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Gravesend 20-27 Wimbledon
Gravesend produced an uncharacteristic lack luster, disjointed performance from the three-quarter line, while the pack at times excelled.
The only bright side coming out from this defeat was the fact that Gs squeezed a bonus point, while league leaders Chichester went down at home to Cobham 16-24 and got nothing from their game.
Wimbledon came to Gravesend having won seven of their last eight games, have taken the scalps of Chichester, Sidcup, Sutton and Epsom, Chobham while their loss was to Cobham, who took the points from the league leaders on Saturday.
From early on in the game, the near 400 spectators were shown that the visitors had pace on both wings, and after a ninth minute penalty from the boot of the outstanding player of the afternoon, Neil Hallet, it was Emmet Naughton that left the home defence glued to the ground as he raced past for the opening try.
Hallet added the extra points from the tee to put Wimbledon in front 0-10 inside the first quarter.
Gravesend’s forwards were putting pressure on the visitors at the set pieces, time and again driving them off their own ball.
It was sheer power from the pack that led to Gravesend’s first points when the forward momentum stopped from the set scrum and Wimbledon had broken up, an inside pass from Zanirato to Forsyth saw the tight head drive to the line, as the ball was recycled, Harrison picked up to force his way down for the score, 5-10.
So much possession from Gravesend’s hard working forwards but so many errors as the ball went to ground allowing the visitors to get their chances to attack.
Another Hallet penalty saw the margin increase to 5-13 with ten minutes of the half remaining.
When ross Comfort broke through on what looked to be a try scoring chance, he was caught just a metre short. Recycled ball went through seven phases before debutant wing Matt Haywood brushed off the defence to cross for a try.
Zanirato’s conversion attempt came back out off the upright and the score stayed at 10-13.
Wimbledon’s half backs were combining well to get their three-quarters away, with what possession they did win, but it was Hallet that marshalled and organised the back line to superb effect.
It was eight Karl Roche who got the final score of the half when he eluded the poor efforts of the home tackles to cross for the try. Hallet added the extra points to bring the Wimbledon advantage to 10-20 at the interval.
Gravesend came out in the second half as determined as they had been in the first, the addition of Sox Stevens in the back row to the pace of new signing Ross Comfort and Adam Aigbokhae, ensured that Gs would be competing at the break-down while also carrying the ball forward.
But as in the first forty minutes, with the forwards dominating the play, Gravesend’s backs play was strewn with errors and wrong options.
A dropped goal from Bressons saw the player amend a little for his lack lustre display, but the rushed passes and option choices by all the players in the three-quarters, continued to blight the Gravesend game.
At 13-20 and the pack supplying ball at will, one could have expected Gs to attack using the wind to the corners, but they continued to play down the centre, coming up against a determined Wimbledon defence.
Few chances had gone the visitors way during this second half, but as the game entered the last five minutes, an unnecessary wild pass to the visitors fly-half saw the less than speedy Bryan Croke still have enough pace to get to the line and touch-down beneath the bar.
Having missed an earlier penalty chance man of the match Neil Hallet stepped forward to add the points to give the Dons 13-27 lead.
Gravesend’s forwards never let up, coming straight back into the visitors territory, quick ball out from Zanirato into the centre and it was Marc Klus taking the ball on the charge who made ground before feeding out to Aigbokhae and the lively open side flanker crossed wide out before running round to press the ball down.
This time Zanirato’s kick went between the uprights and brought the score to 20-27.
So little time left for Gravesend to get any more score, but Gs kept the ball alive until yet another knock-on brought the final whistle.
One break-away try, gifted the visitors the game, but it was the inability to keep the ball in hand couple with some questionable option choices that saw Gravesend manufacture their own down-fall but this should not take anything away from the Wimbledon win.
Next week sees Gs travel down the M23 to Haywards Heath to play the re-arranged fixture from 4th January.
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