LEIGHTON BUZZARD 29-17 ST. IVES
Leighton Buzzard secured a bonus point win to extend their lead at the top of Midlands 2 East but this was far from the convincing victory against a spirited and much improved St Ives team.
Leighton had won convincingly earlier in the season against St. Ives, so when Buzzards stretched the visitors’ defence for Euan Irwin to score in the corner after three minutes, the home crowd settled back expecting a straightforward victory. Lee Walker converted to give Buzzards a 7-0 lead.
However, it was only five minutes later when St. Ives scored their first try. Kicking a penalty to the corner, they drove the maul over the line to make the score 7-5. Three minutes later Buzzards scored a similar try from a driving maul, with Jacob Murtagh touching down to make the score 12-5. Leighton came close to extending the lead shortly after but knock-ons, pressure on the lineout and the penalty count all broke any continuity.
As the first half moved on, St Ives increasingly had territory and possession. With their huge pack they tended to keep the ball tight and rarely kicked to prevent Buzzard counter-attacks. It was little surprise when they drove over again for their second try after thirty-two minutes to reduce the Buzzard lead to 12-10.
Buzzards had got drawn into the type of close combat game their opponents wanted to play rather than their own much wider and faster game plan. Perhaps belatedly realising this, Buzzards upped the tempo to finish the half with an end-to-end move that narrowly failed to add to their score.
With the half-time score 12-10, Buzzards realised they needed to increase the pace of the game and move the visitors pack around, which is how the half started. With only three minutes played, the youthful Ewan Starling, making his league debut for the club, made a jinking run and timed his pass to perfection for captain Jack Whitehouse to score. The conversion was missed leaving the score 17-10.
This encouraging start to the half was short-lived. After a succession of penalties close to the Leighton line the visitors drove a maul over the line and, with the conversion, brought the scores level at 17-17. The Buzzard response was almost immediate. Jack Whitehouse made a stunning break from his own half but was stopped just short. However the recycled ball was spread wide before the move was stopped by a dangerous tackle that deserved more than just the penalty awarded. Andy Harris-Smith spotted the opportunity to take a quick penalty and score Buzzard’s fourth and bonus point try. Ewan Starling converted to make the score 24-17.
It took a further fifteen minutes to get the fifth try – again resulting from a piece of quick thinking. Having forced St. Ives to concede a throw-in a few metres out following a clever kick, Jacob Murtagh grabbed the ball , took a quick throw-in to James Brett who scored almost unopposed. With the difficult conversion missed, this left the score at 29-17. Despite pressure from St.Ives looking to secure a fourth try and a losing bonus point , the Buzzard defence held out .
Whilst in many ways a frustrating win, Buzzards can take a number of positives. During the second half six of the Buzzard forwards were aged twenty-one or younger, competing against a heavier and experienced pack. Additionally, the excellent debuts of Ewan Starling, John Fudge and Haydon Jones were extremely encouraging.
Next week Buzzards travel to Corby, to play bottom side, Stewart and Lloyds