Leighton Buzzard will be hoping to round out their disappointing season on a positive note when they play in the Bedfordshire Cup final against Bedford Athletic.
Saturday’s 24-12 defeat at home to Wellingborough rounded out their five-year stay in Midlands 1 East, finishing 12th of 14 teams and suffering relegation.
However, there is still a chance for the side to finish the campaign with some silverware when they take on Athletic under the floodlights at Wright’s Meadow on Thursday night. Kick off for the cup final is at 8pm.
Their five-year spell in level six rugby came to a disappointing end with a 24-12 defeat at home by Wellingborough.
With conditions ideal for running rugby and nothing but pride to play for, an entertaining match was anticipated. Unfortunately, it was a poor, bad tempered game, dominated by the referee’s whistle.
The first quarter of the match was played in midfield with neither side looking like scoring. After only five minutes, both sides received a yellow card, including Buzzard player-coach Tom Mowbray, following a scuffle as a reaction to a Wellingborough tip-tackle.
Midway through the half, Leighton skipper, Jack Whitehouse received a yellow card for an adjudged high tackle, when the visitors’ player appeared to have slipped moments before the challenge. Buzzard’s sense of injustice was not helped by the referee missing a Wellingborough head-butt shortly thereafter.
However as the game wore on, Wellingborough were in the ascendancy with the game primarily being played in the Buzzard half. Moments before Leighton were back to full strength, Wellingborough slipped a tackle to score close to the posts. With the conversion successful, Buzzards trailed 7-0 after half an hour.
Wellingborough took a firm grip of the game in the last couple of minutes of the half. Firstly their scrum-half jinked over – with the conversion successful and then a penalty shortly afterwards, the half time score was 17-0.
Leighton started the second half with increased determination with Ashley Walsh, Harry Charter and Raef Braithwaite all prominent in breaks early in the half.
After 11 minutes Buzzards came close to scoring when the pack drove towards the line only for the ball to be knocked on at the vital moment.
Despite this extra speed to the Buzzard game, Wellingborough were controlling much of the game - whenever the ball was lost or a penalty conceded, the experienced Wellingborough fly-half would pin Buzzards back with long angled kicks.
The visitors also took their opportunities – halfway through the half they reacted quickly to a Buzzard scrum loss to score their third try to make it 24-0.
Over an hour into the game Buzzards did manage to score with James Brett dummying to make space to dive over. Brett converted his own try to cut the lead to24-7.
Shortly after an excellent break from full back Harri Sayer made space for winger Felix Fiske but he was well-tackled by the last defender.
Two further yellow cards for Kieran Turney and Ashley Walsh in the last ten minutes reduced Buzzards to thirteen men. Perhaps it says much for Buzzards “never say die” attitude that they scored their second try when two men short - a delicate James Brett chip was collected and touched down by Mike Robert to leave the final score 24-12.