HEAD coach Nick Walshe had a number of positives to draw from Coventry’s win over Plymouth Albion apart from just the bare result, which leaves them eleven points clear at the top of National League One.
Cov went into the half-time break just a single point up after conceding a converted try on the whistle, but far from letting it get to them, they came back out to pull clear with two quick tries – prompting Albion’s coach Kieran Hallett to comment that Cov ‘went up to a level that we’re not at yet. That 14-point swing was hard for us to overcome mentally.’
It was another example of Cov’s own mental toughness which has been evident in other tight games this season with Walshe delighted that his side denied Plymouth, third in the table at the start of the day, a second-half score.
“We were a bit disappointed that they scored just before half-time, we felt we’d dominated the first half and basically two exiting errors put us under pressure,” sad Walshe. “Their maul was pretty strong, and we let them in.
“We spoke at half-time, we weren’t despondent because we knew we were the dominant side, and we resolved to go back out and really try to put it to bed – we didn’t want them to score in the second half, which they didn’t, and that was great.
“I’d have taken any win, to be honest, and what’s really pleasing is that we got five points and they got none. I still think Plymouth will be our closest rivals this season, so to get a 5-0 against them is awesome.
“Plymouth are a good side, they’ve got a strong pack, they’ve got big ball carriers, and when they got in our 22 they were quite clinical with their drive.
“I thought everyone put in a massive shift and it was a real big performance from us.”
Among a number of stand-out performances in a strong team display, Anthony Matoto was named match sponsors Purity’s man-of-the-match in his first outing at centre, moving inside from the wing.
“Anthony was fantastic – he hadn’t played there for us before and he was excellent,” said Walshe. “He gave us some firepower going forward and defended really well.
“It opens up another option for us. I’m a believer that sometimes things happen for a reason, and we’ve been given an opportunity to see Anthony at centre which maybe we wouldn’t have had if we had other people fit.”
Scrum-half Tom Kessell, on loan from Northampton Saints, gave another influential performance in his third appearance for Cov while Scott Tolmie, whose two tries took his tally for the season to ten, and Jack Preece were prominent in a pack which kept up a tremendous work-rate for the while 80 minutes.
“We’re really lucky to have Tom,” said Walshe. “With both Pete White and Dave Brazier out we needed cover, and Tom’s come in and done us a real big favour. He’s a class act, he’s got a great kick, a great attacking game, and he reads the game very well.
“Scott has started to play really, really well, and with him and Phil Nilsen we’ve got two fantastic hookers. What’s great with Scott is that he’s such a strong ball carrier, when he gets the ball in his hands he’s very difficult to stop.
“Jack’s not the biggest bloke in the world but he’s so effective, he gets under people and he carries well – those little pick and goes from the rucks are very effective.”
Added Walshe: “There’s a long way to go and we’ve just got to keep going. We’ve got another big game this week at Rosslyn Park and we’re going to keep our feet on the ground and keep working hard.
“It wasn’t perfect and there’s still a lot of things to look at – we should have had two or three more tries, we messed up close to their line a few times which wasn’t good enough, so we are not going to rest on our laurels.”