Wimbledon 13 v Barnstaple 31
Not the start Wimbledon wanted to their first season in National 2, neither in terms of their performance nor the score – a 13-31 defeat by Barnstaple.
Whilst it was exciting to see so many talented new players on the pitch for Wimbledon it was clear that they need to gel together before they play to their obvious potential.
By contrast Barnstaple looked a settled side and fully exploited Dons’ miss-passes, poor lineouts and lack of teamwork in the rucks. And Dons’ cause wasn’t helped either by the worrying injury toll, with every replacement used, not for strategic purposes but to replace the walking wounded.
The game began well enough for Wimbledon, with their set scrum having the edge on the opposition – as they did throughout the game – and after 10 minutes debutant no.10, James Doe put them a deserved three points up. Ten minutes later though, a soft penalty gave possession to Barnstaple who launched their first serious attack, emerging with a try by flanker Bayet, converted by scrum half Petheridge.
But from the re-start Dons won the ball, the pack drove forward and open side Rich Ridley burst through a maul to score his first try in Wimbledon colours. Doe’s conversion gave them a 10-7 lead. Then the mistakes started creeping in and, compounded by the concession of too many penalties and turnover ball, possession became a rarity. Relishing their ample supply of good ball, Barnstaple’s back line took full advantage and ran in tries by Tott, converted by Petheridge and Winston, taking the half time score to 10-19.
The second half was more of the same; after an early three points from Doe, Dons barely touched the ball. When they did, an error soon turned it over. But despite the lack of ball Wimbledon were never out of the game and with more forceful clearing out at the rucks and fewer penalties, they could have come back at the visitors. As it was they had to watch Barnstaple create space and overlaps out wide, from which they ran in two good tries, both scored and converted by Petheridge.
Although this was a disappointing match for Wimbledon it did at least demonstrate that they are clearly not out of their league in National 2 – and they will be looking for a more disciplined and cohesive performance at home to Worthing.