PICTURES BY STEVE DRAPER
Leighton Buzzard lost their first home match in London 1 (North) league season against Old Haberdashers. However, as Buzzards had most of the possession, territory and opportunities, they will feel this was a game they should have won, writes Jon McDougal.
Having lost the toss, Leighton kicked off with the benefit of the slope.
Buzzards started confidently with good ball retention through several phases with play almost entirely in the opponents’ half.
The anticipated breakthrough came after only six minutes, when a well-judged kick from fly-half Tom Winch was collected by Ben Beaumont to score in the corner. With the difficult conversion missed, Buzzards led 5-0.
The lead would only last six minutes as Old Haberdashers levelled the score at 5-5 from a well-worked back-row move from their first scrum.
Two minutes later a superb break from Ben Beaumont appeared to have regained the lead but the last-ditch tackle from Old Haberdashers fullback had forced him to put a foot in touch. Near misses summed up much of the remainder of the following period of play.
Midway through the half a high tackle near to the corner ended a Buzzard attack illegally, with the referee judging that only a penalty was sufficient sanction.
Kicking the ball to the corner, Buzzards worked a set lineout move but were held up short. Shortly after, Leighton were adjudged to be held up over the line.
Whilst many of these near misses had an element of bad luck, perhaps the pressure of expectation of the home crowd was playing a part as Buzzards handling and choice of options fell below their normal standards.
In contrast to Leighton, Old Haberdashers were to make the most of their opportunities. With the last play of the half and on a rare excursion into Buzzard territory, a dropped ball was kicked ahead and grounded to give the away team an unlikely 5-10 lead at half time.
Much of the early part of the second half was played in midfield, although once again a last-ditch tackle after ten minutes prevented Ben Beaumont adding to his earlier try.
It was mid-way through the half before Old Haberdashers finally made it to the Leighton twenty-two.
Once again, they efficiently came away with points, with a penalty to extend the lead to 5-13.
Leighton did have encouragement from various breaks, with Felix Fisk, Tom Winch and Callum Strachan all prominent, but were unable to put a structure on a game that was becoming increasingly disjointed.
Finally, after a good team move, Owen Forsyth touched down to make the score 10-13, with ten minutes left.
Unfortunately, Leighton could not add to their score. With time running out and playing expansively out of defence, a kick was charged down and Old Haberdashers added a third try to make the final score 10-20 and denying Buzzards a losing bonus point.
Whilst their opponents were well organised, defended well and were clinical when opportunities arose, Buzzards will feel this was a game they should have won.
This Saturday Leighton are away at Chingford.