Colchester’s pursuit of London 1 title likely to come down to final day clash with Eton Manor

Colchester, in red, face Thurrock.

Colchester, in red, face Thurrock. - Credit: Archant

Colchester’s 13 tries proved unlucky for Thurrock whose player injuries and unavailability reduced their chances against the promotion-chasers.

This was Colchester’s 22nd consecutive victory and the 10th game this season in which they have scored more than 50 points.

Thurrock played gamely for a 24-7 half-time deficit but could not cope with Colchester’s pace, fitness and competitive spirit in an awesome second half display that delivered 59 unanswered points.

Ollie Pickett crowned his Samsung Try of the Month award for February, with a hat-trick of tries, team-mates Joe Flexman, Matt Smith, Brett Cutbush and skipper Calum Irvine adding braces of tries apiece, while James Crozier (6) and David Higgins (3) contributed nine conversions.

Colchester took the lead early. A line break by fly-half Higgins set hooker Thorogood to race in the opening try.

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Flanker Danny Whiteman’s quickly-taken penalty and 30-metre break rattled the Thurrock defence for centre Smith to cut through and touchdown.

Thurrock showed their national league experience with a series of attacks, creating an overlap try for wing Sam Coultish and Seb Roache’s touchline conversion was successful.

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Anxious for a four-try bonus point, Colchester conceded penalties until Calum Irvine ghosted through the retreating Thurrock defence to score before combining with Whiteman in an audacious counter-attack from their own 22 that set Ollie Pickett in for the team’s bonus point try.

In the second half, props James Mitchell, Jo McMillan and replacement Jay Hatcher combined with bulldozer lock Graeme Hay and lineout king Liam Pickett to dominate play in the tight and loose, as did the back row of Gozzett Pickett, Whiteman and hooker Thorogood – hunting and winning ball.

Scrum-halves Ed Parry and Matt Wadling passed and ran effectively.

A break upfield by Matt Smith culminated in Ollie Pickett beating tacklers for his second try. Matt Wadling’s break released Joe Flexman for his first try before Ollie Pickett’s hat-trick try finished a handling move involving most of the Colchester team.

Smith then added his second try, as did Irvine, before Cutbush scored.

Cutbush dummied and sidestepped his way to score his second try after Joe McMillan was brought down by a diving ankle-tap just short of the tryline.

Smith broke several tired tackles before linking with the supporting Gozzett for his touchdown, before quick Colchester handling created an overlap for Flexman to close the scoring with his second try.

After the game, coach Anthony O’Riordan reflected on the game and second-placed Eton Manor’s win at Luton, which keeps the title race wide open: “It looks like it is going to go to the final day and our game at Eton Manor.

“That’s probably how it should be, but I cringe at the prospect.”

He added: It’s been a great season for us. Our fourth, third and second teams have won their respective leagues and the first team have won the most games in succession in the club’s history and are the country’s highest point scorers.

“Our strength this season has been embracing a change in culture at the club.

“We have got some incredible players,.

“There are no factions, but in the past, the attitude has always been, ‘if we concede points, let’s make sure we score more than the other team’.”

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