GALLERY: Colchester seal promotion to National 3 after dramatic draw at Eton Manor

Colchester players celebrate.
Eton Manor v Colchester (London One) at The New Wilderness Ground, N

Colchester players celebrate. Eton Manor v Colchester (London One) at The New Wilderness Ground, Nutter Lane, Wanstead, London, UK on 18 April 2015 Picture: Steve Waller - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

Colchester head coach Anthony O’Riordan surveyed the scene and admitted it made him a bit emotional.

His Colchester side had just made club history after an exciting 18-all draw at Eton Manor saw them crowned London One North champions on Saturday – with National Three rugby the prize next season.

“It’s the best way to end the season,” O’Riordan said.

“We would have liked to have won the game, but we have won the title and every one of my players deserves it.

“It’s been hard, it’s been tough and at Eton Manor you always get a difficult game.

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“But we’ve worked so hard for this and we deserve every minute of the celebration. Sorry, I’m getting a bit emotional here.”

O’Riordan had every right to feel proud and emotional in what was an attritional, no-holds-barred clash between the league’s two top sides.

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On a sunny, but breezy afternoon, Colchester arrived in East London with more than 200 fans cheering them on in the 500+ crowd.

It was a cracking atmosphere and the theatre that played out on the pitch was worthy of a league championship decider.

With both sides having lost one match each during the season, everything was up for grabs.

So, it all came down to this but, with Colchester two points ahead at the top of the table before kick-off, it wasn’t quite winner take all – Colchester could afford a draw.

It was the home side who struck first on six minutes, as Callum McKie slotted over a penalty, only for his opposite number David Higgins to level it up ten minutes later.

It buoyed Colchester and a great break by James Crozier almost got his side through the tough-tackling Eton side, before Matt Smith was another to weave his magic as again Colchester threatened.

Higgins missed a penalty as McKie slotted one home and the hosts were 6-3 ahead. On 20 minutes Colchester scored the opening try of the game.

Good hands by the visiting backs saw them tip-toe down the line, before Brett Cutbush fed captain Calum Irvine who went over the line and under the posts for a try.

Higgins’ conversion put Colchester 10-6 in the ascendency at the break.

Most expected Colchester to press their advantage home in the second period, but Eton had other ideas.

The home side were defending stubbornly and broke away at speed but their hopes were shattered when Irvine ran onto a through kick and in the ensuing ruck, Liam Pickett got the ball over the line.

Higgins missed the conversion to make it 15-6 but Eton were straight back at the visitors and a try in the corner, although not converted made the score 15-11 with 15 minutes to go.

Higgins notched what proved to be a vital penalty in the 70th minute and Colchester were seven ahead.

They needed to be as Eton Manor again flew through the visiting backs to score under the posts, with the conversion tying it up at 18-18.

The final five minutes were nerve-wracking for the large crowd as the teams went toe to toe – the final whistle greeted with joy from the Colchester players, fans and management.

It was indeed an emotional day!

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