Thatcham defeat puts paid to Aylesbury’s promotion challenge

Connor Herlihy gets the ball across the line for the first of his two tries. Picture:
Connor Herlihy gets the ball across the line for the first of his two tries. Picture:

Aylesbury’s hopes of promotion this season have been dashed once and for all following Saturday’s 31-25 away defeat at Thatcham.

The Ducks had retained faint hopes of sneaking into second spot and the promotion play-off place with two games remaining but this loss coupled with a victory for Bicester elsewhere means the best they can do is third.

Assistant coach Rob Smith said afterwards: “It was a very competitive game in testing conditions, rock hard ground and blazing sun.

“We started slowly, conceding an early score. After this the lead changing hands several times, I feel the final outcome could have gone either way.

“Overall Thatcham were deserving winners as several areas of our game did not function to our standards. Having said that great credit to our lads for notching up three good team tries and securing a losing bonus-point.”

Thatcham boast a fine home record this season and, under blue skies, they made a strong start to Saturday’s contest when exploiting a glaring hole in the visiting defence for an early converted try.

Aylesbury’s response came from Nicky Mercer who twice made the most of Thatcham infringements to slot over successive penalties, but another home try meant the Ducks trailed 12-6 at half-time.

The second-half was to become a to-and-fro affair as Connor Herlihy’s try, converted by Dave Stow, gave Aylesbury the lead for the first time but it was short lived as Thatcham quickly hit back.

Again the Ducks responded well when prop Andy Hackett powered across the whitewash, however after Stow put the conversion wide, Thatcham’s bonus-point try saw them take a 24-18 lead and that was followed by the game’s key moment.

With Aylesbury on the attack and applying pressure, possession was lost and a long pass to the Thatcham winger saw him sprint the length of the pitch and dot down.

That gave them an unassailable 31-18 lead and though Herlihy’s smart try Mercer’s conversion earned Aylesbury the losing bonus-point, it wasn’t enough to prevent a costly defeat.

Aylesbury now have a week off before they host Wallingford in their final game of the season knowing that a win at Ostler’s Field would confirm their third place in Southern Counties North.