A NEW-LOOK Colchester side opened their season in fine style with a closely-fought 25-24 win over Shelford, writes ED MARRIAGE.

But it was a familiar face who took many of the post-match plaudits, following their London One North opener at Mill Road.

Oly Pickett’s contribution off the bench included a typically-bullocking run down the left touchline, leaving tacklers in his wake, which led to the hosts' bonus point try and earned him the coaches’ player-of-the-match honours.

But just as eye-catching were the handful of fresh faces on show, with tries on debut for New Zealand centre Richie Kaisia and full-back Harvey Skinner, another product of St Joseph’s College in Ipswich to graduate to Colchester’s first team ranks.

Colchester manager Jon Smith didn’t think the score was a fair reflection of the game.

He said: “We lost that second half by 12 points to five but actually we were far more dominant than that and just didn’t get the scores over the line.

“We tried a lot of new combinations and a number of players were making their debut and to come away with a bonus-point win against a side who last year were in the national leagues - it’s fantastic.

“So it’s a good start to the season and it’s only going to get better from now on.”

Shelford were relegated from National League 3 last season and whether they felt they had a point to prove or if it was a case of Colchester suffering a hangover from narrowly missing out on promotion on the final day of last season, it was the Cambridgeshire side who made much the better start.

Tries from wing Alex Long and scrum-half Charlie Baker had Shelford 12-3 up inside the first quarter, James Crozier’s penalty kick keeping Colchester in touch.

But the home side gradually fought their way into the game, gaining ascendancy up front.

And it was Colchester’s disruption of the visitor’s scrum just metres from the line which led to the Blacks' first try, an opportunist touchdown by skipper for the day Brett Cutbush.

Crozier converted, and soon after added Colchester’s second try.

Shelford turned the ball over in their own half and Crozier’s turn of speed did the rest with a run-in down the left.

On a blustery day, Crozier failed with the conversion but the home side soon increased their lead.

With Alex Burman limping off with a hamstring injury, to be replaced by Oly Pickett, an individual score by newcomer Kaisia took Colchester’s half-time lead to 20-12.

Shelford started the second period the sharper, Long scoring his second try inside five minutes.

But Colchester were looking the better side by now and Pickett’s eye-catching run down the left which ended up with Skinner racing through on the right, turned out to be the match-winning score.

Dawyne Iese’s late converted try for Shelford made for a nail-biting closing period but Colchester held out to open their final season at Mill Road before moving to their new ground in the Northern Gateway in upbeat mood.