Wimbledon 12 v Sutton & Epsom 13
London League 1 South
Size clearly does matter when it comes to forwards and, as in the season’s earlier encounter between Wimbledon and Sutton & Epsom, it was the visitor’s hefty pack that determined the outcome of this needle match.
It wasn’t just the bulk in the set scrum but also their speed to the breakdown and the recycling of so much quick ball that Dons were denied possession for long periods, particularly in the second half.
Credit must go to Wimbledon’s fitness, commitment and outstanding defence for limiting Sutton to just one try – and that while centre Neil Hallett was on the naughty step for ten minutes. (There would have been a second but for a heroic try-saving tackle by prop Pete Wallace.) And accurate throwing-in by hooker Eion Mullen and excellent lineout work by Dons’ back row of Rob and Campbell Tait and Gary Crowe at least ensured they had some ball to work with.
Two such lineouts in the opening ten minutes, both followed by scintillating breaks from scrum-half Rhys Morgan, led to penalties which Hallett converted with apparent ease, despite the gusting wind. But offside by Wimbledon after a sustained period of Sutton pressure soon allowed their kicker Hurley to claw three back, followed by an equaliser ten minutes later.
Entering the second quarter another Morgan break resulted in three more points for Hallett and a further three moments later after a good turnover by the pack.
Despite almost constant one-way traffic into Dons’ half, their stoic defence maintained their 12-6 half-time lead until 25 minutes in to the second half, when Sutton centre Matthews took advantage of the extra man to go over for a well-worked try and Hurley’s conversion gave the visitors the crucial one point lead.
Wimbledon fought back determinedly in the final ten minutes with several promising attacks only for the final pass to go astray and they had to settle for a very hard-fought losing bonus point.
Still two points clear at the top of the league Wimbledon will need a clean sweep of the final three matches - the first of which is away at Brighton next week – and probably a try bonus point or two as well.
Match report for March 21