Leighton Buzzard bounced back from five consecutive defeats with a comprehensive 39-5 thumping of Huntingdon on Saturday.
A brilliant second half performance at Wrights Meadow saw Buzzards overturn a tight 5-3 defecit into a bonus point victory, as their running game left the visitors chasing the game in more ways than one.
The opening minutes were typical of much of the half - Buzzards having the majority of possession but every time the ball was lost, Huntingdon would use the wind to kick it deep into Leighton territory.
The visitors missed a straightforward penalty after eight minutes but opened the scoring four minutes later when they crossed the line after many phases of forward driving play. The conversion was missed to leave the score 0-5, although a few minutes later a Darren Braybrook penalty brought the score back to 5-3.
While Leighton had opportunities during the half, the final pass went astray or they were held up over the line.
With the wind remaining strong, they knew that any lost ball would result in clearance kicks ending up to 80 metres away. Inevitably the visitors had their moments of pressure but rarely looked like adding to their total, leaving the half-time score 5-3.
Despite being behind, the home team half time talk was optimistic - the Buzzards now had the significant advantage of the wind - they also knew that they had played most of the rugby and the visitors’ main tactic of long kicks would no longer be possible.
With first team coach Tom Mowbray away, stand in coach Dave Chapman made the decision to move speedy centre Darren Braybrook to the wing and bring the additional physicality of Arran Perry into centre. Rarely can a tactical move have had such an immediate effect with the Buzzards backs now in rampant form.
Straight from the kickoff fly-half Jack Whitehouse made the initial break which was recycled for Euan Irwin to score.
Immediately from the restart the new centre partnership cut the visitors defence apart with Aaron Perry touching down. With the first try converted, Leighton were now 15-5 ahead just three minutes into the second half.
Despite the strength of the wind, the Buzzards were resisting the temptation to kick, preferring to keep the ball in hand and confident they could peg Huntingdon back in their own half.
Twenty minutes into the half Aaron Perry scored his second try, following a fine break and excellent sleight of hand from full-back Ollie Taylor. Darren Braybrook converted from the touchline to give Leighton a 22-5 lead.
The mobility and athleticism of the Buzzard pack was bringing an additional threat as the visitors’ larger pack tired. Reece Harris Smith, by now playing in the back row scored the fourth and bonus point try after a fine break from inside his own half by James Ward after 25 minutes.
Seven minutes later, second row replacement Owen Forsyth, who had an excellent cameo performance both in tight and loose play, finished a team move that passed through many hands.
Darren Braybrook converted both and then added a long penalty in the last minute to make the final score 39-5.
Buzzards move up two places to 11th in the league and next Saturday they travel to third-placed Kettering with renewed confidence.