by John Butler
TWENTY seven wins from thirty is some record and one to be proud of!
Coventry duly put the seal on their promotion-winning season with a six-tries to three beating of Hull Ionians, a result which consigned the East Yorkshire club to National Two North next season.
All in front of a bumper-sized crowd of 3,758, a new National League One record.
Defeated Ionians, though, came out of this match with a great deal of credit bearing in mind the pressure on them to produce a positive result.
Cov had moved pretty effortlessly 19 points in front by the 21st minute with the signs pointing to a potentially very high score. The visitors, however, gave a great deal to the match, never once looking as if they would cave in. Their forwards battled really well, even if the backs, with a fair amount of possession, rarely looked like breaking through often enough.
From a Cov perspective, on a day when so much was occurring in and around Butts Park, from the outset they displayed a sharpness and power that put them in such a strong position from early on.
The second half, in very sticky conditions, never really saw Cov achieve the heights of earlier, but with massive territorial dominance, the outcome was never in doubt.
After Cov had kicked off it was Ionians who enjoyed early possession, briefly reaching the home 22.
Then, from their first real sight of possession, Cov went in front, never to lose the lead. From halfway Will Maisey broke convincingly through, leaving the Hull defenders in his wake for a fine individual try, the conversion attempt from Cov’s 10 just sailing wide.
Straight from the restart Cov could easily have conceded themselves, Ionians top try scorer Sam Wilson claiming possession and reaching the 22 before halted.
Immediately afterwards, Alex Grove, in his final match, made a searing break, leading to pressure, which Hull managed to repel.
Not to be denied for long, Cov moved further ahead with a classic try following lovely handling. Rob Knox unselfishly slipped the ball inside to James Stokes for the full-back to dive in triumphantly for his 21st try of the season. Maisey converted for 12-0 after 14 minutes.
At this point it really was all Coventry as Ionians struggled to hold on, and after 20 minutes came the third try. Although Hull had shown they could be dangerous on the counter, they could not stop Scott Tolmie from crashing over, the hooker reaching 19 tries for the season, with Maisey again converting.
The lead up to the try had been thrilling, Hull on the attack only to be dispossessed for Stokes to lead the counter and for the Yorkshiremen to be rucked off the ball.
Ionians gave themselves something of a lift on 23 minutes. From a penalty kick to touch, pressure built with former Cov centre James Tincknell crashing through and scrum-half Isaac Green converting well.
Pressure overall continued to be very much against the visitors with Cov sealing the try bonus point on 34 minutes. Again, Maisey ripped the Ionians defence apart but instead of moving possession right, slipped the ball inside to the supporting Pete White, leaving the scrum-half to steam in triumphantly, with Maisey adding the extra two simple points.
Just short of half time, however, Cov conceded a second try, the build-up to which will clearly not have impressed their coaches. A penalty was conceded some 40 metres out and from the kick to touch and resultant line-out, Ionians put together a very effective catch and drive, prop David Laverick being credited with the try. Green landed another fine conversion and at 26-14 at half time, Cov, despite a great deal of territory in their favour, had not really pulled away.
The second half proved to be a lot closer in terms of scoring than looked likely at the break.
The reasons. Hull, firstly, deserving full praise for giving it 100% right to the end and Cov, for their part, at the end of a long season not regaining the sharpness displayed earlier.
Cov’s fifth try, however, on 50 minutes was a real beauty. After Maisey had pummelled a magnificent penalty to touch close-in Hull were forced to really defend, which they did well, but then from some 40 metres Knox tore the visiting defence to pieces with a wonderful piece of running and finishing on his 100th appearance to claim the try, with Maisey converting for 33-14.
All the play was in the visiting half, Knox and Stokes again combining well, only for Hull to gain their third try despite Cov enjoying so many periods of total control.
Finding themselves in the Cov 22 for the first time really in the half after seventy one minutes, intense pressure paid off and Wilson added to his season’s tally with fly-half Greg Lound landing the conversion.
Urged on by the crowd, however, it was Cov who had the final say with their 183rd try of a great season, finding just enough space wide on the left for Max Trimble to scoot away and add to his tally.
Trusted with the conversion attempt, and to general amusement in the home camp, hooker Tolmie stroked a left-footed kick only to see it sail well wide of the target.
Seconds later, referee Alex Thomas blew for the final time to bring down the curtain on Cov’s final match in the division.
A season which has seen many records, team and individual, broken. Some surely not to be overtaken potentially for a long time.
Exciting scenes, with the National One trophy and squad medals being presented to end a truly memorable campaign.
Onwards to the Championship and all that will bring!
Coventry: tries Maisey (7), Stokes (13), Tolmie (20), White (33), Knox (50), Trimble (80); conversions Maisey 4 (13, 21, 34, 51). Hull Ionians: tries Tincknell (25), Laverick (37), Wilson (73); conversions Green 2 (26, 38), Lound (74).
Coventry: Stokes; Knox, Grove (Fenner 57), Stevens, Trimble; Maisey, White (Brazier 60); Brown (Boulton 67), Tolmie (Nilsen h-t), Boulton (Jeannot 29), Jubb (Narraway 57), Oram, Dacres, Preece, Daynes (Tolmie 67).
Hull Ionians: Heath; S Wilson, Minikin, Tincknell (Watts 53), Humberstone; Lound, Green (Rees 70); Laverick (Stout 70), Thomson (Stephenson 67), Stout (Bell 58), Makin, Falkingham, Cotterill (Torkington 74), Sanderson, Torkington (Priestley-Nangle 58).
Referee: Alex Thomas.