Wimbledon 50 v Southend 17
National League 3 South
An accident and long tailback on the A3 resulted in your reporter arriving at the Wimbledon ground as the whistle signalled the end of the first half, by which time Dons had secured their 13th try bonus point of the season and established a healthy 26-10 lead. There were tries by centre Jack Reville, fullback Matt Gilbert, prop Phil Viane and wing Josh Charles, three of them converted by fly-half Bryan Croke. For Southend there was a penalty and conversion by Bradley Burr and a try for Tim Ashton.
Two minutes into the second half wing Dan Cheers – who had an excellent all-round match – touched down a perfectly weighted Croke chip to the corner to increase the score to 31-10. Thereafter, although more of the game took place in Southend’s half, Wimbledon were unable to breach their defence until 15 minutes from time, when heavy hits by the centres won turnover ball and Croke and Reville kicked ahead deep into the visitor’s 22, from where Cheers began a lovely weaving run to within 2m of the goal line, when he gave an inside pass to the supporting Aaron Lowe who had only to fall over the line to score.
Then a sloppy pass in Dons’ back line gave Southend the opportunity to spread the ball wide and allow lock Leavasa to canter in unopposed. Burr converted well from the touchline to close the gap to 36-17.
But minutes later Dons’ flanker Sean Renwick went over for try no.7 after a perfectly delayed pass by scrum half Rhys Morgan to Josh Bayford saw the prop sidestep a defender before neatly offloading to Renwick. Gilbert, now in the no.10 spot, converted from in front of the posts.
Southend refused to give up and launched a series of attacks, but Dons’ linespeed and fierce tackling quickly snuffed them out. And with a minute remaining, to rub salt in the wound, Morgan Wriggled through a maul on his 22, shrugged off several tackles and took the ball 50m upfield. From the ensuing ruck, Croke chipped to the corner again, into the arms of Lowe, who ran in try no.8 and Gilbert brought up the 50 points with a conversion in off the posts.
Next week is the crunch match, away at Tonbridge Juddians, who hold just the one point lead over Wimbledon, themselves 15 points clear of third-placed Hertford. Clearly, the result could determine the outcome of the league this season.