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by John Butler

FOR the faithful Coventry travelling support at the beginning of a long season, this visit to the pleasant surroundings of Brantingham Park proved to be very rewarding.

They witnessed their squad, containing seven debutants in the starting line-up, fully sweep Hull Ionians away in the second half as 38 unanswered points secured a fine win together with the try bonus.

It was also to be Cov’s biggest away win ever on the opening day of a league season and the longer the match progressed, the more emphatic it became.

Ionians, fully fired up, went into a shock 14-3 lead within the opening eight minutes before the Butts Park men really settled.

Indeed, although the signs of increasing Coventry power became more and more evident in the first half, Ionians were still only 25-20 behind at half time before finally being blown away.

The opening 25 minutes, though, for Cov were to prove to be costly in several senses, not least injuries. First, scrum-half Pete White hobbled off with a dead leg after just six minutes, followed some 17 minutes later by half-back partner Tony Fenner.

Cov’s No.10 was upended by a very hard tackle and although he gamely tried to play on, it was to no avail with the injury subsequently confirmed as a very painful broken rib.

It was Fenner who had put th first points on the board. A storming opening, notably featuring flanker Latu Makaafi, saw the hosts penalised, leaving an easy penalty in front of the posts.

Within the following five minutes, however, Ionians were to delight their following twice, on both occasions No.8 Ed Falkingham racing over.

The first, immediately following Cov’s penalty, saw possession moved wide, the big home forward appearing in the centre to steam through a gap.

Straight from the restart, the home side were back on the offensive again. A high kick, which in honesty could have bounced anywhere, was stolen by Falkingham who crossed without a hand laid on him. Scrum-half Isaac Green converted both and, somewhat shocked, Coventry were 14-3 down.

The response, though, was immediate. The forwards, who totally dominated the line-outs and driving play, soon took charge.

First hooker Phil Nilsen was driven over from a catch-and-drive, and within a further four minutes a similar move from close-in saw skipper Phil Boulton cross. Fenner converted the second for a 14 -15 lead on 15 minutes.

Almost immediately Hull were back in front, Green coolly slotting a 36-metre penalty.

In the 25th minute, with both half-backs now departed, replacement scrum-half Dave Brazier broke clear, the supporting James Stokes just being held by the home defence which to this point had been sound.

Not be denied, Coventry soon moved back in front to secure a lead they were never to lose again.

An excellent scrum, which was another area that was to become more and more potent, saw replacement Will Maisey fire a penalty kick into the home 22. From the resultant line-out, another forward drive allowed Brazier to cross, Maisey adding the extras.

There was still time for Green to add another home penalty and for Maisey to reply leaving a 20-25 half time scoreline.

It did not take long following the changeover for the Blue & Whites to all but effectively pull away and out of sight.

Good passing left was initially held, only for centre Alex Grove to cross to seal the try bonus point, and the remainder of the half was to delight the Coventry camp with Ionians completely taken out of it and a rampant Cov securing five more tries.

With the forwards now in total command, on 52 minute, a thrilling interception from Stokes saw him totally outpace the home defence for a fine 70-metre run-in, Maisey converting superbly to leave the Butts Park men 37-20 clear.

After yet another excellent scrum and penalty award, replacement hooker Scott Tolmie became the latest to benefit from another massive close-in drive, Maisey converting.

69 minutes and Cov were destined to pass the half century mark. A series of pick-and go’s saw yet another replacement, Brett Daynes cross for try number seven, Maisey’s conversion  taking his side to 51 points.

Two more late tries really put the seal on the victory. On both occasions, it was flanker Jack Preece who crossed, Cov’s open side being just one of several forwards who had put in outstanding performances. Maisey converted the second.

Ionians, to their credit, did attempt one final move from deep in injury time, but to no avail.

All in all, despite some early blips and the injuries sustained, it was a very commanding performance, the seventh time in succession a Coventry side has defeated their East Yorkshire counterparts in seven meetings.

Hull Ionians: tries Falkingham 2 (6, 8); conversions Green 2 (7, 9); penalties Green 2 (18, 36). Coventry: tries Preece 2 (75, 77), Nilsen (11), Boulton (15), Brazier (27), Groves (43), Stokes (52), Tolmie (60), Daynes (69); conversions Maisey 5 (28, 44, 53, 61, 78), Fenner (16); penalties Fenner (4), Maisey (39).

Hull Ionians: Minikin; Heath, Tincknell, Allott, Wilson; Bell (Lound 61), Green (Wolstenholme 54); Laverick, Thomson (Stephenson 61), Stout (Dennis 54, Stout 70), Makin, Newman, O’Donnell (Wigham 72), Sanderson, Falkingham.

Coventry: Stokes; Asiedu, Grove, Stevens, Knox; Fenner (Maisey 23), White (Brazier 7); Litchfield (Boulton 54), Nilsen (Tolmie 54), Boulton (Brown 29, Litchfield 66), Dacres, Oram (Daynes h-t), Makaafi (Nilsen 66), Preece, Narraway.

Referee: Alexander Thomas.