Aylesbury will make the trip to Midsomer Norton this weekend for a winner-takes-all promotion encounter after the Ducks secured second spot in the Southern Counties North.
Tailing 10-3 at half-time, Aylesbury had to do it the hard way on Saturday as they fought back valiantly to beat Wallingford 15-10 and confirm their place in this weekend’s promotion play-off final for a third successive season.
Head coach Dave Larham said: “We were pleased to finish the league campaign with a hard-fought win that secured the coveted runners-up position and promotion play-off final.
“Against Wallingford, we knew what we needed to do and had to dig deep to come back from 10-3 down at half-time to win 15-10.
“We had to make several changes to the team because of injuries and unavailability, but that doesn’t excuse an under-par opening half.
“In the second-half we made some positional changes and looked after the ball much better.
“It now creates an interesting selection dilemma for the play-off this week away at Midsomer Norton.
“We are looking to take previous disappointments and the experience of the occasion into producing a challenge to win the game.
“It’s a lottery and a cruel way to finish a consistent league promotion campaign, but we know it’s a win at all costs 80 minutes.”
Needing just a point to be sure of finishing second, an injury-hit Aylesbury side made a slow start at Wallingford and found themselves 10-3 behind at the break with just a solitary James Woodfall penalty to show for their efforts.
The second-half followed a very different pattern, however, as flanker Luke Warmsley eased the Aylesbury nerves when crashing over for their first try.
Woodfall converted and then had a hand in the match-winning score when making a strong break from within his own half before off-loading to young winger Sam Page who sprinted 40 metres while evading the tackles of two Wallingford players to score out wide.
Woodfall’s conversion attempt was off target but the 15-10 lead was enough to see Aylesbury safely through to the final whistle.
For the third season in a row Aylesbury have earned themselves the opportunity to gain promotion out of Southern Counties North through a play-off decider against the second placed team in Southern Counties South.
This Saturday will see them travel to Midsomer Norton with all to play for.