COLCHESTER snatched a 24-21 victory at Southend Saxons in London One North, writes STEVE WHITEMAN.

It was an exciting Essex derby match, played with great intensity in ideal weather conditions.

The scores were level at half-time and the Saxons then pulled ahead by eight points, only to be overtaken at the death by the Blacks who won a close encounter with the last kick of the game.

Led by returning skipper Danny Whiteman, the Colchester team featured several changes from the previous week.

Prop James Mitchell and hooker Dan Brennan returned to the front row, with Callum Jeffrey and newcomer Jamie Miller joining the pack from the bench in the second half.

There was also a new partnership in the centre featuring the experienced Nick Flexman and youthful Jamie Light.

Colchester kicked off and before long Whiteman was high tackled and wing James Crozier converted the awarded penalty.

For a further 20 minutes the game ebbed and flowed before the Saxons drove forward, moved the ball first left then right before their No 8 Matt Wagstaff raced through for the first try.

Fly-half Ben Lloyd added the extras to give the hosts a 7-3 lead.

The packs went on to have an even share of the spoils in the set pieces whilst both sets of backs defended well and attacked aggressively. Later, following a scrum on the centre spot, Colchester burst down the right wing and the ball moved from full-back Harvey Skinner to Whiteman.

The Colchester skipper made ground before returning it for Skinner to dive over for a converted try and give the visitors a 10-7 lead.

The Saxons had the last word before the break when a Lloyd penalty levelled the score.

Within five minutes of the restart, Lloyd had added a further two penalties prompting the Blacks' coaches to make a change and bring on Miller for Skovly in the back row.

Shortly after this Colchester stole a lineout and lock Graeme Hay and flanker Oly Pickett charged forward to gain a penalty on the edge of the red zone.

Crozier converted, moving the Blacks close at 16-13.

Southend recovered and quick running by their winger Tom Richards found a gap in the defence and his supporting backs grabbed a try in the corner.

Soon fly-half David Higgins rifled a kicked ball into touch in the corner at the other end.

Brennan and Pickett linked well at the ensuing lineout and the whole pack drove over for Mitchell to claim the visitors' second try.

But Colchester raised their game and another successful Crozier kick levelled the score at 21-21.

Rather than giving away penalties as they had in the first half, Colchester were now receiving them due to Saxons infringements.

As the clock ran down, they gained a penalty in the middle of the home half.

Crozier coolly slotted the ball between the uprights to end the game and seal a great victory for Colchester.