starting at flyhalf and Chris Lewis at 12.

Danny Whiteman, with a shoulder injury, was the only absentee among the forwards from last week.

Colchester started fast, Button getting on the end of a fine multi-phase move to score, Harrison Pickett twice involved. Jayden Boschoff converted.


Athletic worked their way into the match but were restricted to two penalties before captain James Mitchell thundered through for Colchester’s second try from Jimmy Mpailane’s break.

Bedford edged ahead as centre Harry Sawford-Smith crossed, and Colchester made changes; Cam Kerr and Tahi Poasa replacing Harry Pickett and Joe McMillan.

Colchester led 17-13 at half-time after Luke Rokomoce scampered over from a good break by Jonah Varela.

When Varela scored the bonus point try from the restart and Boshoff converted to make it 24-13, Colchester seemed comfortable.

But in a hectic second half, every time Colchester appeared to have the game won they allowed Bedford back.


Their cause wasn’t helped when Mpailane was sin-binned for back-chat, and from the resulting penalty, marched back ten metres, Luke Dedham’s try made it 24-18.

Colchester spurned a golden chance when they were awarded three successive penalties on the Bedford line and the hosts were reduced to 14.

Colchester did eventually score, Francois Rossouw running in on the left wing.

Back came Bedford, full-back Oli Petrides weaving through to score before Colchester again seemed to have secured things through Chris Lewis’s try, making it 34-23.

Yet again Athletic hit back as Sawford-Smith got his second to set up a nervy finish.

Luke Uru made his debut off the bench in place of Yuki Takimura, but the scrumhalf was quickly back as Lewis was carried off with a nasty-looking injury.

With Colchester hanging on, Bedford had chances to win it in the final moments.

“It wasn’t the best performance from us and there are things to work on,” said head coach Craig Burrows. “But I’m proud of the boys for digging deep and getting the win.”

Burrows acknowledges teams are raising their game against Colchester: “Everybody wants to knock the guys down who are top of the table.”

Colchester next face a key match against fourth-placed Harpenden at Raven Park on February 17.

The Ravens completed a brilliant club double over Bedford as they beat Athletic 2s 56-12 to go 13 points clear at the top of Counties 2 and remain on course for promotion.

On a terrific day for the club, there was a clean sweep of men’s victories as the thirds beat Felixstowe 3-20 and the fourths won 24-22 against Clacton.

Colchester: Boshoff, Varela, Mpailane, Lewis, Rokomoce, Button, Takimura; McMillan, Rossouw, Mitchell ©, Easton, Edison, O Pickett, Read, H Pickett. Reps: Poasa, Kerr, Uru.