A last-minute loss one week, a last-minute win the next – life is certainly not dull at Coventry Rugby in the early weeks of 2020!
As the winter sun turned into night the emotions intensified under the Butts Park lights as Cov turned a 15-point deficit around to secure a bonus point win over a London Scottish team which had looked to be running away with the match when Harry Sheppard landed his second penalty soon after the re-start.
But Coventry scored three tries and 19 unanswered points to hit the front, and even though Mark Bright crashed over in the right corner back came the hosts to go up the other end to snatch the win thanks to Scott Tolmie’s close-range effort in the final play.
Will Maisey took up the 90 seconds to kick the conversion, and even though his two points were immaterial in the overall result they nevertheless put the gloss on an eventful match.
Tolmie’s first try in the 50th minute was followed by efforts from James Voss and Pete White as Cov put together some sensational phases of attacking play. Voss showed good pace, sense for the right running line and power to finish off a move begun by White on half-way, the scrum-half showing awareness to pick up a loose ball from a scrum to turn on the afterburners.
White’s own try showcased his own support lines, popping up on the end of a Senitiki Nayalo offload, while Tolmie’s first was from as far away as his second as the forwards inched their way towards the line.
Scottish did have their chances to respond to these scores in kind, but at the crucial moments Cov’s work on the floor won penalties to clear their lines and then keep up the momentum gained at the other end of the field.
It was all a far cry from the near silence which had greeted half-time.
Max Trimble had been the first player over the line after 10 minutes, the beneficiary of an Andy Forsyth grubber which sat up nicely for the winger to maintain his stride and head to the whitewash.
But after that the contest swung firmly the visitors’ way as they scored three tries of their own without reply.
Bobby Beattie was in the right place at the right time to make the most of Trimble’s failure to sweep up a Scottish hack ahead, the ball having hit the deck on halfway as Tony Fenner and Rory Jennings tried to open things up.
Then Dan Barnes hit a good line off Lewis Wynne to power into the clear and over as the committee meetings which preceded each Scottish lineout paid dividends.
Finally it was the turn of Wynne to come up with a captain’s score as the pack put a good shift-drive together from a lineout close to the home line.
And with Sheppard accurate off the tee both at the end of the first half and at the beginning of the second the 2,545 at Butts Park were no doubt considering their post-match post-mortems.
But the changes started to be rung, the pace and accuracy went up several notches, and the rest, as they say, is history.
15 David Halaifonua; 14 Rob Knox, 13 Andy Forsyth, 12 Rory Jennings, 11 Max Trimble; 10 Tony Fenner, 9 Tom Kessell; 1 James Gibbons, 2 Jimmy Stevens, 3 Phil Boulton, 4 James Voss, 5 Alex Woolford, 6 Adam Peters, 7 Luke Wallace, 8 Ryan Burrows (capt)
16 Scott Tolmie, 17 Luc Jeannot, 18 Gareth Denman, 19 Nile Dacres, 20 Senitiki Nayalo, 21 Pete White, 22 Will Maisey, 23 Will Owen
Tries – Max Trimble, Scott Tolmie (2), James Voss, Pete White. Cons – Rory Jennings (3), Will Maisey. Pen – Rory Jennings
15 Luke Hibberd; 14 Rob Stevenson, 13 Bobby Beattie, 12 Dan Barnes, 11 Jonas Mikalcius; 10 Harry Sheppard, 9 Josh Barton; 1 Jordan Brodley, 2 James Malcolm, 3 Kyle Whyte, 4 Alex Toolis, 5 Matas Jurevicius, 6 Luke Frost, 7 Lewis Wynne (capt), 8 Matt Eliet
16 Billy Harding, 17 Ryan Eveleigh, 18 Phil Cringle, 19 Mark Bright, 20 Jack Ingall, 21 Charlie Gowling, 22 Will Mague, 23 Ollie Allsopp
Tries – Bobby Beattie, Dan Barnes, Lewis Wynne, Mark Bright. Cons – Harry Sheppard (2). Pens – Harry Sheppard (2)
REFEREE Greg MacDonald