HARPENDEN 44 – 7 LEIGHTON BUZZARD
Despite recent home victories, Leighton Buzzard’s disappointing away record continued as they were beaten by a strong Harpenden team, in their latest London 1 (North) league match. However, after struggling in the first half against the wind and a high penalty count, they played some good rugby in the second half – and were unlucky that a couple of late tries gave a less favourable final score than their efforts deserved.
Harpenden kicked off benefiting from both the strong wind and familiarity of playing on their artificial 3G home pitch. After just two minutes, Lewis Morgan was shown a yellow card for a deliberate knock-on and Harpenden kicked the resulting penalty to the corner. Whilst the initial drive was defended well, the ball was recycled through many phases before the Buzzard defensive line was breached. With a successful conversion Buzzards trailed 7-0 after five minutes.
An injury to fly-half Ollie Taylor after ten minutes caused a re-organisation, with James Brett moving to fly-half and replacement Jack Cullen taking over at scrum half. Buzzards can also feel unlucky with the second try they conceded – a scrum penalty, where the decision could easily have gone the other way, led to a quick tap penalty and a second try.
Leighton were struggling to get any continuity of possession and were kept in their own half by a constant stream of penalties and the wind. Further tries were scored by the home side in the eighteenth and twenty-second minutes and, whilst neither of these were converted, Buzzards still trailed 24-0
Finally, Buzzards offered an attacking threat, getting into the Harpenden twenty- two after almost half -an-hour, with Ash Walsh and Joe Healy prominent in successive drives. Three minutes later Leighton had another good opportunity when Ben Beaumont took a quick free-kick and broke clear, only for the referee to call play back, but only after the full-back had run twenty metres. There were no further scores leaving the half-time score 24-0
The second half started disastrously. After less than thirty seconds, a Harpenden player cleverly stepped inside Ash Walsh’s attempted tackle and the Buzzard back-row’s trailing arm made head contact. Despite there being no force, intent or injury, the referee decided it was a red card offence, consigning Buzzards to play with fourteen men for the rest of the game.
When Harpenden scored three minutes later, many teams would have collapsed to a heavy defeat. But this Buzzards team showed strength and spirit in adversity and played with increased tempo. Joe Healy, who had a splendid game despite dislocating his thumb early in the match, combined with Ben Beaumont to make the opportunity for Eddie Wiggins to score. James Brett converted to make the score 24-7, with thirty minutes left.
Leighton were now playing well to the extent that Harpenden’s next try, a brilliant solo effort by their full-back, was against the run of play. Shortly after, Owen Forsyth came close to adding to Leighton’s score following a line-out.
Try as they did, by now Buzzards’ efforts were hampered by a string of injuries leaving patched-up players and replacements playing out of position. In the last three minutes, Harpenden added two further tries as they again showed the speed and skill of, what appears to be , the best backline in the league. Neither of these late tries were converted leaving the final score 44-7.
Next week Buzzards travel to play a re-arranged league match at Old Haberdashers.