Aylesbury RFC are on the verge of clinching second spot and the promotion play-off place after beating Stow-on-the-Wold 32-18 at the weekend.
The Ducks went into the game level on points with Royal Wootton Bassett in the race for second spot, but Wootton’s shock home defeat to Beaconsfield has left the door wide open for Aylesbury, whose bonus-point win at Stow takes them five points clear with just one game remaining.
Ay’s now require just a solitary point from their final game at home to lowly Wallingford on April 18 to secure the promotion play-off place.
That was all made possible by the win at fourth-placed Stow, which began well for Aylesbury as they dominated the early exchanges, although both James Woodfall and fly-half Alex Shearer were off target with penalty attempts as they struggled in the swirling win.
The away side’s superiority was evident, though, and it was only a matter of time before they took the lead with Woodfall this time judging his kick to perfection to put Ay’s into a 3-0 lead.
Although Stow struck back with a penalty of their own, Aylesbury responded with the first try of the game when young winger Sam Page continued his impressive debut season by running in under the posts.
Woodfall added the extras and within minutes of the restart, Ay’s other wing Mal Deay sprinted down the touch line to score a second try, again converted by Woodfall.
An unconverted try from Ay’s Gary Horne followed and then a strong drive by the dominant Aylesbury forwards allowed second row Jim Dodds to drop on the ball to secure the bonus-point try for the rampant visitors.
Woodfall’s excellent conversion extended the lead to 29-3 at half-time.
The second half followed a very different pattern and saw a resurgent home side fightback as Stow mounted a series of attacks, scoring two unconverted tries either side of a Woodfall penalty.
The final quarter of the game saw Aylesbury camped in their own half, defending wave after wave of attack but although debutant Nicky Mercer was sin-binned, the visitors defended resolutely and were only breached once more when Stow scored with the final play of the match.
As the Aylesbury players celebrated on the pitch, they were greeted with the news that rivals Wootton Bassett had almost unbelievably lost at home to bottom five side Beaconsfield 29-8.
That means the Ducks now only need a single league point from their final game to book themselves a trip to play Salisbury in the league promotion play-off on the April 25.
There were more celebrations back at Ostler’s Field as the 2nd XV completely out-classed Witney in their league encounter to secure an amazing 94-0 win.
With the 2nd XV also sitting in second place in their league, there is now a possibility the club could see both their senior sides winning promotion.