Colchester 1st XV 40 : 21 H.A.C.
By Richard Parker
Colchester overcome tough journey to maintain claim for play offs.
Colchester made the long journey to Chiswick to take on the Honourable Artillery Company (H.A.C) at the Kings Hall ground and, without tempting fate, the way looks clear for them to end the season in second place after a resounding victory over the fourth-placed team.
In a pulsating match the Blacks ran in six tries as opposed to the hosts' two plus three penalties. Colchester were superior in the scrums and lineouts whilst their whole team effort kept H.A.C's fast-running backs in check for most of the game.
Prop Simon Gray and wing Dave Brennan rejoined the starting line-up in place of unavailable James Mitchell and Damien Brambley and slotted in seamlessly with their high work rate.
Colchester got off to a dream start when, following their kick off, centre Sol Hyde scored almost immediately. Wing James Crozier added the extras in the beginning of what was to be a composed kicking display converting all but one of the six tries.
As the game progressed H.A.C got on to the scoreboard with two successful penalties bringing the score to 6-7. Then Colchester lost centre Brock Price to a yellow card for not releasing the ball and also scrum half Matt Wadling to a shoulder injury. Hasty readjustment to the back line saw Brett Cutbush move to his position, Hyde move to fly half and centre Tom Dufficy come off the bench.
Despite being a man down for ten minutes the Blacks attacked and were awarded a scrum five metres from the Army's try-line. A brilliant eight-man shove resulted in lock Ollie White grounding the ball for the second score.
Soon this move was replicated by H.A.C 's forwards at the other end of the pitch and their unconverted score closed the score to 11-12. Then they took the lead with another successful penalty kick after a Black lineout infringement. Later they kicked deep into Colchester's half to Crozier who came back at them, offloaded to replacement centre Kevin Tavainavesi who glided through the defence for a fine score.
Now the Blacks' tails were up and, shortly after the restart, flanker Danny Whiteman broke from the back of a maul, sped into the opposition half before passing to Price who claimed the fourth bonus-point try just before half time.
After the interval Colchester again pressed forward and after convincingly winning a scrum moved the ball to Dufficy who jinked through the Army defence for an excellent try.
The visitor's joy turned to annoyance when, shortly after, their hooker Rhys Hartley was sin-binned for what looked like an innocuous blocking move. Being back down to fourteen men again didn't stop them raising their game and from a penalty Cutbush quickly set his backs in motion supported by Man-of-the-Match Ollie Pickett and his brother Harrison for the latter to burst through for the Blacks' sixth try.
H.A.C managed to get a consolation try just before the referee blew for time to end a match played in good spirit by both sides.