Wimbledon 23 v Cinderford 32
Despite the result, Wimbledon could, maybe should, have won this game against second-placed Cinderford. If only they hadn’t shipped two really soft tries in the first ten minutes – the first, straight from the kick-off, when the visitors ran through an apparently mesmerised Wimbledon for their wing Norville to run in unopposed, giving fly-half Hemming the simplest of conversions. And if only they hadn’t lost/given away possession at several key moments in the game - not to mention their own 5m lineout throw-in going straight to the opposition, whose no.8 Hone couldn’t believe his luck as he dived over for his team’s fourth try – the game would have been their's. If the result had been determined by possession held, it would have been!
All that said, Cinderford’s defence was excellent, out wide and more particularly on their own goal line, where Dons’ forwards camped for long periods of the game, but to no avail.
Fifteen minutes after going 0-12 down, the Wimbledon pack drove deep into Cinderford’s 22 where they earned a scrum from which a great drive brought a penalty. They opted to scrum again and drove over for wing Alex Cane to dive in and get the touchdown, centre James Doe adding the extra two points. The visitors retaliated immediately and some poor Dons’ tackling let in centre Bogue for their third try, again easily converted by Hemming. Then it was Dons’ turn once more to drive deep into opposition territory, from which they emerged with a Doe penalty and a half-time score of 10-21.
Ten minutes into the second half, almost all of which belonged to Wimbledon, Doe got another three-pointer and the gap closed to just six points. A Cane break almost led to a try, but a simple error gave Cinderford’s speedy backs what seemed a clear 80m run to Dons’ goal line, but for an heroic chase and tackle by skipper Dylan Flashman. Then another dangerous Wimbledon attack floundered deep in the opposition half, a huge clearance gave them a 5m lineout and the throw-in gave them the try.
Still Dons’ piled on the pressure but their forwards just could not break through the defensive wall, but well-rucked ball then went quickly out wide to wing Josh Charles who sped over in the corner and it was 18-26 with ten minutes remaining. Then heartbreak again for Dons as another mistake was pounced on by Cinderford and wing Frame’s strong run and chip ahead gave them a well-taken, but hardly-deserved try to go ahead 18-31.
But this new-look and fiercely competitive Wimbledon side came back strongly yet again and a superb scrum gave the pack a thoroughly well-deserved pushover try. They earned a penalty too in the last minute of the game but Doe’s normally so reliable boot failed him and Dons were denied even a losing bonus point. They will however take great heart from this game, their pack bossing the set scrum and their loose play excellent, and the backs and their backs running more determinedly and productively for some time. The win has to come soon. Next week away at Tonbridge Juddians would be a good time.