LEIGHTON BUZZARD 17 – 12 ETON MANOR
Leighton Buzzard secured their second successive home victory with a brilliant team performance to defeat Eton Manor. With the visitors riding high in third place in the London 1 (North) league, this will rate as a shock result – although at no time did the eleven-place gap in the teams’ respective league positions show.
In dry and relatively still conditions, Eton Manor kicked off with the benefit of the slope. With their very first attack and showing good handling in the backs, they opened the scoring after only fifty-four seconds. With the conversion attempt missed, Buzzards trailed 0-5. Undeterred by this early set back, Leighton were competing well and cut the deficit to 3-5 with a Ewan Starling penalty after nine minutes.
For much of the first half, the visitors had the majority of possession and territory but Buzzards defence was outstanding. Midway through the half, Eton Manor were held over the Buzzard line. With the change in the laws this season, play is re-started with a goal-line drop out – amazingly this was to happen three times in the first half – testimony to the exceptional Leighton defence. Winger Felix Fiske also made a try-saving tackle after the visitors right-winger had collected his own kick ahead and looked certain to score.
Buzzards did have their attacking moments, the backs combining well to make space for Eddie Wiggins to break after thirty minutes but the visitors defence held firm. Shortly after it was Eton Manor who scored a push-over try-with the conversion Buzzards trailed 3-12.
Leighton ended the first half with a period of pressure – an attack was ended by an illegal shoulder barge – whilst the referee gave the penalty and a stern lecture, the miscreant escaped without a yellow card. The Buzzard penalty drifted wide leaving the half time score 3-12.
Now playing downhill and with a one-man advantage following a yellow card late in the first-half, Buzzards were playing with renewed confidence. A break by Lewis Morgan came close to scoring but straight after his fellow centre, Jack Whitehouse, made a try-saving tackle at the other end. As the game opened out, Leighton looked increasingly dangerous. An excellent break by Ben Beaumont was stopped by a deliberate knock on, earning another yellow card, giving Buzzards a short period with a two-man advantage.
The momentum was now all with Buzzards – the scrum was dominant against a seven-man pack and the whole team was playing with ambition and enterprise. Following a good move in the backs, Lewis Morgan scored near the posts – Ewan Starling’s conversion brought the score to 10-12, with half-an-hour to play.
Straight from the kick-off Callum Creber secured the ball and athletically charged up field, epitomising the confidence coursing through the young Buzzard team. Further ambition was shown by a quick tap penalty by James Brett. When the attack was illegally stopped close to the line, Buzzards chose a scrum rather than kick the penalty. It was an inspired choice as man of the match, Lewis Morgan, sliced through the defence to score his second try. With the conversion Buzzards led 17-12.
Leighton had the opportunity to extend the lead – possession had been recycled following a Jack Whitehouse break and was spread wide but the final try-scoring pass went loose.
Buzzards also missed a difficult penalty attempt which would have put them two-scores ahead, ensuring a nervy last ten minutes for the home crowd, particularly when Ashley Walsh was harshly yellow-carded late on. But hang on they did – and amazingly had prevented a very good Eton Manor side from scoring in the second half.
There are many positives from this performance – the new centre partnership of Jack Whitehouse and Lewis Morgan, the return of Ben Beaumont and Ashley Walsh, the versality of Owen Forsythe in the pack, the growing confidence of a young side but most of all, the determination and team spirit.
Next week Buzzards travel to fourth-placed Harpenden.