Wimbledon turn the tables on leaders Gravesend
Wimbledon's slim hopes of promotion out of London Division One South were boosted on Saturday with a fine win at Gravesend.
The Kent side started the day top of the table, and unbeaten at home, but a 27-20 win for the Dons keeps them in the pack chasing promotion.
Gravesend's lofty position comes despite having two games in hand on their rivals, so Wimbledon had to be first to make use of a favourable wind to gain field position in the Gravesend half.
But worrying was a lighter scrum than their opponents so that good scrum ball became rare.
Eventually in the second half the Gravesend forwards realised that even if they knocked on - then they could well win the ball from the scrum that resulted.
However Wimbledon's lineout was not upset by this and hooker Eoin Mullen had a good game with his accurate throwing to Wimbledon's Rob Tait and Jack Fishwick.
Long and well-placed kicks from outside half Bryan Croke and centre Neil Hallett kept the home team defending and Wimbledon took the lead when Gravesend conceded a penalty in front of the posts to give Hallett an 18m kick.
No mistake and Wimbledon were able to take the lead.
Action man: Rob Tait starred in Wimbledon's win at Gravesend
After 13 minutes, Wimbledon attacked to the right through wing Peter Scott, he rounded his opponent and got to less than 5m out, the ball was moved left and through the hands of at least five players for left wing Emmet Naughton to score under the posts after rounding from wide out.
A straight kick saw the lead to extend to 10-0.
Gravesend's big pack earned them a penalty after Wimbledon slipped their binding, they opted for another scrum to attempt a pushover try, this was defended but with the ball slipped to wing Matt Hayward, he scored in the corner, scrum half Zanirato was unable to kick the conversion.
Wimbledon's next attack again saw Peter Scott pass his opponent, despite being tackled, Gravesend conceded another penalty and Hallett increased the score to 13-5.
An attack from the home team resulted in a big run from number eight Harrison, this led to a try for wing Chris Meddings to narrow the margin but Zanirato's conversion rebounded off the posts.
In nearly the last play of the first half Wimbledon attacked and number eight Karl Roche again found a gap and was through, his try was an important part of the victory, the conversion was again successful and at half time with a 20-10 lead Wimbledon knew that his would need a strong defence in the second half against Gravesend's heavy pack.
On 49 minutes, after some heavy forward drives, Gravesend's outside half Matt Bressons took a snap drop goal to close the gap to 20-13.
But Wimbledon worked hard to do their defending well away from their line, this came to fruit with a penalty to Gravesend too far out for their kicker to score.
There was a long passage of play with Wimbledon in the Gravesend half, but the final score could not come, with time passing Gravesend attacked but their passing allowed an alert Croke to snatch the ball from the Gravesend centres and set off on a 60m run to the line, no chasing tackler could catch him and he scored under the posts.
Hallett made no mistake with the conversion and at 27-13, and Wimbledon sensed a victory, the Gravesend pack had other ideas and secured ball for wing Matt Hayward to score near the end of the match.
Zanirato made the conversion and the final score of 27-20 to the visitors was fair given that the only area of real dominance for the home team was their scrum, in other phases of the game Wimbledon were just slightly better to gain an important win.
Wimbledon face Brighton at home on February 8, with a 2.15pm start.
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