BRANWHITE HOLDS NERVE TO SECURE LAST MINUTE BUZZARD VICTORY
LEIGHTON BUZZARD 18- 15 DRONFIELD
Utility back Geoff Branwhite was the Buzzard’s hero as his penalty secured the victory in dramatic style with the last kick of the game. Opponents, Dronfield, who had made the long journey from North Derbyshire, had led for much of the game including by 7 points just eight minutes from the end of the match.
The visitors kick off on a bitterly cold afternoon that was to make handling difficult throughout. Buzzards had chosen to play with the advantage of the slope and cross-wind and were confident of making early inroads against a team they had beaten convincingly earlier in the season.
After ten minutes winger Darren Braybrook jinked past his opposite number to score the opening try by the corner flag. The difficult conversion was missed to leave the home side 5-0 ahead. However, following this bright start, things were not going to plan and Dronfield pulled three points back with a penalty. Worse was to follow; 20 minutes into the half Buzzards conceded possession in their own 22 metre area and the visitors swiftly transferred the ball wide for their winger to score a fine try. The difficult conversion was missed to leave Leighton trailing 5-8, which remained the score at half-time.
Whilst Buzzards did have opportunities, with Captain Euan Irwin coming closest to scoring, this was a disjointed first-half performance with poor kicking and misplaced passes.
Now playing uphill the Buzzards realized they had to up the intensity and stick to their game plan. The second half started well with good pressure and whilst they were unable to cross the line, a Geoff Branwhite penalty levelled the score at 8-8, 10 minutes into the half.
Instead of taking control, it was the visitors who scored next, slightly against the run of play, after 16 minutes. The Dronfield fly-half made an excellent break leading to their second try and, following a conversion from near the touch line, an 8-15 lead. Understandably encouraged by this, the visitors managed to control possession and keep Buzzard attacks at bay for the next 15 minutes.
However, the Buzzard dominance in the scrum was slowly having an effect and pressurising the Dronfield defence. With less than ten minutes remaining, Ryan Fraser forced his way over the try line but the referee was unsighted and adjudged he had been held up. Buzzards were not to be denied for long – from the resulting scrum, the pack drove over, allowing number 8, Wills Messum, to touch down. The kick was not straightforward, especially with the scores so close but Geoff Branwhite nervelessly added the conversion to level the scores at 15-15.
With Leighton’s precarious position in the league this was very much a “must win” game and once again the pack drove forward- a rolling maul being stopped just short. Finally a penalty was awarded, 20 metres out but closer to touch than the posts. The referee announced it was the final play of the game and to large cheers from the home crowd Branwhite produced his dramatic denouement.
Buzzards remain twelfth but within 3 points of ninth place. Next week Leighton travel to fifth-placed Huntingdon looking to repeat their early season victory.