Colchester 10 | 5 Fullerians
By Richard Parker
In a game far more competitive than Fullerians' impending relegation would suggest, Colchester only just clinch the win in their penultimate game of the season
At their rather dank Mill Road ground Colchester nearly came unstuck against a feisty Fullerians side whose performance belied their lowly position in the league. Indeed for much of the game, the teams were level at one try each and it was only due to stout defending that the Blacks didn't concede any more points but rather scraped a win through a well-taken try in the latter stages of the match.
Unusually Colchester's lineouts were often misfiring leading to turnovers by the visitors. Also, the normally dominant Black pack was matched by a strong Fullerians scrum. The front row was frequently penalised for offences that mystified Director of Rugby Anthony O'Riordan and team manager Jon Smith who themselves are both ex-props.
Colchester kicked off and it wasn't long before they realised that Fullerians were up for the contest marshalled by their scrum-half who proved to be an effective link between forwards and backs. His Colchester counterpart, Brett Cutbush, also played well. Indeed it was an interesting comparison between these two as to who would have the bragging rights at the end of the game. In the event they both scored a try in the second half but, fortunately for Colchester, Cutbush's fellow Kiwi and Man-of-the-Match centre Brock Price had already claimed a try just before half time giving the home side a four-point victory.
What didn't help Colchester's cause was when the referee yellow-carded two forwards early in the second half -flanker Oly Pickett for holding onto the ball in a ruck and prop Alex Mitchell for boring in a scrum. The Blacks had to play ten minutes with thirteen men bringing replacement Rhys Hartley on at the expense of wing Harry Barton to boost the pack.
Young fly-half Sol Hyde put in a good shift in the first half then moved to the centre to make way for David Higgins who kicked and tackled well for the rest of the game. The best move of this rather stilted game from the home crowd's point of view was when, with the scores level at five-all, Fullerians won a lineout on their 22, the scrum-half box-kicked the ball downfield to fullback Damien Brambley who surged forward, fed wing James Crozier who in turn sped up the left wing before passing to Cutbush in support to claim what turned out to be the winning try.
In summary, this was a below-par display by Colchester and they are going to have to play a lot better than this to secure promotion. But, on the plus side, they have achieved their objective of coming second in the league and being in the playoffs with a game in hand versus Diss.
Their opponents from London 1 South will be decided on that next match day with Camberley, Sevenoaks, Brighton and Medway all in contention for first and second place in that league.