LEIGHTON BUZZARD 19 – 19 BELSIZE PARK
Leighton Buzzard’s London 1(N) League season ended in dramatic style with Ollie Taylor’s touchline conversion securing a draw with the final kick of the match. The visitors had brought a significant number of supporters and this, coupled with Ladies rugby immediately prior to the game, added to a vibrant end of season atmosphere at Wrights Meadow.
Buzzards kicked off uphill and into a strong breeze. The first ten minutes were almost entirely in the Belsize Park twenty-two, but without Leighton looking like opening the scoring. On a rare visit to Leighton territory, the visitors did have a chance to take the lead, but a penalty drifted wide. The Leighton scrum was proving dominant, winning the ball against the head and several penalties. It was from one of these scrum penalties that Will Batchelor drove over to open the scoring. The conversion was missed leaving Buzzards 5-0 ahead, halfway through the half.
Belsize Park came close to scoring after a loose Leighton kick but Eddie Wiggins put in a try-saving tackle. After twenty-eight minutes, Leighton‘s captain, Jacob Murtagh, was shown the first of three yellow cards that Buzzards received in the match. Shortly afterwards Buzzards suffered further disruption, when centre Lewis Morgan had to be helped from the pitch with a serious leg injury.
Whilst Buzzards had not looked particularly threatening, they would have been delighted to be ahead at half-time after playing uphill and into the wind. Sadly, it was not to be, with Belsize Park equaling the score in unusual circumstances, with the final play of the half. The visitors had kicked long and the ball had been grounded by Buzzard fullback Ben Beaumont, meaning the play would be re-started with a goal line drop out. Unlike a twenty-two drop out, a goal-line drop out has to go at least five metres. So, when a deliberately short kick failed to go this distance, the visitors were awarded an attacking scrum from which they scored. If there was an element of good fortune in the try, this was counterbalanced by a gust blowing the ball off the tee preventing what appeared to be a straightforward conversion. At the time it was not appreciated how significant the kick would be; leaving the halftime score 5-5.
The second half started with both sides showing attacking intent, but it was the visitors who took the lead for the first time after ten minutes. Leighton had just gone down to fourteen men with a yellow card to Ryan Eaton. From the quick tap penalty close to the Buzzard line, the referee accidentally got in the way of a couple of Buzzard defenders, providing a clearer route to the line. The try was converted to leave Buzzards trailing 5-12.
It took Leighton seven minutes to pull level. Once again, the scrum dominance was vital – winning the ball against the head gave scrumhalf Jack Cullen the opportunity to break and, when he was tackled just short, he popped the ball up for Jacob Murtagh to score. Ollie Taylor converted for 12-12.
Whilst Buzzards had possession, they failed to make the most of the wind, perhaps playing too much rugby in their own half and then kicking poorly. Belsize Park were now playing with an increased confidence and the pressure told when they scored their final try, shortly after Owen Forsythe had received Buzzard’s third yellow card.
With only five minutes to go, Leighton trailed 12-19. However, with the clock well into the red, Ben Beaumont scored in the corner. On a difficult day for kickers, up stepped Ollie Taylor to convert the try to equal the scores. Both sides will think they could, and perhaps should, have won, so perhaps a draw was a fair result.
With the league season completed, next week Buzzards play away against Beds Athletic in the Beds Cup Final.