A BLISTERING second-half performance saw Colchester Rugby Club battle back from a nine-point half-time deficit to beat Harpenden and move a step closer to the fourth tier of English rugby, writes EDWARD MARRIAGE.

Colchester scored five second-half tries and 33 unanswered points to win 43-19 and now require seven points from four matches to secure promotion.

Colchester made a characteristically sluggish start, albeit playing into a stiff breeze, leading head coach Craig Burrows to quip: “I think the boys like the entertainment.

“They like to keep the crowd on their toes and me on a near-heart attack. This season we’re either playing first half or second half. I cannot wait for that day when we play both halves!”

Harpenden, so often Colchester’s bogie team, scored three tries in the opening half-hour through Barnaby Merrett, Dominic Ashwell and Conor McLean, the home side not helped by a yellow card for Harrison Pickett’s high tackle.


Colchester scored two tries of their own, a backs’ move from a line-out on 17 minutes allowing Luke Rokomoce to cross in the left corner, then Sam Easton powered over from a line-out drive on the half-hour.

While the first half was certainly Harpenden’s, Colchester would not have been too daunted to trail 19-10 at the break given the strength of the wind in their faces.

“A few stern words” from Burrows seemingly did the trick as the second half was all Colchester.

First captain James Mitchell calmly collected the ball at the back of a line-out and smashed over, and with Danny Whiteman on for Cam Kerr, Colchester finally nudged ahead on 53 minutes, Jimmy Mpailane evading tacklers to finish a move involving most of the back line.


With Harpenden tiring, Colchester’s scrum was now on top and in the last 10 minutes turned on the style with three further tries.

Whiteman, back from injury and in top form, burst from the Harpenden 10 metre line, off-loading to Dylan Read, a first half replacement for Oli Pickett, for the simplest of finishes.

Chris Lewis did really well to surge over from 22 metres out for number six while the final try was a comedy of Harpenden errors.

First the restart didn’t go ten metres, then a careless boot sent the ball bouncing into the arms of Read who had a straight run to the posts.

Jayden Boshoff’s fourth conversion completed the scoring. Colchester’s all-round kicking game was on-song throughout.

The sizeable crowd gave the team a huge ovation at full-time, but Burrows was keen to keep a lid on any premature celebrations.


“The big P-word,” said Burrows, hardly daring mention promotion. “It’s so close yet so far. We’ve had a chat about it very briefly and just said we need to keep our heads down and get the job done.

"For the time being we focus on our next game against Rochford.”

Burrows praised the contribution off the bench of Whiteman, Read and Joe McMillan, while his player-of-the-match award, sponsored by the Lexden Crown, went to Rokomoce. Mpailane received the award from sponsors T J Evers.

There was more good news as The Ravens edged closer to promotion with a hard-fought 43-38 win at Thurston.

The thirds' match was cancelled, but the fours lost 50-7 to a very strong Braintree side.

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