Aylesbury’s title tilt falters in crunch match

Wing John Tovey being supported by Mike Durose and Andy Blacklock    PHOTO: Mark Bannister
Wing John Tovey being supported by Mike Durose and Andy Blacklock PHOTO: Mark Bannister

Aylesbury’s hopes of a Southern Counties North title were severely dented by a slender 26-22 defeat at leaders Bletchley.

With the Christmas break and then waterlogged pitches causing disruption in the New Year, Aylesbury had not played a competitor fixture for at least four weeks.

But their first game this year was set to be potentially the toughest of the season away against the league leaders Bletchley.

Bletchley had only lost once in the league this season and significantly that was at Ostler’s Field back in October to second placed Aylesbury.

Despite the heavy rain, Bletchley’s 1st team pitch had managed to escape the fate of their other pitches which were all under water so allowing this crucial fixture to go ahead.

Ironically after all the rain during the week, the game kicked off in bright sunshine.

The opening 30 minutes saw both teams defending well and preventing either from crossing the whitewash, the only scoring opportunities coming from penalties. Bletchley were able to successfully kick two of theirs to give them a 6-0 lead by the 30 minute mark.

It was Bletchley who then recorded the first try of the game as their player squeezed over in the corner. The conversion being missed they took an 11-0 lead.

Then on the stroke of half time the Aylesbury supporters were finally given a reason to cheer, as following a kick and chase, Andy Blacklock dived across the try line to just get a hand to the ball before the chasing Bletchley player.

James Woodfall slotted the touch line conversion to close the scores to 11-7 going into the break.

The second half did not start well for Ay’s as it was not long before Bletchley’s forwards rumbled over the try line for an unconverted try to push them further ahead at 16-7.

Then Bletchley were gifted the softest of tries as a loose pass was intercepted by their wing who sprinted in unopposed. The conversion was missed but their lead increased to 21-7.

Ay’s never looked like they were going to give up though and they were rewarded with a penalty in the Bletchley half which Woodfall slotted to get Ay’s into double figures at 21-10.

Bletchley were soon back on the score board though as they ran in the bonus point try to increase their lead to 26-10.

But then under the leadership of scrum half Adam Moore, who had taken over the captaincy in the second half from the injured Gary Horne, the Ay’s players once again lifted their game.

Andy Blacklock sprinted across the try line for his second try of the day which Woodfall was unable to convert but still narrowing the score to 26-15.

It was then James Woodfall’s turn as he finished off a good backs move to power over the try line, this time he made sure of the conversion attempt and the score was now tantalisingly close at 26-22.

As Bletchley kicked off for the restart, those nearest to the referee heard him say there was 4 minutes left. But maybe they miss heard or perhaps he just changed his mind, because as the ball was knocked almost immediately into touch he blew for full time with the score at 26-22.

This result now gives Bletchley a seven point lead at the top of the table ahead of Thatcham, who courtesy of a bonus point win over 4th placed High Wycombe, now leap frog Aylesbury into 2nd place.

Unless Bletchley slip up between now and the end of the season, Ay’s promotion hopes will now rely on finishing in the runners-up spot and going into the play-off.

For the second week running it was Aylesbury’s second and third XV’s who provided the glory. Both playing league games at home, the second XV defeated Marlow thirds 36-0 while Aylesbury’s third XV won 19-10 against High Wycombe fourths.