Leighton Buzzard have slipped to eighth in the table after a nail-biting 28-24 defeat against Newbury Blues on Saturday.
The result sees Newbury climb into sixth, leapfrogging Leighton with just a game remaining in South West 1 East.
But returning to that sixth spot isn’t out of the question for Leighton, but it’ll be a big ask.
They take on ninth place Reading on the final day of the season, knowing they’ll need a maximum points haul, while relying on lowly Maidenhead to limit Blues. Trowbridge in seventh meanwhile have a game in hand and could spoil the party for both sides.
A last minute kick would ultimately be Leighton’s undoing on Saturday as they lost out in a thriller.
Ironically, only last gasp home defending denied centre Jack Whitehouse a score in the opening minute.
Buzzards were not to be denied and after only four minutes they opened the scoring.
Superb link play between Whitehouse and his centre partner Euan Irwin allowed full back Ollie Taylor to join the line and glide through under the posts. Fly Half Dan David was successful with the conversion.
Newbury responded in kind, their backs spreading the ball wide with full back Toby Thorne prominent.
Play was now in Leighton territory, the defence having to work hard.
The Blues were building attacks and in the eighteenth minute drew level when second row Josh Winfield finished off from close range. Fly Half Ritchie West added the extras.
The home side’s three quarters continued to play with a high tempo, only for this to prove their undoing. In the twenty fifth minute The Blues backs spread the ball once again only for Buzzards right winger Ben Beaumont to read their intentions, intercepting to score his first 1st XV try. David kicked the conversion to make the score 14 – 7 in the visitor’s favour.
The game was now end to end and in the thirty first minute Newbury levelled once more. Thorne scored the home side’s second try, with West converting.
On the stroke of half time Leighton regained the lead when Newbury were penalised for being offside and David, being successful with the penalty kick, brought the score at the interval to 17 – 14 in the visitor’s favour.
With the wind now at their team’s backs the sizeable home support may have anticipated rich pickings in the second half. However, it was the Bedfordshire side that struck the opening blow of the new period. In the forty sixth minute good work from the backs allowed winger Luke Stanbridge to score in the corner. David added the extras with a fine kick.
The game now became a battle for territory with the forwards more prominent. It was also more physical and heated, and in the fifty second minute after an unseemly coming together, home Number Eight Ryan Davis received a yellow card and ten minutes in ‘the bin’. Three minutes later, after another fracas, he was joined in the bin by one of his team mates, and Buzzard scrum half Ed Ratcliffe.
Newbury were now dominant and the visitors were going to need all hands on deck if they were to keep The Blues at bay. The sixty sixth minute provided the pivotal moment of the match. Having been restored to a full complement with the return of Ratcliffe, Leighton were instantly reduced to fourteen when Irwin received a yellow card for a ‘tip tackle’ on one of his opponents. A minute later Newbury scored a converted try to bring them within three points.
With two minutes remaining of the match The Blues’ numerical advantage told, Left Wing Steve Denner exploiting the space to score under the posts, and secure his side a bonus point win. West kicked the conversion to make the final score Newbury Blues 28 Leighton Buzzard 24, leaving the visitors with just one bonus point for their endeavours.
This was a fine game and although coming off second best, it was typical of what The Buzzards have come to expect from Level 6 rugby, with no quarter given or taken. With other results going against them Leighton has dropped down to eighth place in the league table.
Next week, in their final game of the season, The Buzzards take on Reading RFC at Wrights Meadow (KO 3pm) hoping for a win to round of what has been a good season, with a place in the top half.