Leighton Buzzard R.F.C is a Rugby Union club based in the English town of Leighton Buzzard in the county of Bedfordshire. They play at Wrights Meadow on Stanbridge Road, and currently play in Midlands 2 East.
Their promotion means the Club will also return to competing in the RFU Intermediate Cup.
Many of the founder members did not return from the hostilities and probably in consequence the club was not reformed until mid way through the season 1948/49. Several successful seasons of Rugby followed, with the club supported by local schools and locally based service personnel, but fell into decline and again was disbanded at the end of the 1955/56 season. Rugby during this immediate post-war period was played at the Capshill Meadow on the Hockliffe Road which is just big enough for one pitch.
The Club of today arguably owes its existence to the enthusiasm of a 19 year old Howard Ansdell who initiated the reforming of the Club in time for the 1958/59 season and to local businessman Geoff Wright who steered the Club into erecting its first Clubhouse in 1962 and in 1965 to the purchase of the Capshill Meadow ground. Proceeds from the sale of the ground in 1973 established the splendid facilities we now enjoy. The move to Stanbridge Road occurred at a time when the Town was expanding and with many new players available to the Club, was able to attract much stronger fixtures for its Senior XV.
The transformation of Cedars Grammar to a comprehensive did not stop the flow of good rugby players to the Club as Rugby remained the primary winter sport at the school. Thanks to Cedars, Leighton was always able to punch above its weight for a Club from a relatively small town. Each of the Club's 6 sides would always have a good representation of Old Cedarians.
The Club's golden period could be traced from the early-mid 80s to mid 90s. Prior to the R.F.U.'s implementation of a national League structure, the only measure of success for junior clubs like Leighton were the Cup competitions of the R.F.U. constituent county bodies. Winning your County Cup enabled a club to gain entry to the following season's National Knockout Cup and the chance to have a tilt at one of the big fish.
For Leighton this came in the shape of the East Midlands Cup for clubs based in Bedfordshire and Northants. In 1985-86, Paul Whiting became the first Buzzards skipper to lift the Cup when Peterborough were beaten in the Final. The draw for the following season's National Cup, then called the John Player Cup saw them paired with Birmingham, then a club on the cusp of first class status who were later to become Birmingham & Solihull R.F.C. and later still, the Pertemps Bees. Led by David Yirrell, Buzzards produced the upset of the round winning 20-11. Buzzards fell at the next hurdle to Lichfield but with confidence brimming the season culminated with the retention of the East Midlands Cup when Northampton Trinity were beaten at Franklin's Gardens.
The following season, 1987-88 the inaugural season of League rugby, saw Buzzards placed in Midlands Division 2 (East). They also made their second appearance in the John Player Cup as a result of their County Cup win. Again they conquered higher ranked opposition in the first round when Derby, then of National Division 4 (North), were beaten 10-7 in a close encounter at Stanbridge Road (the name Wright's Meadow was still to be coined). The 2nd Round draw paired them with first class opposition in the form of nearby Bedford Blues, again at home. Led by John Orwin who was to captain England later that season, and also including former and future Buzzard stalwarts in Pete Ellam and John Davidson, Bedford had to work hard to subdue a spirited Buzzards effort. Buzzards conceded just one try in a 24-6 defeat in front of probably the largest crowd to assemble at the ground. Later that season their attempt to land a hat-trick of East Midlands Cup wins was dashed at the last when they fell to Stockwood Park in the Final. A 5th place in their first League campaign was a disappointing return for a season that had started with such promise. However this disappointment was tempered slightly by the R.F.U.'s decision to expand the entry to the following season's National Cup, now to be called the Pilkington Cup, meaning that Leighton would be included as East Midlands Cup Runners-Up.
In 1998-99 with John Fraser now installed as skipper, the second season of League rugby was a successful one as they finished as champions of Midlands 2 (East) to bring about what became a five season stay in Midlands Division 1, the fifth tier of the National League structure. Their National Cup heroics didn't quite reach their previous heights as they made an 18-12 first round exit to Hereford.
In 1993-94 the Club suffered their first relegation dropping back into what was now Midlands Division 2 (the East/West split having been discarded) for 1994-95. In terms of silverware the Club now embarked on probably its most successful season. Under the captaincy of Ian Smith, the League title was secured with a win in the last-day winner-takes-all clash against Broadstreet at Wright's Meadow. Not only was there the League success but the Bedfordshire Cup was regained and the East Midlands Cup won for a third time with local rivals Stockwood Park vanquished in both Finals. Ample retribution after Stockwood had inflicted their sole League defeat.
There followed the Club's 60th Anniversary season which began with celebration matches against Aylesbury, who had been the Club's first opponents in 1934, and a London Wasps XV. The East Midlands Cup win of the previous April had also given them another Pilkington Cup excursion. Again they were paired with Birmingham & Solihull. Though this time they had home advantage, history was not to be repeated and their campaign faltered at the first hurdle as they went down 29-11. By now, with the League system having taken deep root very quickly, a Club's position within the League structure was now seen as all important with the Pilkington Cup now seen as a diversion, albeit a pleasant one with some kudos if early rounds could be successfully negotiated. Buzzards achieved their primary aim in their first season back in Midlands 1 by consolidating its place with a 10th place finish in the 13-team table.
The Club's most successful League campaign came in the 1997/98 when Carl Siddon led them to a mid-table finish in Midlands Division 1. The following season however saw a decline in playing strength and performance and inevitably relegation followed. The Club have not been in Midlands 1 since.
Today, the club fields 4 senior adult senior sides, in addition to this the club also field; Veterans (over 35's), a Colts XV and for the past 10 years a Ladies XV. The club relies heavily on developing players from within its own ranks and is very proud of its long established Mini/Junior section which currently boasts a membership of approximately 200 children aged between 5 and 17 years. Never having had a large benefactor may have meant that Buzzard's league position has slipped, but it has meant that the Club still belongs to the town and the members and retains the "Club feel".
Signs that their star may be in the ascendent once more came in 2006/07 when the Colts XV swept the board winning the East Midlands League and Cup competitions along with the Bedfordshire Cup. The side was captained by Ryan Fraser emulating his father John in lifting silverware in the name of LBRFC. It is hoped that a majority of those Colts players will filter into the senior setup and possibly bring on another era similar to that of the late 80s and early 90s. Back then however, Rugby Union was an amateur game. Buzzards only had to contend with Northampton Saints and Bedford to keep their players. Now in the "Open" era, the pendulum of playing strength and more tellingly, financial muscle, has swung so that Luton and Bedford Athletic for long the subordinates, are now also potential predators.
Still, from those humble beginnings in 1934 LBRFC now provides a sporting centre with which the Town has every right to be proud. However, as an organisation, fully aware that standing still is not an option, the Club's Committee are actively looking at ways of improving the facilities for the playing of sport and enjoyment of associated social activities.
R.F.U. Midlands Division 2 (East) Champions - 1988/89
R.F.U. MIdlands Division 2 Champions - 1994/95
East Midlands Cup Winners - 1985/86, 1986/87, 1994/95
East Midlands Referees Cup (Colts County Cup) Winners - 2006/07
East Midlands Colts League Champions - 2006/2007
The following players all had top level experience either before or after representing Leighton Buzzard.
Stuart Maxwell joined following a stint with Bedford Blues having played previously for New Brighton and Richmond. Brother of Andy, who won England caps between 1975 and 1978, Stuart notched up some notable achievements of his own. In 1972 he scored two tries for the North-West Counties in their historic 16-14 win over New Zealand at Workington, the first time an English regional side had beaten the All Blacks. In 1975 having moved on to Bedford, he bagged another touchdown against international opposition when representing the Southern Counties in their match against Australia at Aylesbury's Ostlers Field ground. He was also an accomplished Sevens exponent having been a member of the Richmond side that won the Middlesex Sevens in 1974 and 75.
Having completed two spells at Northampton Saints, John Surguy finished his career at the Club and continued his prolific points scoring displayed at Franklins Gardens and previously at junior level for nearby Bletchley. Through his time at both Clubs, Surguy had lived in Leighton and his town club was grateful he eventually made his way there. He featured prominently in the East Midlands Cup wins of 1986 and 1987.
Chris Gibbons, though never leaving the Leighton Buzzard club did score the achievement of representing East Midlands on more than one occasion in the annual Mobbs Memorial Match against the Barbarians. At the time it was extremely rare for a player outwith Northampton Saints and Bedford Blues to be invited into the East Midlands side for the match, especially if that player was plying his trade at a junior club. Gibbons was one of the very few to buck the trend.
Pete Ellam spent a number of seasons at Bedford Blues and was a regular during the latter's Centenary Season of 1985-86. He returned to Buzzards and was 1st XV captain in 1991-92.
John Davidson joined Buzzards from Bedford Blues in the season following Club's 1987-88 John Player Cup clash. An England "B" cap, Davidson had been a stalwart with Moseley for whom he played in the 1982 John Player Cup Final at Twickenham when the Midlanders shared the trophy with Gloucester after a 12-12 draw.
When it comes to international representation the Club can point to Bert Yirrell who when a member of the Club's Junior section represented England at Under-16 level. Meanwhile in one of Rugby Union's outposts, Neil Wise is the Club's only player to win senior international recognition. Having moved to the Grand Duchy with work in the late-90s, Wise has represented the Luxembourg national side on a number of occasions including Rugby World Cup qualifiers.