Job done for Larham as Ducks make it eight wins in nine

Matt Dennis squeezes over in the corner. Picture by Mark Bannister
Matt Dennis squeezes over in the corner. Picture by Mark Bannister

Aylesbury strengthened their promotion play-off hopes this weekend when they beat Marlow 19-0 while main rivals Buckingham were beaten by Bicester.

With leaders Reading Abbey looking uncatchable at the top, Aylesbury’s best hope of promotion is to finish second in the Southern Counties North and then win the end-of-season play-off match, and they now hold an eight-point lead thanks to Saturday’s convincing home win with five games remaining.

Head coach Dave Larham said: “The weather and pitch conditions spoiled the game and made the scoreline closer than our domination of possession might suggest.

“We played well in parts and had to resort to close quarter attacking because of the impossible battle in the mud. It wasn’t pretty and the number of opposition yellow cards indicated the tactics employed to frustrate us.

“There were big performances from man of the match Gary Horne and several of our forwards, but ultimately it was more job done than an outstanding display.”

Aylesbury’s game against Marlow was never going to be a pretty affair given the boggy conditions and steady rain.

The last time these two met earlier in the season at Marlow the game ended in a 12-12 draw but from the start on Saturday, it was clear that Aylesbury had the upperhand although the poor conditions made life difficult for both sides.

The Ducks dominated both possession and territory but only went over for the one score prior to half-time when James Woodfall used his strength and powered through to dot down before he also added the conversion for a 7-0 lead at the break.

Eventually, as the game entered the final quarter, a well-executed backs move from the home side saw James Serrano break through the tackle and off-load to Matt Dennis, who out-sprinted the Marlow defence to score in the corner.

Woodfall’s touchline conversion attempt was beaten by the gusting wind but Aylesbury now had the cushion of a 12-point lead over the visitors.

As the clock ran down, Mal Deay made a strong break down the wing and looked to be heading for a certain try but the defending Marlow wing bundled him into touch by the corner flag, however crucially for Aylesbury, the Marlow player had made no attempt to use his arms in the tackle.

The referee immediately went under the posts and awarded Aylesbury a penalty try for the illegal shoulder charge before Woodfall added the easy two points from the conversion to take the lead up to 19-0 and that’s how it remained until full-time.

If the Ducks harbour any title ambitions, they must beat leaders Reading Abbey next weekend with the Berkshire outfit five points clear at the top having played a game less.

Larham added: “Next Saturday we get an opportunity to rest, knowing that we have four training sessions to prepare for our visit to Reading.”