4:12pm Tuesday 11th February 2014
By Tony Mann
Credit must go to both teams for attempting to play running rugby in such appalling conditions and, in the first half, succeeding.
In the second half though, when on large areas of the pitch players were more likely to drown than suffer injury, play became almost a continuous mud-bound maul, and Brighton played the conditions better, despite Wimbledon’s forwards keeping them in their own half for most of the forty minutes.
In the end, it was the visitors who claimed the spoils with Brighton returning to the south coast with a 22-18 win, and sending Wimbledon down to sixth in the London Division One South table at the same time.
The conditions gifted Brighton their first try, after just a minute’s play, when the greasy ball slipped through the normally glue-like hands of Dons’ centre Neil Hallett, Brighton’s back row hack on, and splashed their way to touch down beneath the posts.
For their fullback Finch the conversion was a formality.
But Wimbledon hit straight back with a try by centre Neil Brown in the corner after some great pick and drive play by the forwards – with Rich Stewart, Karl Roche and Steve May to the fore – followed by slick passing from the backs.
Ten minutes later, from nowhere, Brighton’s Finch, with the gale behind him left half the Wimbledon team rooted in the mud to jink through for a fine individual try, which he converted with ease to put his side 14-5 ahead.
Soon after, the gale blew a Hallett penalty kick just wide of Brighton’s posts, their fullback failed to gather the ball and Dons’ wing Tommy Moore pounced to score.
Hallett made no mistake with the conversion.
An exchange of successful penalty attempts by both kickers followed, then a quick tap penalty by number 10 Bryan Croke and a storming run from flanker Chris Lewis almost brought a second Wimbledon try.
From the ensuing penalty Hallett’s conversion gave Dons an 18-17 half time lead.
The second half produced just the one score – the decider.
In a rare visit to Wimbledon’s 22 Brighton won a 5m lineout on a dryish corner of the pitch and drove over for the winning try.
It was a tough one to lose after such a sterling effort from the whole team and the losing bonus point will be of little consolation.
Next week they hope to return to winning ways when they travel to Brighton’s neighbours, Hove.
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