Coventry Rugby got their competitive season off to a bonus point winning start, putting seven tries past Ampthill at Dillingham Park.
The visitors got off to the best possible start, Gareth Denman crashing over in just the third minute. An overthrown Ampthill lineout was snapped up by Darren Dawidiuk, and after the hooker was pulled down close and the forwards retained possession it was only a matter of time before the try came.
Four minutes later Coventry came within a couple of metres of a great score. Strong defence forced a fumble on halfway, and after Adam Peters showed great dexterity to both scoop the ball up and then find Junior Bulumakau with a great pass only some superb defence from the hosts forced the winger out at the corner flag.
The rest of the half showcased Coventry’s all-round potential. Strong defence forced Ampthill into repeated mistakes, the warmth and sun provided ideal conditions for handling, and the team scored tries from all over the park.
Peters was driven over from a lineout after 11 minutes, and then when defence forced a fumble on the Coventry 10-metre line the ball was whipped down the line. James Stokes put Andy Bulumakau away down the left touchline, and the winger passed unselfishly to Tom Kessell to dot down.
The Stokes and Bulumakau combination brought the bonus point in the 16th minute, the winger finishing things off himself this time after Alex Woolford’s stolen lineout had handed Coventry possession.
Jennings’ fourth conversion was a peach from wide out, and he showed just how well he was coping with the wind with an equally lovely chip out of hand which sailed deep into home territory.
Ampthill, on the other hand, were being forced by the breeze to keep ball in hand, but against the strong Coventry rearguard it seemed only a matter of time before a mistake would come, which it duly did with a fumble on the 22.
Meanwhile Coventry continued their clinical finishing, Woolford on hand to go over after a Ryan Burrows charge from a five-metre scrum and Dawidiuk coming up with the ball after a maul had been driven over in the right corner.
To their credit Ampthill continued battling, and finished the first half in the Coventry 22, Josh Sharp rewarding the pressure with a penalty to bring the half-time whistle. And the hosts came out of the break firing, too, going a man to the good following Andy Bulumakau’s sin binning and then pulling seven points back thanks to Joe Bercis’s try and Sharp’s excellent conversion.
Questions were inevitably asked at half-time as to the value of the wind, and as the second 40 wore on the crowd got their answer as Ampthill dominated territory, with Coventry unable to regain the momentum from before the break.
Aleki Lutui rewarded all the pressure with a try, but with Coventry’s defence having held out for over 20 minutes it was too little, too late for the hosts.
Instead it was Cov who finished with a flourish. Stokes took a mark and tapped quickly, and involvements from Rob Knox and Pete White created the space for Senitiki Nayalo to stroll over between the uprights for the seventh and final try of the day.
15 Serafin Bordoli; 14 Kwaku Asiedu, 13 Jarryd Sage, 12 Sam Hanks, 11 Nigel Baker; 10 Josh Sharp, 9 Darryl Veenendaal; 1 Tom Foulkes, 2 Dave Ward, 3 Matthew Collins, 4 Henri Williams, 5 Billy Johnson, 6 Robert Langley, 7 Joe Bercis, 8 Ma’ama Molitika
16 Sydney Blackmore, 17 Ben Christie, 18 Aleki Lutui, 19 Shay Kerry, 20 Facundo Dominguez, 21 Gavin Williams, 22 Louis Grimoldby, 23 Will Foster
Tries – Joe Bercis, Aleki Lutui. Cons – Josh Sharp, Louis Grimoldby. Pen – Josh Sharp
15 James Stokes; 14 Junior Bulumakau, 13 Heath Stevens, 12 Will Owen, 11 Andy Bulumakau; 10 Rory Jennings, 9 Tom Kessell; 1 James Gibbons, 2 Darren Dawidiuk, 3 Gareth Denman, 4 James Voss, 5 Alex Woolford, 6 Adam Peters, 7 Jack Ram, 8 Ryan Burrows (capt)
16 Scott Tolmie, 17 Toby Trinder, 19 Phil Boulton, 19 George Oram, 20 Senitiki Nayalo, 21 Pete White, 22 Will Maisey, 23 Rob Knox
Tries – Gareth Denman, Tom Kessell, Andy Bulumakau, Adam Peters, Alex Woolford, Darren Dawidiuk. Cons – Rory Jennings (6)