Ducks cling on to dramatic win over Bicester

Craig Smith gets the Bicester backs going. Pictures by Jake McNulty
Craig Smith gets the Bicester backs going. Pictures by Jake McNulty

Aylesbury RFC held their nerve to withstand a late Bicester rally and claim a dramatic 33-32 victory in a thrilling and topsy-turvy Southern Counties North encounter.

The Ducks struggled in the first half and fell 22-9 behind shortly before the break but an excellent second half display saw the visitors fight back and take a late 33-25 lead.

Tom Miles kicks a conversion

Tom Miles kicks a conversion

Bicester replied with a converted try three minutes from full-time but Aylesbury clung on for their second win from three games this season.

Ay’s head coach Dave Larham said at full-time: “Based on our poor start to the game and our suicidal decision-making early on, we have to be extremely happy to come back to win the game.

“Our first half display was below par, but we made changes at half-time and refined two to three areas of our play.

“Jim Dodds had a good game and gave us go forward, while the inspirational Gary Horne was at the heart of everything that was good about our second half performance.

Scrum time

Scrum time

“But a lot of praise has to be given to James Woodfall who kicked with precision accuracy, and the leadership of our captain Adam Moore.”

Bicester put the first points on the board when Aylesbury were penalised in the opening minute and Dan Spencer kicked the resulting penalty for an early three-point lead.

Ay’s were soon back on level terms through a James Woodfall penalty, but the hosts conjured up a swift response with a neat attacking move that saw them go over for an unconverted try.

Both sides then found themselves playing with 14 men as Woodfall was sin-binned for not releasing the ball before Bicester lost a player for holding on in the tackle.

Mike Dye wins line-out ball for Bicester

Mike Dye wins line-out ball for Bicester

A drop goal from fly-half Tom Barnes brought Aylesbury to within two points, however again Bicester hit back with a converted try.

Woodfall returned to the field and kicked his second penalty but Bicester were then gifted a third try when, with Aylesbury exerting pressure, a loose pass was intercepted and the home side ran across for another converted score.

That put Bicester in control at 22-9 ahead but Aylesbury managed to get themselves back to within six points with a crucial try on the stroke of half-time when Woodfall breached the home defence for a try which he converted.

Ay’s then picked up from where they left off in the second half, kicking a penalty deep into Bicester territory from which a well-executed line-out drive saw Jim Dodds touch down for a second try.

James Woodfall was on target with his kicking. Picture Mark Bannister Photography

James Woodfall was on target with his kicking. Picture Mark Bannister Photography

An excellent conversion from Woodfall completed the turnaround and put Aylesbury ahead for the first time.

Both sides exchanged penalties as Woodfall’s kick was quickly cancelled out to leave the game intriguingly-poised with the Ducks leading 26-25.

The telling moment came just after the hour-mark when a Bicester player was yellow carded and Aylesbury kicked the resulting penalty to touch and from the line-out, the visitors again drove strongly for a second try for Dodds.

Yet again Woodfall added the extras and that proved vital when the hosts broke and an excellent delayed pass put them in for their fourth try.

Now leading 33-32, Aylesbury had to hold firm for the final few seconds and they did just that to claim an excellent and hard-fought victory.

Gary Horne was named man of the match.

Back at Ostler’s Field, both Aylesbury IIs and IIIs secured good wins of their own. The IIs won 36-13 over Reading while the IIIs beat Ampthill 28-3.

On Sunday, Aylesbury U15s hammered Bletchley 52-0.