Colchester defeat Thurrock in London 1 North

Colchester's Matt Wadling

Colchester's Matt Wadling - Credit: Lucy taylor

Colchester put on a confident team display against a strong and capable Thurrock side that was playing higher National League rugby last season, the bonus point 28-10 win seeing Colchester closing on the league leaders.

The pre-match downpour made for a heavy pitch that favoured the larger home pack, but the competitiveness and superior fitness of the Colchester forwards and their backs’ greater attacking threat gave the men in black the edge.

Preparation by Anthony O’Riordan’s coaching team was rewarded by the performances of players who made positive contributions to the Colchester senior team win.

Hooker Alfie Walsh, flankers Harry Gozzet and George Liversedge performed well against an experienced and well drilled pack, while Joe Flexman made a telling contribution after coming on to replace the injured Brett Cutbush.

Thurrock challenged throughout in front of a large home crowd.

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Their pack maintained good ball retention and mounted a strong scrum platform while their backs were quick and eager to attack.

Colchester adapted to the greasy conditions well, forwards and backs combining to mix their running and kicking game with a ‘black wall’ defensive line that countered waves of Thurrock attacks.

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The greasy ball caused initial problems for Colchester, knock-ons and poor passes helping Thurrock. After absorbing early pressure, Colchester fly-half David Higgins’ long clearance led to a counter-attack that caught Thurrock offside.

Higgins kicked to the corner where Walsh’s long throw found Liam Pickett at the back of the line-out, scrum-half Gregor Irvine speeding the ball along the line to centre Matt Smith whose angled run and strength to power through tackles took him over for the first try.

Thurrock replied with a series of forward drives that inched forward, an offside penalty enabling Tom Wunsfeld to convert a penalty.

Pressure on the Thurrock backs forced a hasty kick that went into touch on the full. Ollie Pickett’s line-out win was taken forward by centre James Green before recycled ball was taken up to the line by skipper Calum Irvine, the irresistible force that is prop James Mitchell burrowing over for Colchester’s second try.

Pressured defence forced another Thurrock error, spilled ball hacked over the line by Calum Irvine who came a close second to a Thurrock defender in the race to touchdown.

The resultant 22 restart was returned at speed by James Green who fed Smith before taking a return pass, shouldering a defender onto his backside before diving in for Colchester’s third try.

Higgins added his third conversion for the 3-21 half-time lead.

Rallied by their half-time team talk, Thurrock showed their mettle to press for the next quarter, camping in the Colchester half until a line-out catch and drive try was rumbled over by the efficient Thurrock pack, the conversion reducing the deficit.

Pressed into defence, Thurrock errors enabled Colchester No 8 James McRae to seize spilled ball, Joe Flexman drawing defenders before passing inside for Matt Smith to race in his second and Colchester’s fourth bonus point try, Higgins maintaining 100% accuracy with his conversion.

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