Rugby: Brave Buzzards finally downed!
LEIGHTON Buzzard’s brave survival fight was finally lost on Saturday when they were relegated because of winning one less game than rivals
Despite picking up a third win in four games by beating Kettering 13-10 on their own patch, Buzzards finished the Midlands 1 East season third from bottom and in the final relegation place as Spalding also managed a final day win.
Going into their respective games tied on points, the men from Wrights Meadow needed to better Spalding’s result against Ilkeston to complete the great escape.
However, despite producing another spirited display away at Kettering, the news from Lincolnshire wasn’t good as Spalding beat third placed Ilkeston 13-12 to stay above Buzzards in the final table.
Buzzards actually finish the campaign with a significantly better points difference than Spalding, but go down after winning only eight games.
And relegation will be hard to take for Buzzards, who not only finished the season very well, but kept up their end of the bargain with what would be considered an extremely impressive win at Kettering on any other day. However, on Saturday even a magnificent comeback wasn’t enough as Spalding scraped a dramatic victory of their own to deny Ilkeston a play-off place.
Buzzards started well with Dan David slotting over a drop goal in the first four minutes, much to the delight of a large travelling crowd.
The visitors were taking the Kettering team on up front and were attacking deep into the home side’s 22 when an intercepted pass was picked up and Kettering broke free to score the first try, converted to give them a 7-3 lead.
Buzzards fought back with runs from Tom Pratt and Olly Taylor cutting into the home defence, while their forwards were turning the screw in the scrums where the Kettering front row struggled all game.
After 22 minutes the home side were attacking down the right side of the pitch when Tom Byard was injured in a ruck and had to go off. The air ambulance was called in, but fortunately he was able to return home to Leighton and has made a quick recovery.
After the stoppage in play, Jon Henkes replaced Byard and the match continued with Kettering still on the attack. A penalty in front of the posts resulted in another easy three points for the hosts, leaving them 10-3 up at the break.
Buzzards’ task was made even harder at the start of the second half when another injury – this time to winger Graham Magill – forced them into a second change, with Carl Siddon coming on. That was followed by Elliot Swann coming on for Russell Cohen in a tactical switch.
And Buzzards slowly forced their way back into the game, starting to control the lineout and winning more and more ruck ball. A well worked line out move inside the home 22 area resulted in captain Andy Jenkins driving for the line, but his foot was adjudged out as he touched the ball down.
It looked like it was going to be one of those days, but the visitors responded to that well as they stole the resulting line out and after a series of rucks and drives Ryan Fraser went over for a try. David stepped up to convert and the teams were level at 10 apiece.
Knowing that a draw would not be enough, Buzzards went straight back on the attack to try and take the lead.
Now with their tails up, Buzzards fought their way into the 22 area yet again and were rewarded with a penalty in front of the posts five minutes from time.
David stepped up and coolly converted to give the visitors the lead, and they managed to see out the remaining minutes to pick up the four points they hoped would be good enough to confirm their survival.
It took almost half an hour for the news of Spalding’s equally dramatic victory against Ilkeston to filter through, meaning that despite the teams finishing level on 48 points, it’s the Lincolnshire side who stay up after winning one more game.
Buzzards director of rugby Carl Siddon was pleased to see the team go down with a fight, but couldn’t help but look back at so many of their missed opportunities during the season, not least their poor start that saw them remain bottom of the table for much of the campaign.
“We’ve ultimately gone down because of our bad start,” he said. “It’s a strange feeling to end the season in such good form but still go down.
“If we were going to be relegated then we wanted to go down showing that we didn’t really deserve to.
“To earn such a good win at Kettering and still be relegated is hugely frustrating. We had thought that if he won the game we would be all right, but it just wasn’t to be and you have got to give credit to Spalding.”
Buzzards will play Midlands 2 East rugby next season, but Siddon is hopeful that they will be good enough to bounce back at the first attempt. If they do it will be with a new captain, with Andy Jenkins making way for Ryan Fraser after two years of leading the side.
“It won’t be easy but we have proved these past few weeks that we’re still a good team and we should do well next season,” he said. “I think we’ll keep most of our team together and give it a really good go.”
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Weather for Leighton Buzzard
Sunday 19 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 18 C
Wind Speed: 15 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 10 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 17 mph
Wind direction: North