Leighton Buzzard’s season finished on a sweet note with a fine 31-12 win over Reading, ensuring a top half finish in South West One East.
Their win meant they climbed above Trowbridge on the final day to secure seventh place in their first season at this level.
Having lost to their opponents in the first match of the season, Reading now knew what to expect.
The Berkshire side kicked off, and with the wind at their backs soon adopted a high intensity style of play.
Put under pressure, The Buzzards had to commit to organised defence and ‘up and at em’ tackling. The home side survived the opening minutes and play settled down into what looked as though it could be an even, entertaining game, to delight the large end of season crowd.
In the 11th minute, Leighton who broke the deadlock.
Breaking out from their own half, a trade mark Buzzards backs move created space on the right for winger Geoff Branwhite to exploit, touching down in the corner. Kicking into the wind the try scorer was unable to add the extras.
Reading were not to be outdone and were soon back in their opponent’s half. Leighton were holding their own at the set pieces denying their opponents any ball of real quality.
However, in the 20th minute the home side were dealt a blow when their captain suffered a serious arm injury and had to leave the field. Hooker Ed Payne joined the fray from the Interchange Bench, with Greg Falcon moving to prop.
It looked as though the loss of bulk and power at the scrum might prove decisive as the Berkshire side came more into the game. Indeed, only seven minutes after losing their talisman, Leighton went behind.
The Reading forwards set up a rolling maul close to the Leighton try line eventually wheeling the set piece for Second Row Charlie David to crash over. Fly Half Matt Smart kicked the conversion to give the visitors the lead.
Things got worse for the home side as Flanker Tom Byard was forced to leave the field with a chest injury. Dan Baroux took to the field as a ‘like for like’ replacement.
Any worries the home faithful may have had at the loss of physical advantage were soon dispelled as Payne took the game to the visitors, with pace and trickery providing a new dimension to The Buzzards play.
Now it was the home side who held the upper hand, and in the 33rd minute another lightening backs move saw centre Euan Irwin dive over the line for a try close to the posts. Branwhite kicked the conversion to give his side the lead. With no further additions, the half ended with the score 12-7 to Leighton.
Now with the wind and slope in their favour, Leighton were hopeful of adding to their advantage early in the second period. Indeed, it took only seven minutes for Centre Jack Whitehouse to emulate his partner, by rounding of another searing three quarter’s move. Branwhite kicked the conversion to stretch the home side’s lead.
It was then the visitors who were having to look to their substitute’s bench, no doubt the firm surface contributing to the injuries and regular ‘comings and goings’.
Home Fly Half Dan David was taking full advantage of the elements, his ‘siege gun’ boot sending the ball deep into visiting territory, causing the Reading defence to fall deeper and deeper.
This gave more space for the Buzzards to exploit, and in the 52nd minute following concerted pressure, Second Row Zak Tift broke away, and having been tackled, found Flanker Peter White on his shoulder to receive the pass and cross the whitewash. Branwhite added the extras to make it 26-7.
Buzzards were now rampant and only minutes later Scrum Half Charlie Esdon rounded off a superb performance by entering the line to race away from the visitor’s defence and score in the corner. Branwhite was wide with the conversion attempt.
Reading were not to be outdone. Managing to make a rare visit to Buzzard territory, continued pressure forced Graham Magill to transgress.
The referee took exception and showed him the yellow card. Not a good way for the home Full Back to end his one hundredth and final 1st XV performance. Newbury took full advantage with prop Steve Barney King mesmerising the home defence to score next to the posts.
With no further additions to the scoreline The Buzzards ended the game, and their season, with a fine victory by 31 points to 12.
Elsewhere Newbury narrowly beat Maidenhead, the Berkshire side edging Leighton into seventh place in the league table. However a place in the top half rounds off a very creditable season for Buzzards. The players and staff can now look forward to a well-earned rest.