Preview: Ducks all set for promotion showdown at Salisbury

Dave Larham
Dave Larham
  • Aylesbury set for promotion decider at Salisbury
  • Win would take Aylesbury up to South West One
  • Larham calls on supporters to be the “16th man”

Aylesbury head coach Dave Larham says his side must improve certain aspects of their game if they are to overcome Salisbury in this weekend’s promotion play-off final.

Victory over Wallingford last weekend secured the Ducks second spot in the Southern Counties North and therefore a place in the play-off final, which will see them make the trip to Salisbury this weekend with the winners promoted to South West One.

Dave Payne dives over for his second half try against Wallingford last weekend, helping the Ducks to secure their place in the promotion play-off final. Picture by Mark Bannister

Dave Payne dives over for his second half try against Wallingford last weekend, helping the Ducks to secure their place in the promotion play-off final. Picture by Mark Bannister

Speaking this week, Larham said: “Obviously we are delighted to have shown the character and spirit needed to turn our season around and secure the runners-up position in the league.

“We now have the opportunity to face Salisbury in the promotion play-off final and achieve our goal of playing rugby at a higher level.

“Much of the praise will be rightly aimed at the players, however I would like to congratulate the off-field support team that remained positive, focused and supportive throughout the league campaign, especially when it looked virtually impossible for us to finish in the top two.”

Despite their comfortable 36-22 win over Wallingford, Larham feels his side must improve their performance ahead of this weekend’s crunch match.

“The lessons we learned from losing last season’s play-off final versus Trowbridge have acted as motivation throughout the season and we will do everything in our power to win this weekend’s game.”

Dave Larham

He added: “In terms of the performance against Wallingford, we did what we had to do but demonstrated areas of our game that must be sharpened before the play-off final.

“We can’t concede possession and be content to defend for long periods without risking losing tries. This trait concerns me and we need to show improved game management to play on the front foot and apply pressure to the opposition.”

Aylesbury will have extra motivation to win this weekend following their agonising 27-19 defeat to Trowbridge in last year’s play-off final. The Ducks had led that game 19-10 before Trowbridge hit back with a late flurry of points to snatch victory and shatter Aylesbury’s promotion dreams.

They will have the chance to banish those memories this weekend, though, and Larham says his side have been using that defeat as motivation throughout this season.

“The lessons we learned from losing last season’s play-off final versus Trowbridge have acted as motivation throughout the season and we will do everything in our power to win this weekend’s game,” he added.

“The play-off final at Salisbury will be a true test of our promotion credentials. We weren’t good enough to win the league, but we have achieved a consistent league finish against the odds.

“We will make a few changes to the team that faced Wallingford and ensure that we select the team we believe can beat Salisbury.”

Larham has also called on Aylesbury’s supporters to make the long trip to Wiltshire and back his men, adding: “We now need our supporters to be our 16th man by travelling to Salisbury in magenta and black and be as vocally encouraging as possible.

“It’s going to be intense and daunting, but our supporters could negate the home crowd and give us a real lift when we need it.”