Wimbledon 3 v Shelford 20
Despite a 20-3 defeat by Shelford, Wimbledon will be far from discouraged by their performance in their first game in National League 3. With Shelford controlling around 75% of possession and territory throughout the game (probably nearer 90% in the first half) the fact that they crossed Don’s try-line just four times – and one of those a gift – was testimony to the energy, determination and defensive skills displayed against a team which four months ago was playing two leagues higher than Wimbledon.
Apart from an early Wimbledon visit to the visitor’s half, Shelford’s pack ensured that most of the first period was spent in Dons’ 22, their mobile pack securing phase after phase of quick ball, which Dons miraculously kept at bay for a full 20 minutes, when fullback Lucas squeezed through for a Shelford try.
The visitors were then kept out for 15 minutes by a superb effort from the Wimbledon pack, with Jamie Norman, Campbell Tait and Dan Flashman outstanding, well supported by their backs - where fullback Dan Cheers was kept particularly busy, until Callard found a rare gap in Dons’ defence to score Shelford’s second. Then in the closing minutes of the half Wimbledon put together their first series of plays and came away with a deserved three points from the boot of captain Neil Hallett.
Down but far from out, Wimbledon rattled the visitors with a 40m rolling maul early in the second half, only to carelessly give away possession, from where Anderson pounced for the visitor’s third try. Ten minutes later, the same thing, and Beswick strolled in for their fourth.
But the final fifteen minutes saw a different Wimbledon; the squad of 18, 12 of whom were playing in their first league game for the club, began to look like a team with the sudden realisation that they could more than compete at this level and, although still prone to needless errors, started to win their share of good ball. Instead of just tackling himself almost to a standstill, scrum half Max Adkins was able to feed his backs for the first time and they responded by taking the game to Shelford. With the visitors now under pressure their penalty count grew, eventually earning a team yellow card from the excellent referee. But their defence too was very strong and they kept out Dons’ assaults until the whistle.
The Wimbledon 2nd XV got their season off to an excellent start with a 45-21 victory over Effingham & Leatherhead’s 1st XV.