The visitors had brought a significant number of supporters and this, coupled with Ladies rugby prior to the game, added to a vibrant end of season atmosphere at Wrights Meadow.
Buzzards kicked off uphill and into a strong breeze. The Leighton scrum was proving dominant, winning the ball against the head and several penalties. It was from one of these scrum penalties that Will Batchelor drove over to open the scoring, halfway through the half.
Eddie Wiggins put in a try-saving tackle after 28 minutes. Then Leighton‘s captain, Jacob Murtagh, was shown the first of three yellow cards for Buzzards and centre Lewis Morgan had to be helped from the pitch with a serious leg injury.
Belsize Park levelled the score in unusual circumstances, with the final play of the half. The visitors had kicked long and the ball had been grounded by Buzzard fullback Ben Beaumont, meaning the play would be re-started with a goal line drop out.
Unlike a 22 drop out, a goal-line drop out has to go at least five metres. So, when a deliberately short kick failed to go this distance, the visitors were awarded an attacking scrum from which they scored. If there was an element of good fortune in the try, this was counterbalanced by a gust blowing the ball off the tee preventing what appeared to be a straightforward conversion. At the time it was not appreciated how significant the kick would be; leaving the halftime score 5-5.
The second half started with both sides showing attacking intent, but it was the visitors who took the lead. Leighton had just gone down to 14 men with a yellow card to Ryan Eaton. From the quick tap penalty close to the Buzzard line, the referee accidentally got in the way of a couple of Buzzard defenders, providing a clearer route to the line, leaving Buzzards trailing 5-12.
It took Leighton seven minutes to pull level. Once again, the scrum dominance was vital – winning the ball against the head gave scrumhalf Jack Cullen the opportunity to break and, when he was tackled just short, he popped the ball up for Jacob Murtagh to score. Ollie Taylor converted for 12-12.
Whilst Buzzards had possession, they failed to make the most of the wind. Belsize Park were now playing with an increased confidence and the pressure told when they scored their final try, shortly after Owen Forsythe had received Buzzard’s third yellow card.
With only five minutes to go, Leighton trailed 12-19. However, with the clock well into the red, Ben Beaumont scored in the corner. On a difficult day for kickers, up stepped Ollie Taylor to convert. Both sides will think they could, and perhaps should, have won, so perhaps a draw was a fair result.
With the league season completed, this weekend Buzzards play away against Bedford Athletic in the Beds Cup Final.