Buzzards fight for fourth

Ed Payne scores for Leighton
Ed Payne scores for Leighton

Leighton Buzzard returned to winning ways on Saturday as they brushed Devizes aside 32-18 at Wrights Meadow.

Having lost last weekend to leaders Chippenham, Buzzards were keen to get back into the running for fourth spot.

And their bonus point win over Devizes sees them move to within three points of Swindon in fourth, in a four-way battle.

Having triumphed over The Saddlebacks on their visit to Wiltshire back in November, the relative league positions of the two teams might suggest that Buzzards could be hopeful of further success against their visitors.

It was a day of achievements on Saturday as Leighton Back Row forward Dan Baroux ran out for his 200th Ist XV appearance, whilst at the other end of the spectrum, Academy product Ben Beaumont eagerly anticipated his first.

On the Devizes side, President Chris Combe, obviously not trusting the reliability of the team coach, decided to cycle the near ninety miles between the two towns.

Buoyed by their recent victory over Grove RFC, Devizes kicked off with the slope in their favour. However, Buzzards, anxious to shed their recent ‘slow start’ habit, had their opponents where they wanted them, and after only two minutes, pressure told.

A penalty awarded by the referee for offside at the ruck, was converted by Winger Geoff Branwhite to give the home side the lead. Branwhite increased the lead four minutes later scoring a try following good work from the backs. The conversion attempt was wide.

Buzzards were now on top, but try as they might, over eagerness and dogged Saddlebacks defence frustrated their attempts to stretch the lead. Indeed their frustration boiled over on eighteen minutes, Centre Euan Irwin yellow carded for offside at a ruck. Visiting Fly Half Rory Brown, successful with the resultant penalty kick, opened the visitor’s account.

The action was now all in midfield as both sides sought to take control, Devizes belying their lowly league position. However their cause was not helped in the twenty ninth minute when they were reduced to fourteen men, No. 8 James Gaiger sent to the bin for an offence at a ruck.

Drawing encouragement from their first half performance the Saddlebacks were first to strike in the second half. Having worked themselves into a good central position, the ball was spun back to Brown who capitalised on his pack’s endeavours with a well struck dropped goal attempt.

But the visitors’ renewed hopes were dealt a blow when captain Julian Taylor was forced to leave the field following a heavy knock.

Buzzards capitalized in the 53rd minute when winger Luke Stanbridge scored to finish off a slick backs move. Branwhite was successful with the conversion to further increase the home side’s lead.

Four minutes later Branwhite scored his second try to make the score 20-6.

If Leighton thought it was all over, they were brought abruptly down to earth in the 61st minute, Brown slicing through the home defence to score under the posts. The number 10 also kicked the conversion.

Stung by this latest reverse, back came Buzzards, the pack now exerting pressure on the visitors defence. This eventually told, Flanker Tom Byard diving over to secure the bonus point and put the Buzzards back in control... or so they thought.

With only two minutes remaining Devizes broke down the right giving winger Steve McCraith the opportunity to exploit some less than tenacious home tackling, to bring his side back within a converted try of levelling the match.

However, their efforts were to be in vein as in the last minute Hooker Ed Payne crashed over in the corner, Branwhite successful with the conversion to leave Leighton victorious by 32-18.

This performance against a determined Devizes side consolidated Leighton’s sixth place league position.