Wimbledon 21 – 19 Westcliff
By Martin Rogers
London & SE Premier League. 26.01.19
What a strange game this was…two minutes in Wimbledon were 7-0 up after James
Doe’s neat chip and re-gather set off a move that showed the creativity that was
missing in last week’s defeat, and finished with a lovely try by scrum half Ben
Newman and excellent conversion by centre Freddie Hooper. 60 minutes later, at 7-19
down, Wimbledon faced defeat. Suddenly though, after a turnover by hooker Bradley
Ugodulunwa – who tackled non-stop throughout – Dons’ passion and will to win re-
surfaced and two fine converted tries later they came home winners over a disciplined
and fiercely competitive Westcliff.
After conceding Dons’ opening try the visitors began to show why they’ve been 1 st ,
2 nd or 3 rd in the league all season. Their forwards, led by the impressive no.8 Johnny
Smith, drove hard into Dons’ defence and, unlike after Dons’ equally powerful drives,
they kept possession and, aided by a strong tailwind, put Wimbledon under a lot of
pressure. After 15 minutes, with the help of a slightly fortuitous bounce for their
wing, Smith charged over for what was to be the first of his three tries. Fullback
Bannister’s conversion levelled the scores.
The wind, combined with some sloppy Wimbledon handling and too many turnovers,
kept Westcliff in the driving seat for much of the half, despite Dons’ strong
scrimmaging and lineout work, and shortly before the interval, after minutes of
continuous pressure on Don’s goal line, Smith got his second, as did Bannister.
The scene was repeated at the other end of the pitch almost from the re-start and Dons
found themselves 7-19 down. Ten minutes later Hooper had the chance to reduce the
deficit though a long range penalty but the ball hit the post, then the wind took a
second penalty kick into touch in goal. Much of the play echoed that of the first half,
with Don’s not having their best ball-handling day, but entering the final quarter
however, things changed rapidly. Another excellent Wimbledon scrum drove the
opposition back close to their goal line, quick ball flew through the backs hands until
wing Tom Milner, running a really good line, cut through the defence to score beneath
With less than ten minutes to play another good drive by the Wimbledon pack set the
backs in motion again; the ball moved quickly wide and Hooper spotted a gap to run
through and score in the corner. His superb kick from touch in the gusty wind gave
Wimbledon the two point lead that they were able to cling on to until the end of a
pulsating game - one that took them back into second place, just two points behind
Sutton & Epsom.
After a week’s break Wimbledon are next in action on 9 th Feb, away to Chingford.