Vital Victory For Dons Despite Major Back Line Changes

Rugby result: Brighton 22 v Wimbledon 25

London & SE Premier League, 7 March

This was always going to be a tough away fixture for Wimbledon, Brighton having come off the back of a good winning run, and before that only ever losing by small margins, as eventually they did to Wimbledon.


Brighton have some very good players, as of course do Wimbledon, but it was the Dons' style of 15-man rugby that gave them the edge. And this was despite major changes to their back line: fullback James Moffat moved to fly-half, scrum-half Blane Wilson took the 15 shirt and Ben Newman came in to replace him, and it worked…all three having very good games.


Things didn’t start too well for Dons though, conceding a fine try by Brighton’s wing Downing and converted by scrum half Sowerby, after a fast flowing move from inside their own half. And this was two minutes after kick-off!


But Dons’ pack soon showed who was boss up front with a great drive from a lineout, ending with skipper Josh Bayford touching down for a try. Soon after, a powerful run by Dons’ loosehead Abu Abdul took play to half way and three passes later the ball reached the hands of centre Paul Hendry who somehow jinked through three defenders to run in unopposed from the 22. Moffat’s conversion made it 7-12 and almost immediately his well-struck penalty extended the lead to 7-15.


With half an hour gone the Wimbledon pack – not for the first time – won a Brighton scrum, only to concede a soft penalty. From the ensuing 5m lineout Brighton “did a Wimbledon” and drove over to score. Sowerby’s conversion took his team to within a point, a little against the run of play.


In the backs meanwhile, both sets had plenty of ball (Dons’ probably slightly more) and always looked dangerous, but both excellent defences remained watertight.


Five minutes into the second half Dons’ pack scored again, hooker Bradley Ugodulunwa adding the finishing touch to another piledriver from a lineout.


Then after Wimbledon had marmalised Brighton’s scrum, the home team were awarded a penalty for some obscure reason and the scoreline narrowed to 17-20.


The game ebbed and flowed with some very watchable rugby until seven minutes from time when Wimbledon produced another of their Specials; a good throw-in and take by flanker Kane Alboni, another unstoppable drive and lock Alex Campbell grounded the ball to take them two scores ahead.


In the last play of the game, as Dons relaxed a bit too early, Brighton got one of those scores through their pacey backs and a good try by wing MacKew. And that was that.


Next week Wimbledon travel to mid-table Tunbridge Wells to play the fixture postponed earlier this season.


February 27, 2020

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