Narrow defeat as Colchester start life in National 3 with positive performance
- Credit: Archant
Colchester’s debut in English National League Division Three was not the 90th birthday present the club hoped for as Gravesend exploited errors to snatch a win in the final minutes.
The victory margin flattered the Kent visitors and unjustly reflected Colchester’s plucky performance that saw them lead for most of the game before errors saw points and position conceded to the more patient and experienced Gravesend.
New Colchester skipper Liam Pickett can take heart that his team were not overawed by their promotion to the highest league the club has ever played in.
Fast paced backs repeatedly made ground against a well-organised defence and forwards competed in tight and loose.
Colchester started well, front foot defence and positive attacking forcing Gravesend back.
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Wing Damien Brambley’s up-and-under pressured the Gravesend defence into a hasty kick that was charged down for the opening try by hooker Dan Brennan.
Then prop James Mitchell crossed but was adjudged to have received a forward pass to rule out the score.
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Another rushed clearance kick enabled centre Matt Smith to attack from halfway, breaking a tackle before sending left wing James Crozier to race in a try under the posts, David Higgins adding the conversion for a 12-0 lead on 20 minutes.
Gravesend rallied and maintained possession to build a series of attacks, close interpassing out of tackles maintaining momentum until centre Cameron Barbour burst over the line, Jake Berthelsen converting.
David Higgins added a penalty for Colchester after flanker Ollie White and Crozier linked to threaten the visitor’s line.
Gravesend returned to the attack, creating an overlap try out wide for wing Temi Okenla.
But a strong Colchester scrum caught the Gravesend scrumhalf offside, Higgins adding the penalty points for an 18-12 halftime lead.
Restarting with determination, Gravesend pressed Colchester into defence.
Colchester tried to run the ball out of their 22 but a fumble conceded possession, Gravesend wing Tom Goss’s try putting the visitors into the lead at 19-18.
The home side raised their game again, Higgins fielding a clearance kick near halfway before sidestepping through the outrushing defence and linking with Crozier and Brambley who broke to near the Gravesend line.
Recycled ball sped along the line where fullback Brett Cutbush dummied to create a gap for his try to retake the lead at 23-19.
Gravesend then hung onto the ball to work their way upfield, Colchester defending staunchly for ten minutes before Gravesend No. 8 Geoff Marshall slipped a tackle to cross for a try, Berthelsen converting for the 23:26 lead with minutes remaining.
Desperate to retake the lead, cavalier Colchester passing led to another fumble and easy run in opportunist try under the posts for Berthelsen, who converted to seal the win.