Irwin wins it for Leighton

Euan Irwin. Pic: Steve Draper
Euan Irwin. Pic: Steve Draper

Euan Irwin’s try at the death snatched victory from the jaws of defeat for Leighton Buzzard as they beat Witney 17-15 on Saturday.

Leighton only led for a handful of minutes at the end, but it was enough to see off their rivals for sixth place, while closing the gap to Newbury Blues ahead.

Buzzards kicked off but it was the home side that replied forcing their way into the visitor’s twenty two and gaining a lineout close to the try line.

From the resultant catch and drive Witney second row Charlie Bennett bundled over to open scoring on three minutes. The conversion was missed.

Leighton replied with strong runs from the three quarters but the home side’s defence stood firm. However, after twenty two minutes it was Witney who extended their lead. Turning over Buzzard ball they put together an attack winning good ruck ball ending with neat handling to put left winger Ben Fisk in at the corner. Again the conversion was unsuccessful.

Six minutes later the home side were to suffer a cruel blow, Flanker Carl Campbell sustaining a serious leg injury. Play was held up for fifteen minutes whilst he received medical attention, later to be stretchered from the field and onwards to hospital. Everybody at Leighton Buzzard RFC sends their best wishes to Carl for a speedy recovery.

Play resumed under lights, with the home side reduced to fourteen men, Centre Henry Lamb having incurred the Referee’s displeasure. From the resultant penalty The Buzzards kicked for the corner to secure a lineout.

Unfortunately the ball was stolen from the throw, Witney cleared, and the opportunity was wasted.

The half ended with Witney leading 10-0.

The home side got the second half under way, and it wasn’t long before their powerful pack exerted pressure on Buzzards defence, forcing their way into the visitor’s twenty two.

From a Witney scrummage close to the Leighton line the ball was spun across the back line to find Fisk who scored his second try, touching down in the corner. Again the conversion was missed.

Leighton continued to press without being able to penetrate the home defence. With twenty minutes to go it was time to ring the changes. From the interchange bench Elliott Swann, Dan Baroux and Luke Stanbridge joined the fray.

With seventeen minutes to go, losing 15–0, the omens did not look good for Buzzards. However, sticking to their plan of keeping the ball in hand they finally penetrated the visitors defence, Stanbridge finishing off a trademark backs move scoring in the corner. David missed the conversion.

From the kick off Leighton returned to the home twenty two forcing the home side to concede penalty. Opting to kick for the points which would secure a bonus point, David’s kick was wide of the uprights.

Leighton’s pack was now dominant and causing problems for Witney.

With five minutes to go home Number Eight Rich Haire was yellow carded for punching an opponent.

From the resultant penalty Buzzards kicked for the corner, secured the ball from the lineout, set up a driving maul for Baroux to emerge from a pile of bodies with the successful touch down.

On not a good afternoon for the kickers David was again unsuccessful with the conversion.

Leighton were now totally dominant, Witney giving away penalties, scrum half Ed Ratcliffe taking quick taps, and from one ten metres out he set up skipper Euan Irwin to crash through two defenders to score under the posts.

Scores level – a conversion to come, which, if successful, as the last play of the game, would give Buzzards the spoils.

This time David made no mistake to seal the two extra points and secure the narrow 17-15 victory.

Next week, Buzzards have a week off, but play Maidenhead on December 6.