Gosport & Fareham 20 v Wimbledon RFC 1XV 26
Wimbledon went to Gosport & Fareham on Saturday March 10 determined to avenge their one league defeat of the season and to put pressure on the league leaders in the battle for promotion. And they achieved their aim in some style, picking up as four-try bonus point to boot in their 26-20 win.
It began to look like a walk in the park for Wimbledon when two tries in the opening five minutes of the second half put them 26-10 ahead, but the loss of lock Brett Box to injury, inspired substitutions in Gosport's pack, and the consigning of both Don’s centres, Dave Rees and Joe Croft, to the sin bin, all conspired to shift the balance of power in favour of the home team. This produced a nailbiting final quarter, with Dons denied possession and defending superbly against a Gosport side sniffing the chance of an unlikely victory.
Wimbledon had looked to be well in control throughout the first half, the front row of Nanai, Kemp and Wallace posing their usual problems for the opposition and Box, Rich Stewart and Rob Tait taking charge of the lineout.
The forward dominance brought a penalty in front of the Gosport posts after just three minutes, But kicker Driscoll put it wide. That was forgotten moments later though when he converted a powerful pushover try after fine lineout ball from Tait.
With the ball almost exclusively in Don's hands, a Gosport try came out of nowhere when wing Jones hoofed a loose ball upfield, gathered a kindly bounce and scored beneath the posts. Duncombe's conversion levelled the scores.
A few daft penalties prevented further Wimbledon scores until a good break by Croft ended with a penalty under the posts for the visitors. Wisely opting for the scrum, the third attempt yielded a penalty try, converted by Driscoll. Duncombe's late penalty goal made the half-time score a slightly unrepresentative 14-10 to Dons.
From the re-start, Dons half backs Charlie Morgan and Dan Brown cleverly used quick ruck ball to switch the direction of attack, and flanker Chris Lewis was on hand, as ever, to burst through the centre and score. Almost immediately Dons stole a Gosport lineout and Lewis was there again to break the line and offload to Croft who powered over to score. Driscoll converted to put Dons 26-10 up and seemingly out of sight.
Then came the injury, the substitutions, the yellow cards, a well struck penalty by Duncombe to reduce the deficit by three, and Dons suddenly found themselves on the defensive. With ten minutes remaining a succession Gosport scrums in Dons 22 eventually produced a deserved try by Flowers and Duncombe's conversion brought his side to within a converted try of Wimbledon.
But Dons were not be denied and their defence held until the welcome sound of the whistle. Now within six points of Gosport, Dons will still need them to lose another game (and win all their own) if they themselves are to gain automatic promotion.
March 22, 2012