Wimbledon 24 v 36 Tonbridge Juddians
National League 3 South
Gutted is the only word to describe how the Wimbledon players felt after failing to convert a 24-8 half time lead into a victory over unbeaten Tonbridge Juddians, who scored an unanswered 28 points in the second half through three penalties and three tries, two of them converted by TJ’s Cooper.
In mitigation it did seem to the (admittedly somewhat biased) Wimbledon spectators that the second half penalty count of 11-2 against their team was harsh to say the least. And the loss through injury early in the half of key players Josh Bayford and Dylan Flashman, plus his replacement James Watkins, didn’t exactly help Dons’ cause either. On top of that, in their frustration over the stream of penalties, Wimbledon began to make unforced errors that were noticeably absent in the first half.
It all started so well for Wimbledon. Despite seven changes from last week’s team they played as a unit, forcing the visitors deep into their own half from the kick-off. Several phases of play later, scrum-half Rhys Morgan jinked through from a ruck to score out wide – and a great conversion by Neil Hallett followed. Minutes later, a penalty conversion by TJ’s Nichol got his team on to the scoreboard.
But Dons immediately struck again with lock Sean Renwick finishing off some excellent rucking with a try in the corner; Hallett again converted from out wide taking the score to 14-3. It became 21-3 with ten minutes of the half remaining, when the speedy Jordan Davies gathered a huge kick upfield from Morgan and raced in under the posts, making Hallett’s conversion a formality. With a minute of the half remaining he added another three points after a storming 70m run by Flashman had yielded a penalty. But for the first time Dons messed up the TJ restart and the visitor’s wing Nauer sprinted in for a try.
The disastrous second half looked like a different game, with Cooper and Nichol adding three penalty conversions in 15 minutes, and their pack powering over for a try
three penalties later to get within two points of Wimbledon. They took the lead immediately after when a TJ breakout from the re-start led to a try for wing Monaghan, converted by Cooper.
In injury time Wimbledon forced their way back upfield, only to lose possession close to the visitor’s goal line and, to add insult to injury, a speculative kick ahead bounced beautifully for Cooper who ran in unopposed for TJ’s fourth try, which he himself converted.