Huge improvement but Chiltern injuries see them fail
What a great game of rugby at second in the table Wimbledon.
Match report by Charles Owen-Conway
Chiltern took the field with a much weakened team after several more injuries in the last couple of weeks took their toll, but on the positive side flanker George Bartlett made his long awaited return from injury; and what a return he made.
Wimbledon are riding high in second place and are coached by Harlequins players, who also support them with academy players, and their class was evident. Chiltern have yet to win a game but their performances have been improving and their attitude, commitment and skill today were first class. Wimbledon started strongly and you could see that their league position was no fluke, quick recycled ball took them into Chiltern’s 22 and an offence at the breakdown after only 5 minutes gave the Wimbledon 10 an easy penalty to open the scoring. However Chiltern then surprised the hosts with some dynamic play in attack and defence. Time and again they turned the ball over and with Bartlett leading an aggressive defence and with outstanding lock Antonio Machado punching holes through the Wimbledon defensive line Chiltern took the game to their hosts.
No score for over 20 minutes but Chiltern were gradually getting on top and after one too many offences Wimbledon conceded a penalty well kicked by Cameron McDonald, 3-3. As we neared half time a super break by Chris Jack who then kicked over the full back’s head saw the ball spin the wrong way and no try. However another offence by the Wimbledon 7 gave Cam another chance to put Chiltern ahead but his kick just slid past the left upright.
With 3 minutes to go to half time the game turned on its head, Chiltern won good possession and a long up and under by Mike McDonald had him challenging the home full back on their 22, unfortunately the players collided in mid air and Mike went down with a knee injury which saw him carried off and take no further part in the game. From the restart Wimbledon took advantage of Chiltern’s hurried reorganisation, kicked long only for the bounce to elude Cam who was rather harshly judged to have impeded the player following up. The penalty was where the ball landed, right on the Chiltern 5 metre line. Wimbledon took the scrum and winning quick ball broke the defence for the first time in the match. It was a cruel blow after such a fantastic half by Chiltern as they turned round 10-3 down.
Things went from bad to worse early in the second half as a slip in midfield gave Wimbledon their second try again converted, followed by centre Aaron Doyle having to leave the field with a bad shoulder bang.
More reorganisation saw flanker Bartlett having to go to centre, which made life so much easier for the hosts who added another 2 tries for a scoreline of 34-3 which in no way reflected the game. Yet another injury saw second row Mark Jones leave the field and on another day Chiltern might have capitulated, but not today. Amazingly they proceeded to dominate the last 20 minutes, great handling, driving again and again at the home side brought its rewards with 2 converted tries for Alex Harland making the final score 34-17.
Overall Wimbledon deserved their win but they were unstinting in their praise for this Chiltern side. They were at a loss to understand how we are where we are in the table but the strength of this league shows that a game can turn so quickly. The 5 minutes before half time and the 15 minutes afterwards were clear examples of this.
The performance of all 18 players was magnificent and so no singling out of individuals, with the exception of George Bartlett. 18 months of frustration were in evidence on Saturday and it was wonderful to see him back and making such an outstanding contribution.
Make no mistake Chiltern are improving with every game and if we can get some more of our injured players back on the field we still believe we can make a good fist of this league.
Next Saturday is a big day for the club. As well as welcoming Guildford to Weedon Lane for the first time, we also have our sponsors lunch which gives us a chance to say thank you for their fantastic support. Please come and support the team - they are throwing everything they have in every game which is all we can ever ask of them. Kick off is 3pm.