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.
Dorking’s backs were the main difference, supported by a very useful back row. They are 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 will 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.
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 10 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 Finn Osborne.
Centre Henry Anscombe’s simple conversion was the first of his eight successes during the match. Their second try soon followed when full-back Cam Cowell raced over the line following a 10-metre lineout. Almost immediately centre Tom Howe nipped through a big gap in Dons’ defence for try number three, the conversion making it 5-21.
Then Dons’ pack hit back with a powerful drive from a 15-metre 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 minutes 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.
While 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 will very soon get some good wins.
Another tough one this weekend though, away to Barnes.
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