COLCHESTER Rugby Club captain Liam Pickett insists they have not given up hope of chasing down leaders Rochford Hundred for the London One North title.

The Blacks boosted their hopes of returning to the National League following a crucial 28-10 victory over promotion rivals North Walsham Vikings at Mill Road, last weekend.

The impressive win means second-placed Colchester now lie seven points ahead of North Walsham, who are in third place.

With nine games to go, Colchester are in pole position to clinch a play-off spot, awarded to the team that finishes second.

But with unbeaten Rochford still to play again next month, skipper Pickett says they will be striving to close down the leaders’ existing nine-point lead and clinch automatic promotion.

Pickett said: “We won’t count ourselves out of catching Rochford because there are still points to be gained.

“They do look like firm favourites for the title so it looks like it’s us and North Walsham battling for the play-off spot.

“Rochford have won every game with a bonus point but we still have to play them at their place and they still have to go to North Walsham.

“We still have some tough games to come but it was a crucial win against North Walsham.

“They have been right on our heels all season and now it’s a seven-point cushion, which we’ll definitely need as the season progresses.”

After an even first half, Colchester produced a strong second-half display against North Walsham to win, scoring 17 unanswered points after the interval.

“It felt like we controlled the game and it was a good win,” said Pickett, who has been playing for Colchester’s first team for nearly ten years.

“We played Old Priorians recently who were sixth and scored 67 points, so we were confident going into the North Walsham game.

“But we know what they would bring and were aware that would be physical.

“We knew that we would have to step up as a team, in defence and attack.

“Our defensive strategy worked and it’s one of our key points that we work on.”

Pickett was named Colchester’s man of the match against North Walsham following an impressive display and was presented with his award after the match by Colchester MP, Will Quince.

The Colchester skipper produced a fine performance despite a frayed tendon in his thumb forcing him to play through the pain barrier.

Pickett added: “I’ve had the injury for a while.

“I did it just before Christmas and against the advice of the physios, I strapped it up and played.

“I needed to play in that game – I couldn’t be watching it from the sidelines.

“I’m due to have an operation on it in February.

“Once I’ve had the operation, I hope to be back towards the end of the season.”