Aylesbury RFC kept their promotion bid on course after a 20-12 bonus-point win away at in-form Bicester on Saturday.
Bicester had catapulted themselves into promotion contention having won five straight games, but Aylesbury edged a tight affair to come away with all five points and remain second in the Southern Counties North.
Afterwards, head coach Dave Larham said: “We had to work hard for every point and were perhaps fortunate to gain the four-try bonus-point, but we did edge a battling encounter against strong opposition.
“With High Wycombe and Royal Wootton Bassett both recording bonus-point wins, we have maintained our promotion chances and secured a precious away win against a Bicester team that had won their previous five league games.”
The Ducks played up a slope and into a bitterly cold wind in the first half, but within minutes they were ahead when a well-worked backs move ended with Mike Durose crossing for an early try.
James Woodfall missed the difficult conversion from out wide, but Aylesbury soon increased their lead when Man of the Match Cory Neighbour used his strength to drive over the Bicester line and touch down for a second unconverted try.
However, despite leading 10-0, Aylesbury often found themselves under pressure from Bicester in what was proving to be a tight and tense encounter and the home side were rewarded for their good play with two tries in quick succession to take a 12-10 lead into half-time.
Although Ay’s had the advantage of the wind on their backs in the second half, they were still having to fight for every inch of territory going forward and use all their defensive skills to keep the hosts from extending their lead.
The next score was crucial and it came the way of Aylesbury after a moment of brilliance from the backs as the visitors moved the ball quickly to leave the Bicester defence exposed and allow full-back Alex Shearer to sprint over in the corner.
Again the wind played havoc with Woodfall’s conversion, leaving the game in the balance, but for the second game running, young Sam Page had the final word when he touched down in the corner.
Although the home side continued to push, Aylesbury held on for a tense and valuable victory that keeps them second ahead of this weekend’s home clash with struggling Drifters.
Larham added: “This weekend’s game against Drifters will be a similar challenge where we will need to build on our game management and maintain the tempo of the game by dominating both possession and territory.”
Back at Ostler’s Field, Aylesbury 2nd XV won their league game against Beaconsfield IIs 20-15, while on Sunday, the ARFC youth section continued their good run of results as the U14s won 26-24 against Reading Abbey and the Aylesbury Colts recorded a 40-5 victory against Marlow Colts.
Picture by Mark Bannister