Leighton Buzzard picked up a much-needed victory over Wellingborough to get their Midlands 2 East (South) campaign back on track on Saturday.
The 39-26 win could not have come at a more apt time, with more than 100 former players in attendance.
But the home side left it late to take the vital bonus point win, scoring three tries in the last 13 minutes to down Wellingborough.
Following a minute’s silence in memory for Club stalwart Chris Pearson, who passed away during the week, Leighton kicked off, and immediately fashioned a break through centres Arran
Perry and Mike Robert to force a penalty, converted by Jordan Marshall to give Buzzards a 3-0 lead after three minutes.
However, whether it was the emotion of the day or the expectation of the crowd, Leighton appeared lacklustre and unable to put together a number of phases of play.
It was of little surprise that Wellingborough took the lead, courtesy of an excellent individual try by their left winger, after 15 minutes to lead 7-3.
Buzzards were now conceding too many penalties, particular at the breakdown allowing Wellingborough to add to their score in the 22nd and 31st minutes to lead 13-3.
However Leighton received a timely boost immediately prior to half-time, when captain Mike Lynch secured turnover ball on half-way and released speedy full back Ben Beaumont to score under the posts to leave the half-time score 13-10.
Coach Tom Mowbray’s half-time plan was to engage less at the breakdown to reduce the penalty count and to back the speed of the Buzzard running game.
Despite these wise words, the second half could not have started worse. Initially securing the ball from the kick-off , the ball was spread into midfield but lost, allowing Wellingborough to kick through and score under the posts. Less than a minute of the second half had been played and Buzzards now trailed 20-10.
However, it only took Leighton four minutes to reduce the deficit. Kicking a penalty to the visitors’ twenty-two, the resulting line-out was won and the forwards drove the maul over from 20 metres with Mike Lynch touching down. Marshall’s conversion pulled the score back to 20-17.
A long but straight penalty allowed Wellingborough to extend their lead (17-23) but again Buzzards responded quickly. The kick off was expertly taken on the run by Reece Harris-Smith and possession recycled through the phases for Mike Lynch to score his second try. The conversion was missed to leave Buzzards just a point behind at 23-22.
With eighteen minutes of the half gone, Buzzard prop Ashley Walsh high-tackled a Wellingborough player – the referee called penalty, with many expecting a yellow card to follow.
However a Wellingborough second row rained punches on Walsh as he was stuck on the ground and was rightly sent off.
But when a further assailant came forward, Walsh was unluckily adjudged to have retaliated and was also sent off.
Buzzards mobile pack and fast backs were now beginning to dominate- from a lineout the ball was spread wide for right winger Raef Braithwaite to score Leighton’s fourth and bonus point try. Marshall’s conversion gave Buzzards the lead at 29-26.
Two further tries after good phases of play, for Ben Beaumont and Mike Robert gave Buzzards a final victory by 39-26.
Next week Leighton entertain Lincolnshire side Market Rasen and Louth at Wright’s Meadow,