Diss Rugby Club’s 26-22 victory over promotion-hopefuls Colchester, in their final London One North fixture of the year, has been hailed as ‘fantastic’ by coach Dave Smith.
The bonus-point win sees the Blues take a draw and a victory from their last two fixtures — against teams fighting for promotion — to overturn a three-match losing streak.
Smith said: “This was a top four side we’ve played and we have taken five points and four tries off them too.
“We battled and we battled and we battled and all I can say is, well done and really well deserved.
“It’s a fantastic win and it’s a result we have been working hard for in the last few weeks but haven’t managed to put together. It’s great to see and the lads were just fantastic.
“We needed to turn a corner and we have done that now, it’s a really good sign for us and it’s great to go into the new year with a five point win against a top side under our belts.”
The result sees the side climb two places to end 2017 in a mid-table ninth, rather than languishing dangerously close to the bottom end.
But Diss did not make it easy for themselves in an, at times, fractious end-to-end match that saw a Colchester player sin-binned for a clear punch and Diss’ Steve Hipwell also spending 10 minutes on the side lines.
Smith said: “We’ve lost games we should have won this year, so it’s great to see us coming out on top.
“It was a game of inches and attrition, rugby often is at this level, but we were the ones that took the extra inch.”
He also pointed out the importance of ending the year with a win before the league has a three-week Christmas hiatus.
“It’s really important to end the year with a big win,” he said. “You go from week to week and hope to get the maximum points and, after some poor results, this is a great way to wrap up the year.”
Smith admitted to nerves throughout the closely-fought battle, which saw the teams trade first half blows — before a cagey second half with only two scores: a converted try apiece.
The team’s centre-pairing were commanding, despite number 12 Fraser Hall usually playing in the back row.
“We picked their weak points and thought we should have a run at their 10/12 channel and we did that, it worked well for us,” Smith added.
“Fraser is a back row but did very well, I was happily surprised. It was injury-forced but I’m really pleased.
“The thing I’m most pleased about though, is that first period of the second-half.
“I said at half-time that we need to rewrite the script and not concede the way we so often do after the break.
“And we didn’t, we stuck to our game and just kept banging at Colchester’s door.
“We’ve had a lot of teams come here and play front football and we then tend to die a bit. And I was so happy to see that we didn’t, we were the ones pushing at the end.
“It’s definitely something for us to now build on next year. We want to keep winning and getting points.
“At the start of the season, we had targeted points from every game and that’s the message I will be pushing.
“This year was always about surviving in this league and, now we’ve shown that we can do that, we can start to look at rebuilding.”
He may have to do that with a number of injuries to his squad, a concern Smith said is normal for the level.
He said: “Having a decent bench is important.
“It’s a tough level of rugby — but when you have back rows who can fill in as centres, you’re not doing too badly.”
Colchester opened proceedings with an unconverted try but Diss replied instantly, with a Harry Gooderham try. Barnaby Chenery adding the extras.
The visitors then scored a second converted try before Diss again replied — Isaiah Hooper scoring and Chenery converting from a tough angle.
Colchester replied with a penalty to reduce the half-time deficit to five points. The second half was one of fewer chances, broken by the sin-binning of Hipwell to allow Colchester a converted try.
With minutes remaining and three points behind, Hipwell redeemed himself, scoring under the posts (to give an easy conversion) and restoring the home side’s lead.
n Diss return to action on January 6 with an away fixture at second-placed Brentwood.