DEFENCE specialist James Pritchard was without doubt the happiest member of Coventry’s coaching team after they registered their first away win of the season at Hull Ionians.
Leading 19-0 early in the second quarter, Cov conceded tries on either side of the half-time break – scoring a fourth of their own in between – and came under mounting pressure as Ionians battled to get back on terms.
Cov, however, rode the storm in a way which hadn’t been seen in earlier games on the road before striking twice in quick succession to lead 40-14 inside the last ten minutes of normal time.
Ionians grabbed a third try on the final whistle, but Pritchard didn’t let it spoil his afternoon.
“That sort of defensive effort is what I’ve been asking from the guys since we started the season,” said the Canadian international.
“We’ve gone to one of the hardest places to play at in this league, so to put in a defensive effort like we did and only give up two tries – and, of course, that last one right at the death – means I go away happy.
“In a good way I’m very pleased with how it’s come along, but in another way I can say to the boys that now they can see why I get so frustrated at times.
“They go out and produce a defensive effort like that, which is what I know they can do, but you then look at the past and we haven’t done that.
“We’ve gone away to places like Esher and Blackheath and just not got near it – that’s why it’s so frustrating to be a defence coach.
“At times it wasn’t pretty, but we backed ourselves, we did the basics and we looked after each other, and it showed. We wore them down and we took our chances when they came.
“We talked about it at half-time and we knew they’d come back at us, they’re a team that sticks in there and they dog it out, and if we’d started to slip off tackles and go too high, they would have pegged back another try, got their tails up and got back into the game.
“But we did well. We knew that if we just kept them at arm’s length, got underneath and chopped them, then we were in with a good shot, and it just showed what we can do if we’re on our game.”
Added Pritchard: “It was never going to be right, I think, from day one, and hopefully this is a turning point for us.
“It shows the boys have confidence that when we defend correctly, trust in each other and trust in the system, it produces results like this.
“We’ve won three on the bounce, that’s our first win away from home and that’s a tick in the box.
“But we’ve still got a long season ahead. We didn’t start as well as we’d have liked and we’ve still got some big games ahead, starting with Blaydon at home on Saturday.
“We can’t settle on our laurels, we need to pick things up and push on. There’s great competition in the squad which is a good and a bad thing as a coach when it comes to selection, but that’s brilliant and really what you want to see.
“Looking further down the line, we’ve then got the trip to Ampthill which is going to be a terrific contest down there.”