Coventry Rugby returned to life in the second tier with a lively 20-15 win over Channel Islanders Jersey Reds at butts Park arena on Saturday.
Jersey Reds used their experience to open the half as successive tries from Auguy Slowik and Nick Selway gave the visitors the lead before Will Maisey kicked five points from his boot accompanied by a James Voss try in the corner to bring the hosts back within two points at the break.
In a pulsating second-half, Coventry took control of proceedings with a David Halaifonua try in the corner to edge the hosts ahead and Maisey added a crucial penalty which left Jersey needing two scores to win the game.
Brett Heron converted a late penalty for the Reds from close-range as the Blue and Whites returned to life in the Greene King IPA Championship with a convincing win.
In a nervy opening few minutes, it was Jersey who went close as Will Homer broke away down the touchline but despite coming close to the line, a huge tackle from Halaifonua kept Mark Best out just short of the line.
And after the visitors applied some consistent attacks on the Cov 22, the Blue and Whites managed to break free and clear their lines after a strong period in possession.
The pressure eventually saw the Reds cross for first blood as Slowik went over in the corner following some quick ball out wide.
And the Islanders added their second after grafting out some swift set piece play, Nick Selway dotted down off the back of a driving maul, following a number of penalties.
Coventry responded well though, winger James Stokes went over the whitewash after a spectacular break of tackles from Heath Stevens but pressure from the tackle carried the ball away from his hands.
An early talking point could have been where Koch Marx took Halaifonua out in the air and received nothing for his challenge.
Despite this Coventry continued to bang on the door, this time a neat move off the paddock saw Stevens crash over but referee Christophe Ridley deemed the final pass as forward.
Maisey soon got Coventry onto the board after a good spell in the visitor’s 22, the fly-half slotted his effort through the posts with a well earnt penalty.
Jersey Reds replied instantly with a slice of luck, from the following kick-off Stokes attempted to clear lines but with his kick being blocked, Jersey knocked on the door from close-range on various occasions but huge tackles from the pack held the Reds out.
The Blue and Whites got their reward before the break, good pressure and territory saw the hosts go over the line after quick recycled ball and Voss went over in the corner.
However, the game turned very quickly for the hosts, in quick succession Ridley gave Latu Makaafi and Jack Ram yellow cards to put the hosts down to 13 men and after a spell of pressure from the Reds who battered the Cov line, but the hosts held out.
Jersey Reds applied the pressure shortly after the break, but Coventry again survived, an unbelievable defensive effort from the hosts.
Soon back to full contingent, the hosts kept applying their defensive pressure as Jersey continued to poke the newcomers.
Just ten minutes into the second period Nick Clarey left the field with a serious looking injury, but the hosts reacted quickest from the stoppage and after a quick set of hands Halaifonua cruised in untouched after some slick play and Maisey added the extras.
Coventry almost added another in quick succession as the hosts found themselves under pressure in their own 22, Stokes turns over and kicks clear as the chasing Stevens goes all the way to the line but Slowik was quickest to it to prevent the score.
But Jersey continued to apply the pressure as the hosts soaked it all up before the Blue and whites went down the other end of the field to earn a penalty right in front of the posts, to which Maisey converted with ease.
As Coventry looked to ease away, Maisey had another chance to put the hosts clean and clear, but his effort from 40 yards goes agonisingly wide of the right side.
The Reds came back with a short spell of pressure towards the latter of the game and after realising the time, Brett Heron converted a last-minute penalty to earn a bonus point.
Coventry sealed a crucial win after a monumental defensive effort in both halves to see out their visitors in Round One of the Greene King IPA Championship.
10’ Auguy Slowik Try 0-5
15’ Nick Selway Try 0-10
16’ Brett Heron Con 0-12
31’ Will Maisey Pen 3-12
38’ James Voss Try 8-12
39 Will Maisey Con 10-12
52’ David Halaifonua Try 15-12
53’ Will Maisey Con 17-12
71’ Will Maisey Pen 20-12
80’ Brett Heron Pen 20-15
Referee | Christophe Ridley
Attendance | 2003