COMPETITIVE BUZZARDS SECURE LOSING BONUS POINT
OXFORD HARLEQUINS 16 – 10 LEIGHTON BUZZARD
Leighton Buzzard travelled to Oxford Harlequins in their latest South West 1 East League game. Oxford Harlequins were one point below Buzzards prior to the game but their unbeaten home record this season highlighted the extent of the challenge for Leighton.
Whilst the ground was wet, the earlier rain had abated when Buzzards kicked off into a stiff breeze. The early stages were competitive although the home side had the territorial advantage – and after 10 minutes took a 3-0 lead through a penalty for offside. Whilst Buzzards showed glimpses of their usual enterprise, they were struggling to establish an attacking threat as the home side’s big pack controlled possession.
Leighton’s defence remained secure until the 24th minute when, following a lineout, an Oxford driving maul crashed over for the first try of the day . The conversion was missed so the home side led 8-0. Buzzard’s response was swift – 2 minutes later captain Euan Irwin intercepted a pass on half way to break clear. Tackled a metre short, he off-loaded to supporting winger Geoff Branwhite to score under the posts. Branwhite converted his own try to bring Buzzards within one point at 8-7.
Whilst under almost constant pressure the Leighton defence held firm for the rest of the half. Now, with the wind to their advantage, Buzzards were cautiously optimistic if they could secure more possession. However the Harlequins’ pack continued to exert pressure and from a driving maul close to the Buzzard line, Sam Richbell was penalised for offside and shown a yellow card. With Leighton’s number 8 off for 10 minutes, the home side chose a scrum which they successfully pushed over to score their second try. Again the conversion was missed leaving the home side 13-6 ahead.
The remainder of the game was fiercely competitive – with the wind Buzzards had more territory but Oxford controlled possession. A Geoff Branwhite penalty reduced the lead to 13-10 after 27 minutes but 6 minutes later a home team penalty restored the 6 point difference –and a score of 16-10.
By now the rain had returned and the game had become more frantic as both sides attempted to secure the victory. Despite their endeavours, neither side could add to their tally, leaving Oxford Harlequins 16- 10 victors.
Apart from a losing bonus point Leighton can take many positives from the game. Oxford Harlequins are likely to finish in the top 4 of the league and have an exceptional home record. With limited possession the Buzzard defence was outstanding – with the try line only breached by forward drives with the home side’s talented backs being repelled for all 80 minutes .
Next week Buzzards welcome league leaders Towcesterians to Wright’s Meadow.