Coventry Rugby went agonisingly close to breaking their Greene King IPA Championship away-day duck in a gritty 15-all draw at rain-drenched Nottingham.
Will Maisey kicked five penalties for the blue-and-whites, to which Nottingham responded with a try in each half – from forwards Mike Daniels and Jordan Coghlan – plus five points from the boot of fly half Shane O’Leary.
This leaves Cov in seventh place in the table, with four wins and a draw from 10 starts, as they take a two-week break before hosting Doncaster in January.
Cov’s forwards started strongly and when Nottingham flanker Will Owen infringed on the ground Maisey kicked the visitors ahead from point-blank range.
O’Leary was then narrowly wide with a snap drop goal before Tony Fenner’s superb wind-assisted diagonal touch-finder put the visitors deep in the home 22.
And the blue-and-whites gained their reward when Maisey landed a second successful penalty from just outside the Nottingham 22.
Rob Knox was then narrowly wide from 52 metres, but just as it seemed Cov were taking control the hosts burst through midfield from a lineout and when James Stokes’s attempted interception went forward he was shown a yellow card by referee Tim Wigglesworth.
Canadian international fly half O’Leary landed the resulting penalty, after which the home side grabbed the lead with an opportunist try.
Their pack caught Cov’s front five unawares with a quick throw-in, and after swapping a couple of passes, tight head prop Daniels trundled over.
Cov’s pack then marched consecutive lineouts to good effect, winning a pair of penalties. And when the hosts again dropped a maul close to their own line, flanker Shane Buckley was sent to the sinbin.
Despite applying plenty of pressure, the visitors were unable to add to their tally before the break, and as the rain continued to pour down they slipped further behind early in the second period when home No.8 Coghlan powered over in support of Jack Spittle’s initial burst.
O’Leary’s conversion left Cov nine points in arrears with 30 minutes remaining until Maisey reduced the deficit with a third well-struck kick from 35 metres.
The hosts dominated possession in the third quarter, and it twice required good scramble defence to keep the away line intact.
Momentum swung when Cov drove a lineout 35 metres into the home 22, and Maisey split the uprights after the hosts were penalised for side entry.
And as the blue-and-white pack got on top, the front row won a scrum penalty against the feed which their No.10 converted into three points with another unerringly accurate strike from the kicking tee.
The game was on a knife edge entering the final ten minutes, and Cov breathed two huge sighs of relief when O’Leary’s penalty was short from 48 metres, then they survived the charge-down of Stokes’s attempted clearance.
With neither side willing to risk making match-defining mistake, a lengthy kicking battle ensued until Mr Wigglesworth’s whistle left honours even.
James Stokes; Junior Bulumakau, Rob Knox, Tony Fenner, Max Trimble (David Halaifonua, 47); Will Maisey, Tom Kessell; Charlie Beech (James Gibbons, 57), Phil Nilsen (Scott Tolmie, 61), Phil Boulton; Tom Jubb, James Voss (Ben Nutley, 75); Latu Makaafi (George Oram, 52), Jack Ram, Adam Peters.
Biyi Alo, Pete White.
Sean Scanlon; Jack Spittle, William Millett, Luke Peters, David Williams; Shane O’Leary, Murray McConnell (Darryl Veenendaal, 57); James Penman (Seko Sio, 61), Jake Farnworth (Ben Brownlie, 65), Mike Daniels (Rory Burke, 66); Llewelyn Jones, Seb Cecil (Josh Poullett, 34); Shane Buckley, Will Owen (George Cox, 75), Jordan Coghlan.
Scorers & Times:
Tries: Daniels (29), Coghlan (46)
Cons: O’Leary (46)
Pens: O’Leary (19)
Pens: Maisey (4) (10) (50) (61) (65)
Referee: Tim Wigglesworth
Star man: Phil Nilsen
Half-time: Nottingham 8-6 Coventry