London 1 North

FIFTH-PLACED Old Haberdashers visited a calm but cloudy Mill Road to take on second-placed Colchester in what was to prove to be an exhilarating game.

The hosts ran out the winners by three converted tries to the visitors two tries and a penalty.

There was little difference in the team performances in the first half but Colchester's superior display in the second half eventually clinched them victory.

The team changes from the previous week were the inclusion of Ethan Hughes at lock and wing Connor O'Reilly moving into outside centre to make way for returning Sean Bundy.

Both teams came out of the blocks right from the start playing fast and furious rugby but for a long time neither side was able to fully penetrate the opposing defence.

Scrums and line-outs were on the whole evenly contested with both sides securing their own ball.

After half an hour right wing Max Payne sprinted forward but was fouled earning the hosts a penalty.

Fly-half David Higgins kicked the ball into touch near Old Habs line and. following a successful line-out and then scrum, the ball was swiftly moved along the backs for full-back Harvey Skinner to score.

Higgins converted and at last Colchester were ahead 7-0 at half-time.

When play resumed Old Habs had their best period of the game.

Within five minutes they pressed forward and earned a line-out near the home try line.

A well-taken catch and drive move saw their pack pile over for a try bringing it closer at 7-5.

Back came Colchester and Higgins soon just missed a penalty attempt as did his opposite number at the other end.

Prop James Mitchell, who had earlier made way for Jerome Awesu, returned to the fray along with centre Richie Kaisia who replaced Nick Flexman.

Then, in their best move of the match, Colchester pressed forward and Higgins kicked to touch in the corner.

Accurate throwing from hooker Ed Holroyd found jumper Liam Pickett and the Blacks' pack surged forward.

The ball was moved to scrum-half Jamie Murray who fed O'Reilly who sprinted through the defence for a fine converted try.

Not to be outdone Old Habs came back and from a line-out near Colchester's line, their forwards drove the ball over to close the score to 14-12.

Later Colchester were equally successful at the other end when following a succession of rucks, flanker Oly Pickett dived over making it 21-12.

In the last moments of this pulsating game Old Habs scored a penalty but it was not enough to save them from defeat.

The jubilant home crowd cheered as Liam Pickett and Sean Bundy were given their men-of-the-match awards.

Colchester had consolidated their second place in the league and were buoyed by the news that league leaders North Walsham had suffered their first defeat at Harpenden closing the points gap.