Canterbury 17 - 7 Wimbledon
Henry II's alleged cry of frustrated anguish in reference to Thomas Becket...Dave Dixon Smith reports
Canterbury 17 - 7 Wimbledon
Henry II's alleged cry of frustrated anguish in reference to Thomas Becket, one time Archbishop of Canterbury, could be revised from the Wimbledon perspective of this match to read: "Will nobody rid me of this turbulent Canterbury defence?" such was the stubborn and resolute resistance Canterbury maintained throughout the second half of the game.
In the first half with the strong wind in their faces, Wimbledon nevertheless had a relatively equal proportion of territory and possession but in the second half with Canterbury only leaving their half twice and Wimbledon applying relentless pressure, the Canterbury try line could not be breached.
From the off the action was cut and thrust with both teams dealing remarkably well with the difficult gusty conditions. Encouragingly for Wimbledon, the Wimbledon line out worked well as did a number of subsequent strong drives from the Wimbledon pack. Then on 15 minutes with their first real attacking opportunity, Canterbury moved the ball wide through the hands of forwards and three quarters for Canterbury number 6, Jake Rigby, to score. Ollie Best's conversion kick sailed narrowly wide of the upright leaving the score Canterbury 5 - 0 Wimbledon.
The first half remained evenly contested until the 35th minute when the Canterbury three quarters put together a fluent passing sequence to make sufficient space for left wing, Harry Sayers, to touch down wide out for Canterbury's second try, well converted by fly half, Ollie Best.
And so at half time and the score Canterbury 12 - 0 Wimbledon, both teams left for their respective changing rooms, Canterbury possibly feeling they should have put more on the score board with the wind behind them and Wimbledon maybe feeling the score line should not be of too much concern with the wind on their backs for the next 40 minutes, especially as light rain had begun.
With the floodlights on, the second half unfolded under an ever darkening sky and the onset of heavier, steady rain driven by the wind, only this time in the faces of the Canterbury team. In simple terms, the story of the second half was one of Wimbledon pressure ultimately frustrated by understandable fumbles with the greasy ball, turnovers to Canterbury and gritty Canterbury resistance. As the minutes ticked by and full time loomed closer the Wimbledon pressure intensified and was eventually rewarded with a penalty try............but with only 2 minutes remaining to full time.
So, with the score Canterbury 12 - 7 Wimbledon and the last play of the game from the restart, should Wimbledon look to gather the Canterbury restart and kick big and high with the wind, hoping to retrieve possession, or opt to hold the ball and run it back? The braver option was taken but a long pass was snaffled by Canterbury and with Wimbledon stretched for attack, Harry Sayers managed to secure his second try for Canterbury, the final thrust of the sword.
The try was not converted and the referee blew for full time following the conversion attempt leaving the score Canterbury 17 - 7 Wimbledon and Wimbledon empty handed for all their efforts.
Among the many positives for Wimbledon was the assured and immaculate performance from full back Matt Gilbert in testing conditions for the fielding of high balls and the strong return after injury since September of back rower Chris York. The squad could not have given more and credit must be given to the total commitment of the Canterbury defence. Also it seems we avoided injury which is always encouraging news.
The Wimbledon second team had a very entertaining and hard fought match v Canterbury 2nd XV, coming through 10 - 12 winners.
Off the pitch, our thanks to Canterbury for their warm hospitality and in particular to Canterbury President, John Scurr.
The Wimbledon squad will now be setting their sites on converting pressure into points next week when we are hosts to Clifton with a 2.30 kick off.