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by John Mcdougal

Leighton Buzzard marked the New Year with a return to winning ways with a hard-fought victory over Chingford in their first London 1 (North) League fixture of 2022. In wet and windy conditions, the game was always going to be attritional. Buzzards based their victory on taking their limited opportunities, particularly in the first half, and resolute defence throughout.

Chingford kicked off downhill but against the wind. Following the loss of Leighton’s first line out the visitors managed to get an early foothold in the Buzzard twenty-two. With the visitors pack exerting pressure it took only four minutes for Chingford to score their first try to take a 0-5 lead. Amazingly, Chingford would not add to their early score until the last play of the game.

Buzzards response was immediate. Tom Winch secured the ball from the kick off and got to within two metres of the line before being tackled. The ball was quickly recycled for Jack Whitehouse to score. James Brett, who was playing at fly-half rather than his normal scrum-half role, hit the post with his conversion attempt leaving the scores level at 5-5.

Leighton took the lead halfway through the half when Eddie Wiggins intercepted a loose pass to sprint 75 metres to score Buzzards second try. With James Brett’s successful conversion, Buzzards led 12-5. Ten minutes later a Brett penalty kick extended the home side’s lead to 15-5, which remained the score at half time.

Conditions had deteriorated by the start of the second half with the now persistent rain making expansive play and scoring more difficult and the ten-point lead seem increasingly valuable.

Now, with the benefit of the wind, Chingford enjoyed a territorial advantage. After six minutes they also had a numerical advantage for the next ten minutes as Eddie Wiggins was shown a yellow card for a deliberate knock-on. Buoyed by this advantage, Chingford had a period of sustained pressure. Whilst the visitors missed a penalty after ten minutes, they continued to threaten the Buzzard line. However, Leighton’s fourteen-man defence was committed and organised – getting through this period without conceding was a major factor in the final result.

After thirty minutes James Brett kicked through a loose ball but was just beaten in the chase by a defender who kicked it dead. From the resulting 5-metre scrum, the ball was spread wide but a last-ditch tackle prevented Buzzards adding a further try. Instead, Buzzards had to settle for a three-point benefit from this period of pressure when Brett added another penalty to extend the lead to 18-5.

The match was disrupted now by frequent injury breaks, but Chingford kept their focus and, by scoring a converted try with the last play of the game, secured themselves a losing bonus point.

Leighton’s coaching team will be delighted with the team spirit and commitment in defence, encouraged by debut performances from Jack Cullen and Lewis Morgan and concerned by injuries particularly to Tom Winch and Joe Healy.  Next week Buzzards travel to Norwich, hoping to repeat their early season victory.