Leighton Buzzard’s six year spell in Midlands 1 East came to an end on Saturday as a try two minutes from time saw second placed Paviors claim a 33-27 victory.
Despite a string of spirited performances of late, Leighton and Paviors swapping the lead seven times. But Leighton were dealt late heartbreak when they conceded the decisive try with two minutes remaining on the clock, confirming their drop.
As Paviors had travelled from Nottinghamshire without their kit, Leighton lent them reserve yellow shirts. So, as the visitors kicked off downhill but into a strong wind, there was the unusual sight of both teams in Buzzard shirts.
The early stages were evenly contested with strong running from the visitors whilst Leighton used the wind to good effect. It was Buzzards who took a 3-0 lead with a Jack Whitehouse dropped goal after 11 minutes.
Ten minutes later Paviors took the lead as the ball squirted out from a Buzzard scrum and the visitors reacted first to crash over. With the conversion missed, Buzzards trailed 5-3.
Buzzards retook the lead briefly after half-an-hour. A brilliant break by man of the match, Harri Sayer, carved open the visitors defence. Drawing the last man , he passed to supporting James Brett to score. Brett converted his own try to make the score 10-5.
The lead was only to last three minutes – a forward drive to the line was illegally stopped and the referee awarded a penalty try leaving Buzzards trailing 12-10.
Additionally, veteran flanker Ross Bevan was shown a yellow card for the offence. Despite the enforced period with 14 men, Buzzards attacked again initially through Reece Harris Smith.
When the recycled ball was transferred to midfield, captain, Jack Whitehouse, jinked his way through to score by the posts. Rather carelessly James Brett’s attempted conversion hit the post to leave the half-time score 15-12.
Leighton extended the lead 11 minutes into the second half. A loose ball in the Paviors defence was kicked through and Jack Whitehouse won the race to touch down for his second try and extend the lead to 20-12.
Buzzards threatened to extend this lead – another break by Harri Sayer was transferred to centre Eddie Wiggins who was tackled just short. However Paviors are pushing for promotion in a competitive league so inevitably there was also a continuing threat.
After 20 minutes their third try cut the lead to a single point at 20-19 and then, ten minutes later, scored again to take the lead at 26-20.
Many sides might have folded but not this inspired Buzzard team. With five minutes left Dami Adebayo made the telling break down the left wing and, judging his pass to perfection, gave Eddie Wiggins a clear run to the line.
Wiggins though was aware that the conversion would be needed to take the lead and had the presence of mind to beat a covering defender to score under the posts. James Brett nervelessly kicked the conversion to put Buzzards ahead 27-26.
Good side that they are, Paviors attacked again. After an initial thrust, the ball was kicked through towards the corner.
Despite the whole home crowd willing the ball into touch, it agonisingly stayed just in field allowing a touch down for the wining try. With the splendid conversion from the touchline the final score was 33-27.
Despite two bonus points, this result confirms Leighton’s relegation after five seasons of level-six rugby.
However the recent improvements of this young side pushing two high flying sides closely in successive weeks, bodes well for the remainder of the season and next year as well.
With no fixture next week, Buzzards return to league action away at Peterborough in two weeks.