While Leighton Buzzard’s two late tries appeared mere consolation in their 47-24 defeat to Market Rasen on Saturday, their connotations could be huge heading into the final day of the season.
As Owen Forsythe and Darren Braybrook battled over the line in the final minute, Leighton secured a vital bonus point meaning, despite being on the losing side, they remained out of the Midlands 1 East relegation zone by that single point over Northampton Old Scouts.
It means, heading into the final game of the season on April 22, Leighton simply have to match Old Scouts’ result to ensure their safety in the division, but it will be no mean feat.
While Northampton take on league whipping boys Ilkeston, Buzzards take on Melton Mowbray who sit a comfortable sixth in the table.
The last minute fireworks against Market Rasen though put a gloss on an otherwise poor second half performance against the Lincolnshire outfit.
Leighton almost took the lead after three minutes when a Lee Walker penalty bounced off the posts.
However, eight minutes later, and following good play and ball retention through a number of phases, Wills Messum opened the scoring. The try was converted by Lee Walker to give Buzzards an early 7-0 lead.
Moments later, Leighton were almost in again, but were unable to capitalise on a superb 50 metre break by Zak Tift but slowly the home side were becoming more dangerous.
Whilst the Buzzard lineout was working well, the scrum was coming under increasing pressure from the Market Rasen forwards and, after 23 minutes the home side equalised the score with a converted try.
Five minutes later Buzzards retook the lead, perhaps slightly fortuitously. A Market Rasen kick was completely missed on halfway but the bounce took the ball away from the chasing home side and straight to Buzzard centre Mike Robert. He made good ground before delivering the try-scoring pass to Darren Braybrook. Once again the attempted kick bounced off the posts to leave Leighton 12-7 ahead.
Market Rasen hit back almost straightaway scoring an unconverted try two minutes later. There remained time for Buzzards to miss a straightforward penalty attempt so the half–time score was 12-12.
The second half started in disastrous fashion for Leighton – straight from the kickoff Market Rasen made a decisive break and, whilst this was eventually stopped, the re-cycled ball allowed the hosts to score under the posts. Less than a minute of the second half had been played. After a slightly disjointed first-half performance, Market Rasen were now playing with speed and width. With only five minutes of the half completed, they scored another fine try. With both tries converted, the score was 26-12.
Despite securing limited possession and, with the home side looking almost constantly threatening, Leighton did have their moments; such as Arran Perry’s decisive break from inside his half resulting in Zak Tift being held up just short of the try line. However, Market Rasen were rampant and scored a further try from a lineout and another swift move brought a try in the corner. Both were converted to give Market Rasen a 40-12 lead. Their final try appeared to sum up Buzzards’ day - an excellent break by captain Euan Irwin had got him to within 5 metres of the line – what would have been the try-scoring pass was intercepted for the home side to run the whole length of the pitch – 47-12.
Whilst knowing they had played poorly, this Buzzard side show considerable spirit in adversity. Finally, in the last minute of the game debutant second row, Owen Forsythe powered over to score. Realising that if they took the conversion there would be no time to restart the game, Leighton waived the opportunity to kick.
As a result the game started for one final play. From deep in their own half the ball was transferred for Darren Braybrook to out-sprint the defence to score Buzzards’ fourth try and, in doing so, secure the bonus point, despite the 47-24 scoreline.
Buzzards slip to 11th but the last ditch bonus point means the continuing relegation battle remains in their hands.
With other results not going their way, Leighton will almost certainly need to win their final match, and possibly with a bonus point, at home to Melton Mowbray on Saturday April 22 to secure their position in Midlands 1 East.