Colchester extended their lead at the top of Regional 1 South East to 16 points with an outstanding 38-10 win over promotion rivals Shelford in front of a bumper crowd at Raven Park.
Their six tries secured yet another bonus point, but equally impressive was their resolute defence, shutting their in-form opponents out in the second half to leave the team with a remarkable points difference of +261.
The rain cleared by kick-off, but a gusty wind made conditions far from easy and contributed to a scrappy opening.
Colchester struck first. From a patient build-up, George Liversidge broke the defensive line, off-loading to Jacob Bodkin who found Connor O’Reilly. The wing still had plenty to do to cross in the corner.
The hosts were further ahead on 16 minutes. A penalty and line-out drive resulted in – guess who? – Francois Rossouw getting the final touch. Jayden Boshoff converted to make it 12-0.
Colchester got on the wrong side of the referee, conceding a series of penalties, as Shelford enjoyed their best spell of the match, scoring through Lewis Cracknell’s penalty and a converted try for George Cracknell.
But Colchester soon had their third, and it was a beauty. From a line-out, Yuki Takimura found Jimmy Mpailane who dummied outrageously before scorching over, the hosts turning round 17-10 ahead.
Shelford had plenty of attacking opportunities but not for the first time this season Colchester kept their opponents out with a much-improved maul defence while their line-out, which had stuttered in the first half, suddenly looked solid.
From one, a maul led to Oli Pickett driving over, Boshoff’s conversion making it 24-10, and prop Callum Jeffery, back after three matches out, made way for Joe McMillan.
A patient build-up saw Rossouw scoot in for his second try of the match and 18th of the season, and the hooker was instrumental in the final score as he miraculously fielded the ball on the half-volley inside the Colchester half.
Play then spread right as Mpailane broke and found replacement Dylan Read who celebrated his return after five weeks out with a 40-metre gallop to the line. Boshoff kicked his fourth conversion.
The match finished with Matt Edison making a welcome return off the bench and both teams reduced to 14 men as Takimura and Shelford’s hooker saw yellow.
“An outstanding performance,” said head coach Craig Burrows. “It was very windy today and the boys showed a great skill set, good hands, good tactical kicking and our defensive set was really good.
“Shelford have always been a very good team and it just shows how we are stepping up as a squad to go out and get two wins against them. It’s really good to see.”
The player-of-the-match, adjudged by sponsors D A Cant, was Mpailane and the coach’s award, sponsored by The Lexden Crown, went to the tireless Cam Kerr.
Colchester end the year with an eagerly-anticipated visit to neighbours Sudbury on Saturday. The Suffolk side are fourth after a terrific 40-12 win at Harpenden.
Colchester’s 3s beat Ipswich 2s 22-0 while the 4s were awarded the win after their match against Ipswich 3s was abandoned with Colchester leading 12-14. The Kings beat Brighton 31-0.