This prospect looked remote when, in their very first attack the hosts mauled well in midfield and released centre Rory Southgate for a try converted by full back Jay Tabb. However, it was the visitors who dominated the rest of the half, with plenty of ball and the opportunity to construct some flowing moves. Too often a poor pass spoiled these. Mids were on top in the scrums and much more aggressive, forcing Wimbledon to concede a high number of penalties. They did compel Mids to defend at times but full back Ollie Fitzgerald was a resolute last line of defence and veteran No. 8 Mark Macaskill, who had a storming 80 minutes, fielded one high kick in his 22 and despatched it back into touch a full 35 metres into the howling gale. The Mids forwards continued to dominate with prop Nick Hamilton and second row Matt Shillabeer putting in huge shifts.
Fly half Dan Crouch cleverly exploited the penalties conceded by Wimbledon to work Mids up the touchline in a succession of lineouts featuring fine throwing by skipper Ali Hall and the athletic lock Dave Spedding enjoying himself in the air. They found an excellent position in the corner and drove the maul at the line. Hall was held up just short and, though Wimbledonians were awarded the scrum, they were unable to hold the powerful Mids eight who drove over the line and enabled Macaskill to get the touchdown. Crouch kicked a magnificent conversion and the visitors were level after 27 minutes.
Wimbledon showed real ability to run out of defence and forced a promising position in the right corner but dropped the ball. Two more waves of running rugby were well defended by Mids, with centre Andy Dean and winger Marc McEvilly tackling like lions. Mids would have settled to be level at half time but then worked their way to the corner and a big chance to take the lead if they could replicate their earlier success. Wimbledon did well to take the Mids ball and clear but 7-7 at the interval augured well for the visitors in the conditions.
It was clear from the restart that Mids were going to use the wind. Well-directed kicking from Crouch established them in their opponents’ half. Another fine tackle from Dean led to an infringement by Wimbledonians and Crouch made no mistake with the kick to put his side 10-7 ahead. He then returned the kick-off high to put Mids on the attack again. When the ball came to lively winger Tom Webster he chipped over the top but was obstructed and Mids had a great position deep in the home 22. They used their scrum to drive Wimbledon back and an illegal attempt to prevent a score resulted in a penalty try and a 17-10 lead for Mids. Again Crouch used the wind to find a good touch and when Wimbledonians threw crooked in the line out the Mids scrum had another opportunity to turn the screw and then spread the ball well for Webster to score with glee in the right corner.
Mids were now rampant and Spedding had a great opportunity to run clear from a ruck but was called back when advantage should have been played. The visitors camped in the 22 but two huge chances to win a bonus point and put the game to bed went begging, when the wrong option was taken where patience was needed.
This gave the opportunity to Wimbledonians and, to their credit, they dominated the game for last 10 minutes with some fine running rugby. They were rewarded after 74 minutes when Tabb scored in the left corner and then produced a magnificent conversion across the strong wind to narrow the gap to 8 points. They needed two scores and Mids were naïve in kicking the ball away, conceding 10 metres and bringing a penalty kick within Tabb’s range. He obliged and Mids were hanging on.
However, stout defence, including two crunching tackles from Hamilton and one from centre Oli Case saw out the remaining time and Mids were worthy winners while Wimbledonians took a well-earned losing bonus point.
This was a most entertaining game in such difficult weather and with 8 minutes extra played in each half there will be some sore bodies as a result.