Wimbledon off the bottom after season-best display against Bury St Edmunds

By Tony Mann

Wimbledon climbed off the bottom of National League Division Two South with a 32-12 victory over Bury St Edmunds on Saturday.

The Dons produced their best display of the campaign to move above Broadstreet.

Wimbledon’s forwards were outstanding, getting the edge at the game’s first scrum and by early in the second half dominating their opposition. Accurate throwing-in by Ben Brooks and replacement Bradley Ugodulunwa was fully exploited, chiefly by lock Alex Campbell. Scrum half Rhys Morgan coped admirably with the slippery ball to provide a fast, accurate link between his pack and the backs.

Great line speed and aggressive tackling, aided by a mobile back row, forced Bury’s backs to kick for territory if they were to make any ground, where fullback Matt Gilbert and wings Dan Cheers and Ollie Hutson looked in full control and launched numerous effective counter-attacks.

It didn’t look that promising for the Dons two minutes into the match, when they conceded a penalty, Bury kicked for a lineout and drove over for hooker Sam Bixby to score.

But for the next 30 minutes the play barely left Bury’s half, as Wimbledon launched attack after attack only for a combination of the greasy ball and sterling Bury defence preventing a score.

Fly-half James Doe eventually got the hosts on the scoreboard when the pack forced a penalty on the Bury 22. Then, totally against the run of play, Bury’s back row secured loose ball, shipped it wide and fullback Chris Lord had acres of space to sprint in for a try. Fraser Honey’s conversion made it a hard-to-believe scoreline of 3-12.

Wimbledon’s pack won turnover ball from the restart, Morgan launched his backs and Cheers outpaced the defence to reach centre Charlie Esam’s inch-perfect chip and score in the corner. It had been a strange half; Bury creating two try chances and taking both, Wimbledon creating lots but only converting one.

The second half was a different story. Cheers gathered the restart, made 30 metres up the touchline and then the pack took it on and tighthead Josh Bayford, who had a huge game, was the forward to touch the ball down, giving Dons a 13-12 lead.

Minutes later and the Dons stole a Bury scrum, took the ball upfield, won a penalty and the ensuing lineout and drove over, only for the referee to award them a five-metre scrum. They drove again and number eight Dan Laventure picked up and dived over.

Doe’s fine conversion made it 20-12 and shortly after, in the same spot, it was 27-12 when the forwards earned a well-deserved penalty try.

Entering the last quarter Morgan found a long touch after a run by Laventure. Dons won the lineout and piled over the line for Laventure to score his second.

Most encouragingly, even with all replacements now on the field, Wimbledon kept their shape and their dominance until the final whistle.

The Dons head to 10th-placed Canterbury on Saturday.

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