On Saturday I travelled on the supporters coach to Old Elthamians RFC near Sidcup in Kent for Colchester’s London One play-off for a place in National Division Three (Level 5). We arrived about 1:30pm to see a good number of cars from Colchester already there, one even hosting a barbecue, and as kick-off time approached the numbers from North East Essex swelled. Old Elthamians had generously laid on a buffet for the away supporters and their chairman welcomed us hoping for a good game and the Colchester President reciprocated.
The game was to be played on the next-door ground of St Bartholomew’s Hospital. It was in beautiful condition as it isn’t used on a weekly basis, and even has a stand. Although the ground was picturesque the weather conditions were anything but, with constant drizzle and a blustery wind.
The poor weather clearly put off some of those that would have come to watch, but there a crowd of around 500. Of those, around 150 had made the ninety minute journey from Colchester to (literally) fly the flag for their club. Colchester regularly get large crowds for home games, bolstered by sponsors and their guests who will have enjoyed a pre-match lunch. But those who had travelled to Kent were the supporters that come to the club every week as players, coaches, parents, volunteers or just to watch their home team play. I saw stalwarts from the fourth XV, members of the committee, youth and mini players with their parents, and I was particularly impressed to see Colchester’s barman and caterer at the game to support the club that clearly means more to them than just an employer.
On top of those that were at the game, the digital age we live in meant there were many more following the game on Twitter and Facebook where both the Colchester President and me were posting regular updates. In the morning I had seen dozens of messages of support, not just from Colchester players and members, but also from clubs in London One that had played against Colchester that season, and from others around Eastern Counties and Essex. You can get an idea of what was being said by having a look at Colchester RFC’s Twitter feed or my Facebook page
You can read the match reports on the Colchester RFC website and the Old Elthamians RFC website when they are published so I won’t so into detail, but the conditions made running rugby difficult and the game was littered with knock-ons as both sides threw the ball around which is how they have played all season. There was little to choose between the teams and although Old Elthamians deserved their win, Colchester had their chances and it was only small margins that stopped them being promoted instead of the side from Kent.
Click here for pictures from the game
The club can be proud of what it has achieved. Of the match day squad of eighteen, thirteen were products of Colchester’s prolific youth section, and the coaching team are of a similar pedigree. The coach journey home was upbeat, with people already looking forward to derby games against old rivals Bury St Edmunds and Diss as well as trips down the A12 to Brentwood, Romford, Basildon, Rochford and Chingford.
And so ends the 2011/12 league season but it won’t seem like long until pre-season training starts for 2012/13!