COLCHESTER took on a formidable combination of Storm Dennis and runaway league leaders North Walsham, writes EDWARD MARRIAGE.

They finished a distant but gallant second best after losing 34-3, in London League One North.

With impeccable timing, Dennis made his presence felt in rural north Norfolk shortly before kick-off and by full-time, the rain-lashed gale had forced all but the hardiest fan into the clubhouse.

Considering the testing conditions, which made kicking a lottery, credit to the players for producing a pretty decent game.

While the score slightly flattered the hosts, Walsham unquestionably deserved their win, sticking to their game plan and making significantly fewer mistakes.

They are now 22 points clear at the top and within touching distance of promotion.

Colchester first team manager Jon Smith didn’t question the outcome but felt whenever they looked like getting a foothold events conspired against them.

He said: “I think we’ve been very unfortunate in terms of the scrum.

"In the second half we’ve absolutely dominated and their loose-head has gone to the floor at nearly every scrum and not once have I seen the referee go round to the other side.

“Walsham executed a clinical game plan very effectively and you can’t argue with that."

The pattern was set by Walsham fly-half Matt Hodgson’s first kick, which sailed back over his head.

But despite playing into the gale, the hosts were ahead within five minutes, wing Jim Riley scoring in the left corner despite the best efforts of Jona Crisp.

Colchester then enjoyed their best attacking spell of the half, Danny Whiteman forcing a turnover before the forwards got over the Walsham line, only to knock-on.

By then the luckless Alex Burman was off with a serious looking shoulder injury to be replaced by Jamie Miller.

Walsham went off-side and David Higgins landed the penalty, wind-assisted from 45 metres.

A penalty for not rolling away led to Walsham’s second try, loose-head Frank Scott driving over.

Colchester ended the half strongly, another knock-on frustrating their chance of a try, leaving it 10-3 at the break.

Aided by the strengthening gale, Hodgson’s clearance ended up metres from the Colchester line, and when the visitors lost their line-out Scott pounced for his second try.

Hodgson kicked a penalty, but then followed another period of Colchester pressure during which Walsham conceded four quick penalties in their own half.

Frustration led to Colchester conceding a penalty of their own - and to compound the error back-chat saw the ref march them back ten metres.

Hodgson kicked for goal from halfway and while he had the distance, it went narrowly wide.

Walsham bagged the bonus point when open-side Will Swart pinched a lose pass.

Admirably refusing to lie down, Colchester laid siege to the Walsham line.

But with the wind and rain at their worst, Walsham’s defence held out and in the final minutes Swart scored their fifth try.

The result means Colchester slip to third but have a chance to turn things round on Saturday when they entertain Chingford (3pm kick-off).