Leighton Buzzard lost ground to the teams ahead of them after a narrow 21-17 defeat to Swindon on Saturday.
Leighton fancied their chances after beating Newbury Blues last weekend - a result which allowed Swindon to leap-frog them into fourth.
Fourth placed Swindon kicked off and immediately put the visitors under pressure. With line outs gained from penalties close to the Leighton line, the home side caught and drove seeking an early advantage. Despite repeated attempts Leighton’s defence stood firm and eventually escaped from their own twenty two.
After soaking up the early pressure, in the 15th minute The Buzzards had an opportunity to take the lead. Swindon were punished for offside, but Fly Half Dan David was wide with the penalty kick. However, the visitors had only to wait two further minutes before opening the scoring. Flanker Wills Messum secured the ball from a line out close the Swindon line, the pack set up a driving maul which allowed skipper Nick Turney to touch down. David’s conversion attempt hit the post.
Six minutes later Leighton extended their lead. Buzzards No. 8 Tom Byard picked up from the back of a scrummage close to the home line and, bouncing off challenges, dived over the whitewash. The conversion attempt was unsuccessful.
Despite going behind Swindon were taking the game to the visitors and had much the better of the middle period of the half. Indeed in the thirty fourth minute their No. 8 sliced through some less than convincing tackling to open the home account. The conversion was successful.
Two minutes before half time The Buzzards were reduced to fourteen men, Hooker Greg Falcon being shown a yellow card for an illegal tackle.
The sides went into the interval with all to play for, Leighton leading by ten points to seven.
That lead was not to last long. With only two minutes of the half elapsed, the visitors seemed to have learnt little from the way in which they conceded the first try, with the Swindon Number 8 waltzing though the Buzzard defence to score under the posts. With the successful conversion attempt, the home side now lead by fourteen points to ten.
There was little to choose between the sides, with the most notable Leighton attack led by Byard who, from inside his own half, exploited space wide right, only to run out of legs and support as he entered the opposition twenty two.
In the 73rd minute Swindon scored what was to be the decisive try. Ironically it came from a Buzzard attack which ended when they kicked the ball ahead, only for the home side to return with interest. With a cruel twist, just as the ball was heading for the sanctuary of the touch line it took a wicked bounce infield, allowing Swindon to kick ahead and touch down. The home fly half kicked the conversion.
Without really looking likely, Leighton could have secured the points. With four minutes remaining the backs set up a trade mark attack, the ball ending in the hands of right winger Arran Perry, who with the try line beckoning, knocked on. Undaunted, in the final minute of the game, with an almost identical attack, this time Perry made no mistake, scoring in the corner. David kicked the conversion.
Unfortunately, it was all too little, too late, at the final whistle Swindon running out winners by twenty one points to seventeen. The bonus point Leighton secured allowed them to move within three points of fifth placed Newbury Blues. However, with Trowbridge winning at home to Devizes they moved to within four points of Buzzards.