LEIGHTON BUZZARD 20 – 18 SOUTHEND
Leighton Buzzard’s fine recent form continued with their third successive home league victory, this time against Southend. As in the reverse fixture in October Southend had inflicted Buzzards to their heaviest defeat for over twenty years, victory shows how far this Leighton side has progressed.
Southend kicked off with the benefit of the slope but playing against a strong crosswind. The early exchanges were played out in midfield with neither side coming close to breaking the early deadlock. The visitors had a slight territorial advantage in this early period with Buzzards perhaps failing to make the most of the benefit of the wind.
Finally, after twenty-five minutes the deadlock was broken. A brilliant run from centre Lewis Morgan almost made the line but, when he was tackled just short, the ball was quickly recycled for Matt Bloxham to crash over for his first league try of the season. Ewan Starling’s conversion gave Buzzards a 7-0 lead and the Leighton fly-half extended this to 10-0 with a penalty five minutes later.
The ten-point advantage only lasted a couple of minutes as Southend scored a fine try following good handling in their backs to make the score 10-7. A further Ewan Starling penalty late in the half meant that Buzzards led 13-7 at the break.
Leighton made a brilliant start to the second half with a try within a minute. In almost an exact copy of their earlier try, the initial break was made by Lewis Morgan and once again when he was tackled just short, Matt Bloxham was on hand to score his second try. Ewan Starling’s conversion made the score 20-7. A Southend penalty, five minutes later, cut the lead to 20-10.
The game was now evenly contested. Using the strengthening wind, the visitors had a slight territorial advantage but the Buzzard defence was holding well. Additionally, the Buzzard scrum was looking in control, with the front row combination of Joe Healy, Will Batchelor and Sam Young outstanding. With the strong wind, the Buzzard lineout was less secure.
Midway through the half, Southend missed the opportunity to cut the lead when a penalty drifted wide but, with fifteen minutes left, they scored their second try. Ironically, it immediately followed an encouraging Buzzard attack. Leighton full-back, Ben Beaumont had broken from close to his own line before being tackled close to halfway but at the breakdown, Buzzards conceded a penalty for holding-on. Southend skillfully used the wind to kick close to the corner and drove over from the ensuring lineout. The conversion was missed but a penalty three minutes later made the score 20-18.
There were eight minutes left and whilst most of the play in this final period was in Buzzard territory, the Leighton defence remained resolute. After winning by one point last week and by two points this week, Buzzards matches are not short of drama. So, there was a mixture of relief and celebration at the final whistle, perhaps particularly from those who had made the long trip to Southend in October.
Next week Buzzards travel to Colchester.