Aylesbury RFC resurrected their promotion challenge with a pivotal and potentially season-defining 22-12 win over rivals Royal Wootton Bassett on Saturday.
Wootton came into the game with a four-point lead over Aylesbury in the race for the promotion play-off spot, but tries from James Woodfall and Sam Page earned the Ducks victory and sets up an exciting finish to the season, with the two sides now level on points.
Afterwards, head coach Dave Larham said: “Whether we secure the play-off position or not, the boys certainly proved their promotion credentials with this spirited performance.
“Gareth (Collings) and I set out high expectations before kick-off and we weren’t disappointed.
“Our forwards produced a spirited display, while our backs defended with a renewed level of enthusiasm and punished the opposition with two well-taken tries.
“James Woodfall really stepped up his game in both attack and defence, while Adam Moore produced an outstanding display both as scrum-half and captain.”
Wootton were in excellent form going into the game, but Aylesbury made the brighter start and put their visitors under some early pressure, resulting in a penalty which was slotted over by Woodfall.
Ay’s were soon back in the Bassett half and this time they were rewarded with a try as the influential Woodfall used his strength to break through a tackle and dive over in the corner.
He failed to add the extras, however, and Wootton replied with a long-range penalty, which was quickly cancelled out by Woodfall, but another three points brought the visitors to within five points at 11-6.
Wootton’s ill-discipline at the breakdown was proving costly though, and they conceded two further penalties in the first half, both converted by Woodfall, as Aylesbury increased their lead to 17-6 at half-time.
The visitors began to mount a fightback in the early stages of the second half as two penalties reduced the deficit to five, but 17-year-old winger Page maintained his record of scoring on every Ducks appearance when he touched down in the corner to put the game to bed and clinch a much-needed victory for his side.
Aylesbury have two games remaining, starting with this weekend’s trip to Stow-on-the-Wold, with maximum points from both matches the target.
Larham added: “With two games to go, we need to keep winning and do more than Wootton Bassett. It won’t be easy, but with 160 minutes of league rugby remaining I expect it to go to the wire with Aylesbury going flat out to finish runners-up.”
Elsewhere, Aylesbury IIs were beaten 25-21 by Reading Abbey while the U16s secured an emphatic 50-10 win against Bicester.