Wimbledon 11 v Hertford 23
National League 3 London & South East
With the number of injured forwards being more than enough to put together another complete Wimbledon 1st XV pack, it was always going to be a big ask for those still standing to take on the Hertford pack, reputedly the best in the league.
But despite the lack of bulk in the scrum and missing all the regular lineout jumpers, they acquitted themselves well, every man following Stevie May’s example and tackling themselves almost to a standstill.
And they needed to - denied any possession for long periods it was an immense defensive effort to limit Hertford to just two tries in the first half. The second of them was a carbon copy of the first, when Hertford’s pack sucked in more and more defenders as they pummelled Dons’ try line for minutes on end, before releasing quick ball to their unmarked wing Solomon, who touched down in the corner.
When Wimbledon did get the ball they looked dangerous and two promising moves produced penalties for them and Neil Hallett made good use of the strong wind to convert both so that at half time Dons were just 6-10 down.
But now it was Hertford’s turn to use the wind and kick their way into Dons’ 22, where, after ten minutes, the ball squirted out of a Wimbledon scrum, and was gathered by Hertford’s wing Kelly who rode two tackles to run in and score a soft try.
The kicker, Smart, missed the conversion for the third time.
Entering the final quarter Wimbledon fought their way right back into the game, although several good attacks by the backs broke down through some rare sloppy handling. But when prop Jesse Muir pounced on a loose ball at lineout 5m out, and burst over for a try, putting his side just four points behind, things looked promising.
Although now keeping their fair share of possession it was Hertford who won a penalty on Dons’ 22 and this time Smart converted.
Two minutes later, another silly Wimbledon penalty, and Hertford, searching for a fourth try, kicked to touch for a 5m lineout. Somehow from the ensuing ruck their hooker McNamee squeezed through the melee and scored,giving them their bonus point. Regrettably, that score also robbed Wimbledon of a losing bonus point; the third time in as many weeks they’ve been denied one by a score in the final minute of the game.
The run of tough fixtures will resume after the Christmas break, when Dons travel to league leaders, Tonbridge Juddians.