SECOND-HALF REVIVAL COMES TOO LATE FOR BUZZARDS
LEIGHTON BUZZARD 12-27 WEST BRIDGFORD
Leighton Buzzard welcomed Nottingham-based West Bridgford to Wrights Meadow for the first time in their first Midlands 1 East league game of 2019. After a disappointing first-half performance when they conceded four tries, the youthful Buzzards team fought back well in the second half. Whilst Leighton outscored their opponents after the break, the gap was too large to recover. Once again Buzzards showed promise and spirit but must learn to maintain consistency to succeed at this level.
Leighton won the toss and chose to play uphill on a still day with little wind. Immediately West Bridgford had possession in the Buzzard twenty-two and, with this first attack, crossed the line but were held up and unable to ground the ball. However from the resulting scrum the first try was scored, which, with the conversion, left Buzzards 0-7 down after less than two minutes.
Buzzards fought their way back into the game with a good period of possession. Whilst ball retention was good they failed to threaten the visitors’ line during these early exchanges. However it was West Bridgford who would score next – Buzzards lost their own lineout in their twenty-two and the visitors’ pack drove over. The conversion was missed leaving the score 0-12 after sixteen minutes.
Whilst West Bridgford are known for their back play, they also had a very effective pack that was to cause the Buzzards forwards considerable problems in the scrum. Two tries came from this power display in a spell of ten minutes – firstly with a quick tap penalty from five metres out after a scrum penalty and then a forward drive. Both conversions were missed, including one from in front of the posts, but the visitors led 0-22 with ten minutes of the half remaining.
0-22 remained the score at half-time although two minutes before the break, Buzzard centre Mike Robert was shown a yellow card for a late tackle.
Despite starting the second half with fourteen men, Buzzards were immediately more competitive. West Bridgford remained a threat but with the benefit of the slope Leighton now had more territory and possession. An excellent break by Buzzards man of the match, Jack Whitehouse, was stopped just short by a last-ditch tackle. However the ball was quickly re-cycled and, as Buzzards spread the play, wide a deliberate knock on prevented the almost certain try. The referee correctly awarded a penalty try to leave Buzzards trailing 7-22 mid-way through the half.
With both sides were playing expansive rugby, there were chances for either team to add to their score. However it was only in the last five minutes that further tries were scored, Firstly West Bridgford touched down their fifth try to extend the led to 7-27. However this only spurred Buzzards into further effort, feeling with some justification that their second half performance deserved more. Centre Mike Robert found space thirty metres out and carved through for a fine individual try with the final play of the match, to make the score 12-27.
Buzzards can be proud of their second-half performance but must maintain that level of consistency for eighty minutes next week when Lutterworth are the visitors.