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Leighton Buzzard’s first XV season ended with defeat against Crewe and Nantwich in the Papa John’s Regional 2 North Shield Cup competition. With conditions excellent for running rugby and both teams looking to move the ball the spectators were treated to an entertaining match. Buzzards will be disappointed not to win a game that they led for an hour. However, Crewe, on their first visit to Wright’s Meadow, had the majority of possession and territory, and with a decisive cutting edge in their backs, proved worthy winners.


Crewe and Nantwich kicked off uphill and immediately displayed an expansive game. The early warning signs were clear as both Tom Winch, after six minutes, and James Brett, five minutes later, pulled off try-saving tackles. In between these two attacks, the visitors took a 3-point lead from a penalty awarded for standing up in the scrum. In the first fifteen minutes Leighton had been hardly out of their half. However, with their first attack, Eddie Wiggins seized on a loose ball, made good ground and passed to winger Sam Beaumont to score in the corner. James Brett converted from the touchline to give Buzzards a 7-3 lead.


Midway through the half, a penalty for Crewe cut the Buzzard lead to 7-6. The visitors’ backs continued to look threatening, but their handling let them down on more than one occasion. Despite the constant threat it was Buzzards who scored next, making the most of limited opportunities. A brilliantly judged chip from James Brett was gathered by his half-back partner Tom Winch to score. Again, Brett converted to put Buzzards 14-6 ahead.


Leighton were now playing with increased confidence and the scrum was looking more solid. However, the Crewe and Nantwich threat was clear as they ran from their own twenty-two only to be held up over the try line. Finally, and with the last play of the half, the visitors crossed the try line. The initial break came from the full-back, whose excellent running lines caused difficulties for the Buzzard defence all game, then supported by the forwards to score under the posts. The conversion left the half- time score 14-13.


Buzzards extended their lead early in the second half – following a charge down, Ryan Eaton made good ground before passing to his second-row partner, Wills Messum to score. James Brett’s conversion extended the lead to 21-13. Shortly afterwards and within two minutes of each other, yellow cards were shown to Eddie Wiggins and Ross Bevan. With Buzzards now playing with only thirteen men there was an inevitability about the visitors second try, which with the conversion, made the score 21-20. Buzzards rallied and midway through the half 17-year-old, Tom Maynard scored Buzzards fourth try, extending the lead to 26-20.


Play was now concentrated in the Buzzard half and, whilst Leighton defended well, playing with limited possession was taking its toll. As the penalty count increased, Joe Healy was the recipient of a “team” yellow card for persistent offences. With the scrum under pressure a loose ball was seized on for a Crewe try and the conversion was nervelessly kicked from the touch line to put the visitors 26-27 ahead, with less than ten minutes left. With three minutes to go, pressure told again as Crewe added a further converted try to secure a 26-34 victory.


Buzzards can be proud of their effort and commitment and their ability to make the most of limited opportunities, but on the day were beaten by the better side.  Leighton’s improvement through the season has been a credit to Head Coach Phil Llewellyn, Forwards Coach Paul Greenway and Captain Owen Forsythe.