Wimbledon 21 v Guernsey 22
National League 3 London & South East
Not for the first time this season Wimbledon conceded a winning position in the closing minutes of the game. Had the pack let Guernsey drive over from a 5m lineout five minutes from time and touch down in the corner for 5 points, it would have given the visitors’ kicker a tough touchline conversion for the win. As it was, the referee awarded a penalty try, the conversion of which was a formality, and Guernsey won by a single point. Wimbledon’s losing bonus point will do little to comfort them.
But in truth the visitors probably just about deserved their victory. Whilst the capable hands of Campbell Tait and Gary Crowe won Dons more than their share of lineout ball and the pack – apart from a spell in the second half, when Guernsey suddenly got the edge – achieved parity in the set scrum, even after losing the influential hooker Jesse Muir and prop Josh Bayford for the final quarter. But Guernsey’s quick ball at the breakdown made Dons look a bit ponderous and, most unusually, Dons fell off too many tackles, which Guernsey exploited to the full.
It was a pity that Wimbledon didn’t turn up until well after kick-off, allowing their visitors to run riot and scythe through their defence to score in the corner and slot a good conversion from the touchline with just three minutes gone. But then Dons got into the game, drove Guernsey upfield and after several phases, centre Noah Jarvis scored a good try out wide. For once fullback Neil Hallett failed to convert.
But twenty minutes in poor Wimbledon defence resulted in a second try for Guernsey’s centre. However, Hallett soon narrowed the gap to 8-12 with a good penalty conversion and on the stroke of half-time a well-taken try by wing Josh Charles’s after a nice break by Jarvis put Dons 13-12 ahead.
Then a mis-field from the re-start gave Guernsey the ball and the no.10 was quick to drop a goal and regain the lead. Twenty minutes Wimbledon piled on the pressure in G’s 22 and twice flanker Steve May came so close to scoring. In the end though they had to settle for a Hallett penalty and a one point lead again. Minutes later quick ruck ball by Dons started a move down the left wing which created a one man overlap; Crowe dutifully drew the last defender and found the unusually positioned prop, James Gillespie, outside him. There was no way Gillespie was going to miss his opportunity and he plunged over in the corner for five points. Hallett’s conversion attempt went wide and Dons’ lead stayed at 21-16, as it remained until that fateful 5m lineout and the Guernsey penalty try.
Next week Wimbledon travel to Colchester, where they would hope to record a good win, even given their mounting injury toll amongst the forwards.