Aylesbury RFC suffered play-off heartbreak for the second successive year as Salisbury earned promotion to South West One with a 34-16 win in Saturday’s play-off final.
The Ducks had produced a second half fightback after going into half-time trailing 17-6 as Sam Page’s try brought Aylesbury to within four, but two Salisbury tries in the final quarter earned the Wiltshire side victory.
It means Aylesbury will once again play in the Southern Counties North next season.
After 22 games and 17 wins in their league campaign, Ay’s had earned themselves a shot at promotion when they travelled to Salisbury on Saturday.
In front of a boisterous home crowd, the hosts put pressure on Aylesbury from kick-off and they were first to put points on the board through a penalty.
James Woodfall had an immediate opportunity to reply but his penalty effort sailed wide and Salisbury made him pay with a converted try moments later.
Woodfall made amends when he slotted over two penalties in the remaining minutes of the first half, however another converted try saw the home side lead 17-6 at half-time.
A fired-up Ducks side took the game to Salisbury in the early stages of the second half and they got themselves right back into contention with a well-worked try from 17-year-old Sam Page, who maintained his remarkable record of scoring on every Aylesbury appearance.
Woodfall and Salisbury then exchanged penalties to leave the game intriguingly-poised going into the final quarter, but then came the turning point.
With less than 20 minutes remaining, Salisbury were awarded a scrum five metres out from the Aylesbury try line. The Salisbury pack had been giving Aylesbury a torrid time all afternoon and they did so again as repeated infringements culminated in the referee awarding a penalty try.
That signalled the end of Aylesbury’s hopes, and Salisbury added gloss to the scoreline with a try with the final play of the game, leaving Aylesbury’s promotion dreams in tatters for another season.