Picture: Wimbledon RFC/Facebook
September 25, 2023
What a good game. End to end attacking rugby for the full 80 minutes, played by two powerful and mobile packs and two sets of speedy, strong-running backs – both teams newly promoted to National 2 East equally determined to achieve their first win in this league.
From the kick-off Wimbledon wing Tom Bracegirdle made the first of many penetrating runs from his own half to Park’s 22, the forwards took it on and hooker Malek Touilzak touched down out wide. The first of numerous Dons’ penalties soon gave Park a 5m lineout and several phases later their wing Kieran Thompson levelled the scores, and fly half Alex Cahill added the two points. Five minutes later he added three more from another Wimbledon penalty. Then a really lucky bounce for Park’s wing Matt Harrison put him clear to score unopposed and Cahill’s conversion made it 5-17. Dons came straight back though with a powerful drive ending in Malek’s second try, well-converted by no.10 Edward Morgan, and it was 12-17.
After exchanges of penalties and turnovers by both sides, Wimbledon regained the lead after a drive from a 10m penalty lineout gave Malek his hat-trick and Morgan his second conversion. With five minutes of the half remaining they extended it to 26-17 after an inch-perfect Morgan cross kick to Bracegirdle saw the wing speed to the try-line and for Morgan to land a fine conversion from the touchline.
But Park weren’t done. In the final minute an excellent backs move opened up Dons’ defence and Thompson ran in his second. Cahill’s simple conversion made the half time score 26-24.
Three minutes into the second half the Dons retook the lead after a lovely break by centre Paul Hendry ended with a turnover, followed by two penalties, a yellow card for centre Jack Reville, and a forward’s try under the posts. After fifteen minutes of play ebbing back and forth, great interplay between Wimbledon skipper Jack Cooke, scrum half Alex Kerr and Bracegirdle, no.8 Harry Hill went over for try number five, Morgan’s conversion made it 33-31. The backs and forwards then combined well again to create space for Jake Cleet (on for the injured Matt Gobler) to score. The conversion took it to 40-31, with fifteen minutes left, but a well-struck Cahill penalty soon cut the margin to 40-34.
Moments later Wimbledon looked to have secured a win after a terrific run by Morgan, supported by Kerr put the scrum-half in under the posts and the conversion taking them to 47-34. But Westcombe Park still weren’t done and from an interception deep in their own half, a try by replacement Kyan Braithwaite plus a successful conversion took the score to 47-41.
After a nail-biting final few minutes another penalty for Park gave them a lineout just inside Dons’ half for the last play of the match. Fortunately for Wimbledon, Park knocked on and the ref’s whistle sounded for the end of a fine game – and a five pointer for the home team.
Next week Wimbledon have another tough one, as they all are in this league, away to Canterbury.
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