UNLUCKY BUZZARDS JUST FALL SHORT–
WITNEY 25 – 21 LEIGHTON BUZZARD
Buzzards travelled to fourth-placed Witney for their final SW 1 East match of the season. Few gave them any real chance but they turned in an excellent show of running rugby, spirit and commitment and were narrowly beaten by a fine side in the last few minutes. Rarely can a Buzzard side have played this well and lost.
Having lost the toss, Leighton kicked off with the benefit of a slight wind. Early exchanges were evenly contested apart from at the scrum where the home side’s large pack was exerting considerable pressure – an issue that was to be a recurring factor throughout the game. Witney took the lead from a penalty after 11 minutes, awarded for an offence at the breakdown. One minute later, Buzzards missed a penalty attempt of their own, leaving the score 3-0 to the home side.
Undeterred by this minor setback Leighton took the lead four minutes later. Lee Walker made a clean break just inside the Witney half and passed to full back Ben Beaumont who beat two further defenders to score under the posts. Geoff Branwhite added the conversion to make the score 3-7. Almost immediately a break in midfield by the home side gave Witney a try-scoring opportunity. Whilst the try was prevented, Geoff Branwhite was shown a yellow card for an offence following the try-saving tackle. From the ensuing penalty a push-over try was conceded and whilst the conversion was missed, Witney retook the lead 8-7.
Despite being a man down due to the earlier yellow card, Buzzards attacked in some style. Finally the pressure told with captain Euan Irwin scoring in the corner to retake the lead 8-12; a lead Leighton would retain until the final 7 minutes of the game. Buzzards missed another kickable penalty after 31 minutes before Geoff Branwhite added three points with the last kick of the half to leave the score 8-15 at the break.
A further Branwhite penalty early in the second half stretched Leighton’s lead to ten points at 8-18 but slowly Witney’s straight running forwards were making inroads. Despite the commitment and bravery of the Buzzard defence, the pressure finally told after 16 minutes with a fine try scored wide on the left. With the touchline conversion, Witney had cut the lead to just 3 points at 15-18. This was shortly followed by successful penalty kicks by both sides to leave the score 18-21 with twenty minutes left .
With Witney’s pack turning up the pressure they scored their second pushover try of the game with just 7 minutes remaining. Unfortunately, the referee missed, what even the home side conceded, was a knock on, immediately prior to the grounding but, with the conversion the home side lead 25-21 which was to remain the final score.
The Buzzard secured a losing bonus point but more importantly considerable pride and team spirit in their performance in a hugely entertaining game away at one of the league’s leading sides.