Colchester Ravens 19 | 33 Hertford IIs
Another stirring performance from our Ravens who made top table Hertford work hard for their win.
Top of the table Hertford’s visit to Mill Road was an anticipated one, and with 9th placed Colchester on a three-game winning streak it was a tense battle waiting to happen. And from the first whistle, it didn’t disappoint.
Colchester were the first to strike with only 5 minutes on the board; Fullback Adam O’Leary finishing off a good move on the left after Colchester had rumbled a driven lineout up the pitch after Hertford had conceded a penalty. Then, from the ensuing restart, one of the highlights of the game unfolded. Left-wing Julian Chamberlain-Carter received the kickoff and took off upfield through the first wave of defence. Multiple defenders were left behind as he dazzled his way through the Hertford midfield. When the final man was in his way, his offload to none other than tight head Jerone Awensu looked like it was going to ground, only for the burly prop to somehow keep a hold of the ball up around his head. The cover defence chased Awensu down, who then flicked a no-look, over the head pass, back to Chamberlain-Carter who ran in under the posts to finish off the 90-metre try. Amazing stuff and 12-0 after only 7 minutes.
Hertford though were not to be undone, and within the next 15 minutes ran in three tries of their own to take the lead; 12-19 with 18 minutes gone. From the kickoff, Hertford continued their tactic of box kicking from scrumhalf after a couple of phases. This was a bad mistake as Chamberlain-Carter once again scythed through the onrushing line to link with opposing winger Paul Summerson who sauntered over the whitewash to score Colchester’s third. The conversion locked the scores at 19-19 and incredibly 38 points had been scored in the first 20 minutes of the game. The second quarter of the match produced no tries to either team, the arm wrestle of a match being played mostly between the 22’s.
The second half continued as the first had finished, both teams battling out a trench war and giving no quarter. Ravens Captain Andy Goodbourn and his hard-working pack crashed up against the Hertford’s eight on both attack and defence; no side giving an inch in an energy-sapping display of rugby. The midfield trio of Matt Barnes, Adam Cook and Joe Flexman ran, and jinked, and bulldozed their opposites; many a time a half break showing promise, only for Hertford to somehow cut it down when a possible break was on the cards. Colchester too had a steely defensive resolve and it looked like a single try would potentially make the difference. And after 11 minutes of rugby that seemed like forever, it was Hertford who broke the deadlock going in to take the lead once more. 26-19 and the best part of the half to go.
And on-and-on it went, the fixture descending into that of a blood sport at some points; tempers overflowing; 30 players desperate to get one over the other in a brutal game which tested the mettle of every single man on the pitch. Then with only a handful of minutes to go the Ravens went on the attack in their own 22 with Summerson cutting a delicious angle on the outside of the defence, splitting their line and galloping upfield. Having crossed the halfway line, he was eventually caught and although the offload went to hand, the ball was eventually spilt forwards and Hertford had the opportunity to close out the game on their terms. And, they did, the last play of the match resulting in a try, to flatter the visitors with a score of 19-33. And although the Ravens lost for the first time since the spirited away game to Tring in January, what shone through was the cohesiveness of the team and the pride in taking the league’s premier side all the way in another stirring performance from Colchester’s second team.