Despite outscoring their hosts by three tries to two, Coventry slipped to a 20-19 defeat at Doncaster Knights in the opening round of Championship Cup action.
In a match which never really got going, due in no small part to the award of around 35 penalties, the hosts led 13-5 at the break after 40 minutes during which Cov winger Junior Bulumakau responded to Will Owen’s early score.
Replacement James Stokes then struck twice for Cov in the second period, either side of a powerful finish from home replacement back-rower Ciaran Booth.
Stokes’s second try clinched a losing bonus point, but with only seconds remaining the visitors were unable to secure field position from which they could break their seasonal duck on the road.
Former Moseley fly half Charlie Foley kicked the hosts into a three-point lead from 35 metres, after which a series of forward thrusts eventually provided Doncaster with the platform from which Kenilworth product Owen’s outside break produced the opening try.
Foley added a well-judged conversion, after which the visitors released Max Trimble down the left. His chip ahead was recovered by Tony Fenner in the shadow of the home posts, only for Cov to be penalised at the ensuing breakdown.
A thumping midfield tackle then won turnover ball for the visitors, and after George Oram released Fenner, home full back Paul Jarvis only narrowly beat Jack Ram to his opposite number’s chip ahead.
Cov then won a good attacking position five metres from the home line, but when the lineout throw failed to find its target, home winger Curtis Wilson raced 70 metres upfield. He found Foley in support before Cov’s scramble defence snuffed out the threat.
Foley extended the home advantage to 13 points with a routine 20-metre penalty when Coventry’s front row were penalised in front of their own posts four minutes before the break.
The visitors got on the board shortly before the break when a penalty awarded under the new tackle height trial was sent to the corner. The pack drove to close range, from where Tom Kessell sent former Knight Bulumakau into the corner.
Cov twice had opportunities to repeat the driving lineout manoeuvre in the third quarter, but on both occasions were thwarted by determined Doncaster defence.
And after a raft of substitutions – which included the arrival of debutant Darren Dawidiuk at hooker –the blue-and-whites claimed an excellent second try through Stokes.
The try owed everything to a slashing 60 metre diagonal break from Junior Bulumakau, after which some good support kept the move alive long enough for an inside ball to send the replacement full back under the posts for a try which Maisey improved.
This brought Cov within a point, however their momentum was almost immediately checked when replacement back-rower Booth charged under the posts to claim a second Doncaster score – converted by Foley.
As the contest entered the closing ten minutes, Pete White and Stokes combined to take play close to the home line where Booth was sin-binned for a deliberate offside. However, the visitors’ numerical advantage was short-lived, since Phil Boulton was then also shown a yellow card following his team’s repeated infringement.
As the match moved into the dying seconds, Stokes went over for his second score and Cov’s third, following a long spell of pressure, but Maisey’s conversion was the last score of the day.
Scorers & Times:
Tries: Owen (18), Booth (65)
Cons: Foley (18) (65)
Pens: Foley (9) (36)
Tries: J.Bulumakau (40), Stokes (60) (79)
Cons: Maisey (60), (79)
Paul Jarvis; Curtis Wilson, Mat Clark, Will Owen (Lloyd Hayes, 67), Tyson Lewis; Charlie Foley, Ruaridh Dawson (Tom James, 62); Toby Williams (Robin Hislop , 55), Ben Hunter (James Malcolm, 55); Colin Quigley (Joe Sproston, 55); Matt Challinor, Morgan Eames; Willie Ryan, Michael Hills, Rory Pitman (Ciaran Booth, 62).
Tony Fenner (James Stokes, 55); Junior Bulumakau (Tony Fenner,60), Andy Bulumakau, Heath Stevens, Max Trimble; Will Maisey, Tom Kessell (Pete White, 60); James Gibbons (Nathanael Titchard-Jones, 65), Scott Tolmie (Darren Dawidiuk, 47), Biyi Alo (Phil Boulton, 47); Alex Woolford, George Oram (Ben Adams, 65); James Voss, Jack Ram (Ben Nutley, 55), Adam Peters.
Referee: Matt Turvey
Star man: Will Owen
Half-time: Doncaster Knights 13-5 Coventry Rugby