Leighton Buzzard got their South West East 1 season off to a winning start with a 28-19 win over Witney at Wrights Meadow.
Witney finished last season as the form team in the league so a tough match was anticipated for a home team with four league debutants.
Leighton kicked off with the advantage of the slope and a cross-wind and enjoyed territorial advantage and looked dangerous with possession. However it was a penalty from Geoff Branwhite that gave the home team the lead after 12 mins.
Two minutes later Buzzard scored the first of three excellent first half tries. Surprising Witney by a quick tap penalty, the ball was quickly transferred through the backs for Ben Beaumont to finish an exceptional move close to the posts. Geoff Branwhite converted for a 10- 0 lead.
Soon after the restart Buzzards attacked from their own 22 – fast re-cycling of the ball by their mobile pack and quick movement through the hands allowed Ben Beaumont to score his second try . The conversion was missed (15 -0) .
Despite these two tries it was far from one-way traffic as the Witney pack tested the home team defence with a number of attacking line outs. However after a period of significant pressure it was Buzzards who broke out to score another spectacular try. The ball passed through many hands and finally left wing Ollie Taylor appeared on the right to give the scoring pass to full back Geoff Branwhite to score in the corner (20 – 0).
The first half ended with a further period of defence with Witney camped on the Buzzard line leaving no one in doubt that whilst 20 – 0 was a healthy lead, the game was far from won.
The second half was a more attritional affair –Witney were dominating the line out and whilst the Buzzard scrum and defence were solid it was no surprise when the Witney no.8 George Lane finally breached the Buzzard defence to score. The conversion was missed (20 – 5).
Buoyed by the try and now with the advantage of the slope, Witney upped the pressure and dominated possession. Whilst Buzzards extended their lead with a further Branwhite penalty after 18 minutes, the pressure finally told as Witney scored a converted try to cut the lead to 23-12 with almost 20 minutes left .
The tension in the home crowd was now palpable – but the Buzzard defence held firm and despite the balance of possession it was home side that scored next.
In a moment of inspiration teenage flanker, Jordan Cummings, swooped on a loose ball and passed to fellow league debutant Lee Walker to score in the corner. The conversion was missed but with only three minutes remaining the bonus point and victory was secured.
Credit to Witney, who despite this set back had time for winger James Monks to crash over for a converted try and for their part in a very entertaining game.
A young team Buzzards will take great encouragement from this performance – a huge physical effort from the mobile pack, defence solid throughout the team and a spectacular cutting edge from the backs.