Eton Manor ground out a crucial 15-9 victory at Colchester on Saturday to keep pace with league leaders Westcliff in London 1 North.
Colchester went into the fixture having only lost once at home all season and with their opponents boasting the best away defence in the division, it promised to be a tight contest.
With the wind behind them in the opening half, Manor elected to play a kicking game. However, this gave the dangerous Colchester backline the opportunity to run the ball back.
Colchester missed two penalties and that proved costly as Manor broke the deadlock when Chris Jones drew out the defence and opened a gap for Peter Bicknell. He scythed through the Colchester line and scored under the posts. Mark Woollard made no mistake with the conversion to open up a 7-0 lead.
The game continued to be a hard-fought affair with Colchester’s fast attacking backline a constant threat. Eventually Colchester made it into Manor’s 22 and won a penalty. They chose to tap and go for the try but Tryson Goodchild produced a strong tackle to keep the hosts at bay.
Manor recovered the ball and it was moved on to Michael Eghan. He managed to hold off a tackle before going over for the visitors’ second try of the afternoon. Although the difficult conversion was missed, Manor had extended their lead to 12-0.
Colchester had the last scoring opportunity of the half when they were awarded a simple penalty in front of the posts but again their kicker missed the target.
Manor kicked off the second half and enjoyed the best of the early exchanges. Colchester were soon awarded a scrum but, despite Manor being a man down after Barney Newbury was yellow carded, the scrum turned Colchester’s ball over and won a penalty. Eton kicked for a line-out which they won, however, Colchester were able to defend. They cleared the ball to Eghan whose strong run resulted in a penalty for Manor.
Woollard stepped up and struck between the posts to increase Manor’s lead to 15-0.
Colchester went on the attack from the restart and gained their reward when Manor were penalised for a shoulder charge. This time their kicker hit the target and Colchester had registered their first points of the game.
A second well-struck penalty allowed the hosts to further reduce the deficit but the game then erupted into a mass brawl with most of the players from both sides involved.
When the referee finally restored order, he showed Colchester’s open-side a yellow card for punching while Manor's Carl Miller and Bowman were shown red cards for the same offence.
The resulting penalty was converted by Colchester to reduce the deficit to 15-9 and Manor would play the remaining 15 minutes with 13 men. Manor still held their own despite having a numerical disadvantage. Colchester attacked as hard as they could but still couldn’t find a way to cross Manor’s line.
As more time elapsed, Manor were to find themselves yet another man down when Peter Bicknell was adjudged to have committed a professional foul close to his line. Colchester were unable to make their penalty count, however, and were unable to secure the points they needed to avoid defeat.
Chingford are fourth in London 1 North after they edged out Romford & Gidea Park 11-10 on Saturday while Woodford were not in action at the weekend.