Second half woes cost Buzzards the victory

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Leighton Buzzard were left wondering what went wrong as they conceded 40 second half points to be routed by Grove 47-23.

Leading 18-7 at the break and comfortably on top, Buzzards looked in a great position to take victory against lowly Grove.

But their fortunes were dramatically different after the break as the home side ran riot, inflicting Buzzards’ heaviest defeat of the season.

Having narrowly beaten Grove at home back in November, Buzzards were hopeful of more success when they travelled to Oxfordshire.

On a sunny but breezy March day, the visitors opened the scoring in the tenth minute. Grove infringed at a ruck, and Winger Geoff Branwhite was successful with the resultant penalty kick.

Back came the home side five minutes later taking the lead with a try and conversion.

Almost immediately Branwhite reduced the arrears with his second successful penalty attempt.

Although Grove looked the more powerful unit, Leighton held the upper hand in the scrums. The line out was also working well, and it was no surprise when following superb backs play Branwhite rounded the home defence to score under the posts. The successful conversion took the score to 13-7 in the visitor’s favour.

The game was now really competitive with Leighton’s defence being tested. However, the back row, in particular Flanker Peter White were tackling for all they were worth. Half backs, Dan David and Charlie Esdon were linking well to supply the backs with enough ball to keep the home side on their toes.

In the 33rd minute Buzzards stretched their lead. Esdon chased a speculative kick ahead more in hope than expectancy. However, just as the ball looked certain to be cleared by the home winger, it took an evil bounce straight into the number nine’s hands for him to score in the corner. Branwhite was wide with the conversion attempt, leaving the half-time score 18–7 to Leighton.

The large travelling support were hoping that an early try or two in the second half would secure the victory, and their team would be heading home to Bedfordshire with the spoils.

However, things were not to be. Grove upped their game and their powerful, mobile pack started to make inroads into Leighton territory. Pressure was telling and skipper Nick Turney was sin binned for not retreating ten metres at a Grove penalty. The home side took advantage with their second try. Being down to 14 men was proving costly for the visitors, as Grove scored a push over try, and with the successful conversion took the lead.

Turney returned to the fray, but almost immediately Buzzards were back down to 14 when Centre Jack Whitehouse received a yellow card for being offside at a ruck.

In the period when their numerical advantage was restored Grange scored two more tries, securing both the result and the bonus point.

Grove were now running riot, adding another try and conversion, but in the last minute Esdon rounded off a defiant personal performance, with his second try, leaving the home side the victors by 47–23.

Leighton remain in sixth place in the league table. They now have a week off and will hope to get back to winning ways when they face in form Witney RFC at Wrights Meadow on March 21 at 3pm.