by John Butler
ALL was certainly not Well at the Hall.
Blackheath will without doubt disagree, but from a Coventry perspective, this was an afternoon and result surely few would have predicted.
How and from where did it all come?
In all honesty, Cov’s chances were destroyed in the first half which saw them concede a staggering 39 points in just 35 minutes.
Credit where credit is due. Blackheath, right from the outset, were clearly fired up, appearing to believe they had little to lose against the unbeaten leaders. From this opening salvo, Cov never really recovered and, in truth, were destroyed.
Even the water-tight defence which had conceded just 23 tries in 16 matches counterparts were understandably ecstatic, and deservedly so.
From the opening moments, Blackheath tore into Cov. The first real move saw Leo Fielding cut a great swathe in the middle of the visiting defence, Cov relieved to just concede a five-metre scrum after the hosts were held up.
From there, the home forwards asserted the drive, referee Gareth Holsgrove adjudging Cov to have infringed illegally. Result, a penalty try and 7-0 in two minutes 20 seconds. How would Coventry respond?
A Tony Fenner penalty found touch inside the home 22, a better scrum following, only for the subsequent drive to be held.
In the opening quarter Cov spent a fair amount of time in the home half, but whenever Blackheath had possession they looked potent and always ready to counter.
To the extent that 12-0 became 39-0 inside the next 25 minutes and, shell-shocked, Cov at this point looked in real danger of being completely overrun.
First, a long raid set Blackheath up inside the Cov 22 and from the ensuing scrum, home captain Marcus Burcham burst over, Joe Tarrant’s conversion hitting an upright.
Indeed, the final margin could have been a whole lot worse. From Blackheath’s nine tries, separated from the penalty try award, they were only successful with three further conversions.
That second try was quickly added to. Tarrant slotted a formality penalty on 22 minutes, three tries through Harry Bate, Jake Lloyd and Josh Davies quickly following with Cov’s defence torn apart. Tarrant converted two, with the Butts Park men looking in real trouble.
By now director of rugby Rowland Winter had already made four changes in an attempt to stem the tide, and after Max Trimble had almost crossed on the left, Cov hit back with two tries before the break.
Firstly, after a close-in line-out and applied pressure, replacement Will Maisey crossed and then converted before two minutes later, a long James Stokes break set Anthony Matoto free to cross wide out.
39-12 down, could Cov respond further?
Blackheath had been excellent, in particularly with the ball transfer out of the tackle, constantly taking the game to their visitors.
For Cov, there had been a real lack of accuracy, save for the moments leading up to half-time, and to pull back 27 points was a big ask.
Cov did briefly really raise hopes. A fine move on 44 minutes saw Matoto cross again after some positive running and handling, Maisey landing an excellent conversion.
But the story of the second half was that when Cov did strike, Blackheath, oozing confidence, came straight back themselves.
Jake Lloyd crossed for his second try, unconverted, only for Cov to apply more pressure with James Stokes crossing wide out, the wind defeating Maisey’s attempt at the conversion.
True to the run of the match, however, from more Cov errors, Blackheath capitalised, flanker Bate crossing for his second and with the home crowd in full cry, worse was to follow. A totally unstoppable catch-and-drive saw Bate seal his try hat-trick, Leo Fielding landing the conversion, with Club past the half century at 56-24.
A length of the field move then saw Burcham finish off for his second try and Blackheath’s tenth.
Cov lost Stoke to a yellow card for back chat before responding with a late fifth try and Matoto’s third, again unconverted, close to the final whistle.
There was still time for Cov’s afternoon to be rather summed up. From an incident close to halfway, scrum-half Pete White was red carded after a clash with Blackheath’s Tom Chapman who received yellow.
The final whistle came with Coventry’s 16-match unbeaten run well and truly shattered. 24 games also unbeaten when tagging on the eight from last season. Just the try bonus point as well to take from a very telling afternoon.
A result which the rest of the Division will surely have taken note of. For the Coventry squad, the real test will be as to how they respond to this setback.
The visit of Esher on Saturday will supply the answer to that.
Blackheath tries Bate 3 (23, 53, 61), Lloyd 2 (26, 44), Burcham.2 (10, 68), Fielding (30), Davies (34), penalty try (2); conversions Tarrant 2 (31, 34), Fielding (62); penalty Tarrant (21). Coventry: tries Matoto 3 (39, 42, 78), Maisey (38), Stokes (51); conversions Maisey 2 (38, 43).
Blackheath: Griffiths (Cooje 74); Lloyd, Burcham, Fielding, Chapman; Tarrant, Davies; King, Miles (Perks 52, Miles 55), Scutt (Hallam 27), Patrick (Owen 58), Osazuwa, Stradwick, Bate, Baldwin.
Coventry: Stokes (Maisey 78); Emery, Matoto, Tuitupou (Grove 57), Trimble; Fenner (Maisey 31, Fenner 64), White; Litchfield (Titchard-jones 24), Nilsen (Tolmie 27), Boulton, Dacres, Oram, Makaafi (Nilsen 64), Preece (Povoas 27, Preece 57), Narraway.
Referee: Gareth Holsgrove.