Wimbledon 18 v 16 Colchester
National League 3 London & South East
If he had any nerves Wimbledon stand-off Bryan Croke didn’t show them as he calmly converted a 35m penalty to give his team three points and a last-minute, two point victory over Colchester.
It was just about a deserved win, if only because Wimbledon played 30 minutes of the match with 14 men, prop Jesse Muir rightly yellow carded for his over-enthusiastic tackle from the kick-off and a little harshly for a second yellow, therefore red, with a quarter of the game to go.
But it was hardly a vintage performance and Dons were lucky that Colchester didn’t punish their often poor decision-making and basic errors. The consensus though, was that if they can play this badly and still sneak a win, future prospects in this league look good.
The match-winner Croke opened the scoring too, with a trademark chip ahead and touchdown, plus conversion, after some penetrating pick and drive play by the pack. But with Wimbledon’s front row struggling against their much shorter opposite numbers, Colchester’s wealth of possession meant much of the game was played in Dons’ half and the visitors got within a point through a drop goal by no.10 Cutbush and a penalty from centre Miller. For the rest of the half Wimbledon played some sloppy rugby until near the whistle when scrum half Rhys Morgan salvaged the ball from a fast-retreating scrum to put the backs away and fullback Kieran Morris made a lovely break to score a good try.
Five minutes into the second half a Croke penalty conversion put Dons 15-6 ahead, but still they didn’t settle and Colchester, clearly sensing an opportunity, forced the home team back into their own half time and again. First Miller clawed back three points and then, with ten minutes remaining, quick ball from a 5m Colchester scrum saw Cutbush scythe through Dons defence to score under the posts and Miller’s conversion gave the visitors a one point lead.
Wimbledon at last looked lively in a hectic final few minutes and a fine run by flanker- cum-prop Roy Godfrey was just one of several moves snuffed out metres short of the try-line. But they persevered, won a penalty and Croke did the necessary, the win taking Dons up to 9th in the 14-strong league.
Away at second-placed London Irish Wild Geese next week the opposition will not be so forgiving of Wimbledon mistakes.