Brilliant Buzzards are Midlands champions - just one more win from Twickenham
Victory over Malvern earns national semi-final spot - when games resume after Coronavirus crisis
PICTURES BY STEVE DRAPER - REPORT BY JOHN McDOUGAL
Leighton Buzzard booked their place in the national semi-finals of the RFU Intermediate Cup after a historic 32-16 win over Malvern at Wright’s Meadow.
Despite playing most of the game with 14 men, Buzzards kept their dreams of a Twickenham final alive in front of a 600-strong crowd by becoming Midlands champions.
In front of a noisy and good–natured 600-strong crowd, Leighton Buzzard delivered their best performance of the season to defeat a spirited and talented Malvern side to become RFU Midlands Intermediate Cup Champions.
With a dominant pack, fierce tackling and speed and vision in attack, this was close to a complete team performance.
Malvern kicked off uphill but with the benefit of the breeze and took an early lead with a penalty. But sharp handling soon put Euan Irwin clear to score in the corner. The home crowd’s early optimism took a blow after just 14 minutes when Irwin as shown a very harsh red card for a high tackle. It came as a complete surprise to everyone on the ground, except the two officials. However, Leighton were determined that this was to be their day, who thereafter tackled as if their lives depended on it.
Buzzards prop Russ Orr Burns, added a second try following a 20 metre driving maul, 10-3. Eddie Wiggins, Harri Sayer and Ash Walsh all made try-saving tackles in a strong period for the visitors, who just added a penalty.
A brilliant break by Eddie Wiggins and quick recycling put James Pratt clear to score Leighton’s third try for 15-6 at half-time.
A Ewan Starling penalty stretched the lead, however Malvern drove over from a maul for 18-11.
With the game in the balance a two-try burst put Buzzards firmly in control.
Firstly, a drive from the ubiquitous Ash Walsh led to a try by Eddie Wiggins. Secondly, a brilliant diagonal kick from Ewan Starling had resulted in a visitors’ line-out and Jon Henkes swooped on the loose ball. Starling’s conversion put Leighton 32-11 up.
Buzzards ensured all seven replacements got cup final game time as Malvern scored a fine try late on. Credit to two fine sides producing a hugely entertaining game.
There were scenes of jubilation at the final whistle on a great day in Buzzard history. Congratulations to every player and head coach Tom Mowbray and his coaching staff for not only organising tactics and skills but instilling a belief and team spirit that proved vital.
The national semi -final will be against Yorkshire side, Old Brodleians at Wrights Meadow on April 11, with a place in the final at Twickenham for the winners.
Next week Buzzards return to league duty, hosting Market Bosworth, the only side to have beaten them this year.