Shelford 9 v Wimbledon 20
National League 3 London & South East
This hard-fought 20-9 away win for Wimbledon against another of the better sides in the league was a very satisfying finale to their first season in National 3 which fully justified their place there. Such was the determination and effort from both sides it was hard to believe there was nothing really riding on the result and the outcome was a most enjoyable and well-refereed match.
And to round off a fine day for Wimbledon the 2nd XV drew 15-15 with Richmond in the final of Zoo league 3 to secure promotion on points difference.
Although the majority of the first half was played at Shelford’s end there was little between the two sides until a fine drive from a line out on Shelford’s 22 culminated in a try for Dons’ prop James Gillespie (on his second attempt that is, having been held up on the first two minutes earlier.) Neil Hallett’s conversion and a penalty conversion five minutes later gave Dons a 0-10 lead.
Strong running from Wimbledon forwards and backs alike kept up the pressure forcing a series penalties – most unusually, in Dons’ favour. But in the dying moments of the half during a rare Shelford visit deep into Dons territory, their fly-half Cracknell reduced the deficit by three points from a penalty. He reduced it by three more soon after the re-start and another three ten minutes in, after his side had secured possession in Dons’ half through phase after phase.
But shrewd positional kicking from Hallett and fly-half Bryan Croke moved the game back deep into Shelford’s half where the pack won a scrum against the head, scrum half Charlie Morgan passed out to the blind side where the waiting Roy Godfrey, gave the ball to Aaron Lowe who passed on to the flying Kieran Morris who did well to evade the clutches of two defenders and squeeze in the corner for a try. Hallett did well too, converting from touch into a swirling wind, making it 9-17 and ten minutes to go.
With both sides throwing everything they had into it, it became a slightly scrappy but gripping last period. Then with just three minutes left, a penalty against Shelford almost on half way brought forth Hallett to take what had been reported to be his final kick before retirement, but as the ball sailed between the posts many wondered if he might not re-think his decision.
Hopefully Wimbledon’s current excellent squad of players and top-rate coaching team can stay together and achieve even greater things next season.