Ducks strengthen play-off hopes with bonus-point win over Thatcham

Cory Neighbour goes over. Picture: MarkBannisterPhotography.com
Cory Neighbour goes over. Picture: MarkBannisterPhotography.com

Aylesbury strengthened their grip on the promotion play-off place in the Southern Counties North after a 36-12 win over Thatcham on Saturday.

With Reading Abbey now confirmed as champions, the Ducks are battling with local rivals Buckingham for second spot which sees teams entered into a promotion play-off game at the end of the season.

This 36-12 win over Thatcham maintains Aylesbury’s five-point lead with two games to go.

Head coach Dave Larham said: “We started slowly and probably lacked intensity due to a lacklustre pre-match preparation for the game.

“With several changes made to the team, it took us too long to find our way and establish our patterns.

“At half-time, with the score at 7 - 7 I felt the warning signs were obvious for us to up our game and play to our strengths. With a slight change to our tactical approach, and key positional changes, I thought we played well and turned possession and pressure into tries.

“There were some good individual second half performances, but I’d have to single out Luke Walmsley for his outstanding display throughout the 80 minutes. The game was marred by a knee injury to our captain Adam Moore and I hope the 36 - 12 win wasn’t at the expense of losing one of our key influential players. At the business end of the season, losing Adam could seriously test the depth of our squad.”

Thatcham withstood some early Ay’s pressure with winger James Woodcock only denied an early try by a last-ditch tackle that took him into touch.

Liam d’Almeida then had a try disallowed as Aylesbury grew frustrated, however they were finally rewarded for their dominance when James Woodfall skipped over in the corner to get his side motoring.

Woodfall added the extras but the lead didn’t last long as a converted try brought Thatcham back level at half-time.

However, it was on the second half when Aylesbury upped their game and really asserted themselves as D’Almedia put the Ducks back in front with a second try before Cory Neighbour crashed over the try line.

Woodfall’s conversion put the visitors 19-7 ahead and they went further clear when centre Nicky Mercer crossed for the crucial fourth and bonus-point try that Woodfall again converted.

Mike Durose then finished with a flourish when scoring two late tries before Thatcham had the final say with a last-minute consolation try.

Aylesbury enjoy a week off from the league before they host Swindon College Old Boys on the April 16.

It was a good day all round for Aylesbury as the 2nd XV recorded a 20-5 win over Thatcham 2nd XV at Ostler’s Field whilst the 3rd XV won their league game 31-0 away at Reading.