Leighton Buzzard look to have their season back on track with a comprehensive win over Ilkeston on Saturday.
The 43-27 was Leighton’s fourth win out of the last five matches in Midlands 1 East, having lost four in a row at the start of the campaign.
Sam Richbell was the star of the show for the visitors as he completed a hat-trick as Leighton’s pack dominated proceedings. In all, the seven tries Leighton scored guided them to their bonus point victory, a result which moves them up to ninth in the table.
Skipper Euan Irwin maintained his 100 per cent record in winning the toss and chose to play uphill and against the wind in the first half.
Once again the Buzzards started poorly, with missed tackles allowing Ilkeston to score in the corner with their first attack.
The referee awarded the try despite the touch-judge’s raised flag and with an excellent conversion the home side were 7 -0 ahead in less than two minutes.
Leighton slowly worked their way back into the game and, from a Luke Stanbridge break after seven minutes, the ball was recycled and spread wide for winger Reece Harris-Smith to score in the corner. The conversion was missed and shortly afterwards the home side extended their lead to 10-5 with a penalty.
However the Buzzards hard-running forwards were now breaking the gain line on a regular basis. After 20 minutes Ryan Fraser made the original break and following a couple of phases, prop Ashley Walsh broke clear to score the Buzzards second try.
Whilst the conversion from Ollie Taylor put Leighton ahead, moments later a contentious penalty allowed the home team to regain the lead 13-12.
In the last 15 minutes of the half the Buzzards power game was taking control. Sam Richbell crossed the line but was adjudged to have made a double movement but the pack was now camped in the Ilkeston 22. The home side conceded numerous five-metre penalties – a penalty try looked a distinct possibility although, inexplicably, there was not even a yellow card. In the end the dam broke just before half time with Sam Richbell scoring a try for the fourth consecutive match to make the score at the break 17-13.
Now with the advantages of slope and wind, the Buzzards made a confident start to the second half. Full-back Lee Walker took an excellent catch on half–way and made a decisive break allowing centre Arran Perry to score the bonus point try which, with Taylor’s conversion gave the Buzzards a 24-13 lead.
Shortly afterwards Richbell was harshly given a yellow card – one of four – two for each side - that the referee gave in a twelve minute period.
However the enforced ten minute break for Leighton’s no.8 made little difference to the Buzzard pack’s control, with Ryan Fraser crashing over following a scrum after nine minutes to extend the lead to 29-13.
Ilkeston continued to show ambition in running the ball and in a rare excursion in the Buzzard 22 crashed over from a five-metre penalty which with the conversion brought the score back to 29-20.
Irked by conceding the try, the Buzzard pack took full control. With 19 year-old tight-head Patrick Fraser giving the scrum absolute solidity, Leighton secured two push-over tries in 27th and 30th minutes – Richbell touching down on both occasions. Taylor’s conversions gave Buzzards a convincing 43-20 lead.
Despite being well beaten, Ilkeston showed commendable spirit and skill in scoring a further try in the left hand corner, which, with another fine conversion, left the final score 43-27.