This season's Wimbledon squad. Picture: Wimbledon RFC/Facebook
September 11, 2023
Barnes 59 - Wimbledon 22
Wimbledon knew that this would be a very tough fixture and so it proved. On a blisteringly hot afternoon on (Saturday 9 September) with a temperature of around 30C degrees, they travelled to Barnes to face a team still smarting from coming second in the league last season and missing promotion.
With new players still finding their way in the team and seven changes from last week Wimbledon again managed to score tries, three this week but Barnes were clearly the better side and their five years of experience in this league showed.
However, the Wimbledon coaching team have plenty of positives to take from these two opening fixtures and a long injury list of quality players will make their presence felt when they return later in a long season. Wimbledon found themselves under pressure in the scrum almost from the start, but Barnes opened the scoring with a try for centre Jordan Souter on the left side of the posts, the conversion a formality for Barnes no. 10, Ben Cook, the first of six that he kicked.
Wimbledon replied immediately with a penalty for Edward Morgan before a break by Morgan led to a try for no.6 Josh Stace, the conversion gave Wimbledon the lead 10 – 7, left wing Max Lufkin was involved in the action and Barnes conceded a penalty but the following kick to the corner could not be turned into points when the lineout misfired. Barnes moved the ball through many hands with slick passing on its way from right to left and scored a try with simple execution, and quickly followed it with another.
Their fullback Cameron Roberts, scored his hat-trick with the fourth and it was one way against them for Wimbledon. Half time came with the score of Barnes 33 - Wimbledon 10 and all the players from both teams left the pitch to the shade under the trees.
The second half was almost a copy of the first but this time Wimbledon managed their second and third tries, the first by hooker Malek Touilzak who burrowed over from a driving maul following a lineout but unconverted, and the second by lock Matt Grobler and this time converted by Morgan. The driving maul that more than once put Barnes under pressure was another positive but clearly before long Wimbledon will find themselves against less efficient opposition in more temperate weather conditions and having gained more familiarity with each other.
Wimbledon 22 – 57 Dorking
This opening match in this league against Dorking – fielding a majority of the side that finished third last season – always promised to be a tough introduction for Wimbledon, and so it proved, with the visitors running in eight tries to Dons’ four on Saturday 2 Septemberr.
Dorking’s backs were the main difference, supported by a very useful back row. They are were fast, strong runners, consistently making good ground even when held in the tackle and their slick handling ensured they shipped the ball out wide very quickly. As a team they were impressive at winning or keeping possession at the breakdown – and all round they look as though they’ll to be a difficult side to beat.
All that said, this Wimbledon squad, including no fewer than nine new faces, certainly showed they can compete at this higher level and will clearly get better as they play more games together. (They will have to stop giving away so many penalties though!) The Dons’ forwards already look really good in the set-piece, often bossing the scrum and (when Dorking’s ball was thrown in straight) edging the line-outs, with skipper Jack Cooke and his lifters winning more than their fair share. The score could have been a lot closer had Dons not missed a couple of crucial tackles and had they not failed to capitalise on some of the scoring opportunities they created (albeit not as many as Dorking.)
Wimbledon opened the scoring after ten minutes with a very well-taken try by wing Tomaz Posniak having secured a spot-on cross kick by stand-off Edward Morgan. Dorking responded five minutes later with a rather too easy try under the posts for no.8 Finn Osborne. Centre Henry Anscombe’s simple conversion was the first of his eight successes during the match. Their second try soon followed when fullback Cam Cowell raced over the line following a 10m lineout. Almost immediately centre Tom Howe nipped through a big gap in Dons’ defence for try no.3, the conversion making it 5-21.
Then Dons’s pack hit back with a powerful drive from a 15m lineout earning a penalty try. And shortly before half time an almost identical move ended with the pack driving over to make it 17-21. But in the last minute Dorking extended their lead with another seven-pointer when their backs created the space for Osborne to go over for his second.
The second half started with a mystery yellow card for Wimbledon’s Cooke, quickly followed by a succession of penalties and later a yellow for his team mate centre James Peachey. Dorking took full advantage with a fifth try scored by captain Fred Dalton, an Anscombe penalty conversion then a pushover try by their pack and suddenly it was 17-47. Wimbledon quickly narrowed the gap a little to 22-47 with Posniak finishing off another fine drive by the pack. Wing Ollie Kitto, with probably his fourth touch of the ball, made a nice break and came close to scoring but was well-covered by Dorking’s defence.
A lovely break by Dorking’s Cowell created another try for Howe and after numerous penalties in Dons’ 22 the Dorking pack scored their final try, converted again by Anscombe.
Whilst disappointed at the losing margin, Wimbledon will look at the many positives, including the four-try bonus point, and when the core of last year’s winning team blend with the excellent bunch of newcomers, they have every confidence they’ll very soon get some good wins.
Next Saturday Wimbledon will be at home to newly promoted Westcombe Park with kick off at 3.00pm.
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