Leighton Buzzard tumbled back down to fifth in the table after a 48-22 defeat to league leaders Salisbury.
With just five points separating third and eight in South West 1 East, Buzzards are just three off third place despite the reverse.
Buzzards came into the game on the back of three victories, but while under constant pressure were competitive throughout, played some fine rugby in an excellent match and were unlucky to miss out on a bonus point.
Leighton lost the toss and kicked off with the benefit of a strong wind. Whilst Buzzards started brightly, it took only 4 minutes for a portent of what was to come.
The home team’s strong-running forwards breaking the Buzzards’ defensive line and then the quickly recycled ball was spread wide for a try in the right corner. With an excellent conversion the home side led 7-0.
A penalty from Geoff Branwhite pulled three points back after nine minutes.
However shortly afterwards the home side scored a similar try to their first – this time Buzzards lost their own scrum-ball and decisive breaks were made by the Salisbury back row.
Whilst last ditch defence halted the initial break, the quickly recycled ball was spread wide and the try scored on the right. With the conversion missed, Salisbury led 12-3
Buzzards were raising their game - the tackling improving, the pack refusing to take a step backwards and the backs showing moments of enterprise.
However it was the home side that scored next - Leighton were perhaps unfortunate as the Salisbury scrum had wheeled but play continued and the resulting try gave the home side a 17-3 lead with 25 minutes gone.
The response was almost immediate – Geoff Branwhite intercepting a Salisbury pass to sprint 60 metres to score out wide.
A further burst of Salisbury pressure led to their fourth try, which with the conversion, made the score 24-8. The last play of the half was an attempted drop goal by Lee Walker that the referee adjudged to have gone wide much to the surprise of the players and the spectators behind the posts. Half time 24-8.
Now playing into the wind things looked ominous. Only 8 minutes into the half the home side scored another fine try following a break from a line out and excellent interchange between forward and backs (31-8).
But Buzzards replied two minutes later with an excellent try of their own – following the initial break by Tom Byard, the ball was recycled for Jack Whitehouse to weave his way through under the posts. Branwhite converted to pull the score back to 31-15.
Having conceded the try, the home team once again raised their tempo – scoring two excellent tries in the 12th and 15th minutes - with one converted, the score 43-15.
Many sides would have buckled but Leighton are made of sterner stuff and continued to play their attacking game.
They were assisted by a Salisbury red card for a flurry of punches on skipper Euan Irwin – correctly awarded but an indiscretion out of keeping with the remainder of the game.
Buzzards worked their way back into the game and after 24 minutes a super break in midfield allowed Euan Irwin to score under the posts which, with Lee Walker’s conversion made the score 43-22.
With no realistic chance of winning the game, Buzzards had the target of a bonus point and 16 minutes to score it.
Whilst the expansive game continued, Salisbury’s skill and physicality added to the pressure and wrong options were taken when opportunities arose. It was from a ball turned over as Buzzards attacked from their 22 in the final play of the game that gave Salisbury the chance to add an eighth try to make the final score 48-22.
Buzzards slip to fifth place and next week welcome Windsor to Wrights Meadow.