NEWBURY coach Joe Harwood refused to fault the commitment of his players after their hopes of clinching top spot in Championship SW Two were all but ended at Wimbledon.
The Monks Lane side suffered a heavy defeat on Sunday to slip to third in the table, after a second-half capitulation to their London opponents.
But Harwood could not criticise the fighting resilience displayed by his depleted side after Newbury chalked up four tries to secure a consolation losing bonus point.
The Blues enjoyed the brighter start and went an unconverted try up through Lauren Blight, who crashed over from close range following a fast ball from scrum-half Jeannie Ivanov.
Wimbledon responded with two scores of their own, although Newbury trailed by only two points at the break, after Roxy Fauconnier touched down from the blindside in a well-worked move inspired by the fiery Ivanov.
But the Blues struggled to capitalise on the switch in momentum and Wimbledon dominated after the break, running in five tries past their shell-shocked opponents within a 20-minute period.
Despite the onslaught, Newbury showcased the perseverance and determination which so often defines a team near the top of the table, hitting back with another brace – the first through a superb individual effort and a second from Blight.
And Carrie Smith helped restore Newbury’s pride in the dying minutes, showcasing her footwork and power to run in after Lauren Hassett and Emma Swinton made ground in midfield.
Despite the result, Harwood was pleased with the way his side responded and credited an improved Wimbledon side, who avenged their 39-10 loss at Monks Lane in December.
“We could have easily capitulated and conceded more, but they came back and finished strongly with two tries,” he said.
“We played some great attacking rugby and scored some brilliant tries, but ultimately, we missed too many tackles and allowed Wimbledon too much space.
“Sometimes you get beaten by the better team on the day.
“Wimbledon had the upper hand at the scrum and were able to release their dangerous back line.
“They have clearly been coached well and have improved since we played them at Monks Lane.”