LONDON 1 NORTH - Hammersmith & Fulham 18 Colchester 42
COLCHESTER earned their fourth successive bonus point win with a tremendous display of attacking rugby built on the foundations of their domination of the scrum and lineout.
Man-of-the-Match Chris Withers scored 22 of their 42 points and the win keeps them in second place in the league.
The new half-back combination of Brett Cutbush and Lewis Groves thrived on the regular supply of ball by the dominant black pack.
Soon after the start, Withers converted a penalty to put Colchester in the lead. Catching the Fulham restart kick, number 8 Olly Pickett sprinted 50 metres into Fulham territory before offloading to Cutbush for a fine converted try.
Colchester kept up the pressure, moving the ball through many hands until Cutbush stole a ball from a ruck and sprinted towards the home try line only to be checked by Fulham’s fullback who was given a yellow card for obstruction. Withers was successful with the penalty putting Colchester further in the lead.
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Fulham then rallied and moved the ball out to their left wing who scored a good converted try in the corner. With the score at 7-13, Colchester were deemed offside and Fulham’s full back, who had returned from his 10 minutes off the pitch, kicked the penalty to bring the scores close again.
Then came the turning point as Withers intercepted a pass between the Fulham centres and ran in to score a try that he converted.
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Against the wind in the second half with a 20-10 lead, Colchester turned on the pressure using their superior fitness, to clinch the win.
From a good scrum, Pickett fed flanker Dan Whiteman, who ran through the defence to score on the left.
There soon followed a similar try by Withers in the left corner. Then, boosted by the fresh legs of replacements, prop Joe McMillan and No.8 Kieren Payne, Colchester added a further try by right-wing Dave Philp.
Soon after, Colchester lost combative winger Jon Vine who was yellow-carded for an infringement.
In the final moments of the game Colchester were awarded a penalty after skipper James Mitchell and Whiteman burst in among the opposition. Colchester opted for the scrum, moved the ball along their backs until good support work by No.8 Pickett saw him score under the posts for a converted try.