On a day where Coventry needed to avoid defeat by more than 13 points to qualify for a Cup semi-final, a strong crowd of 2000+ turned up on a stupendous Sunday afternoon to aid the mission of continuing the season.
Tony Fenner rather fittingly kicked things off on what was his last game at the Butts, hoping it would not be the last match of his career overall. The game started on an unfortunate note as Sam Aspland-Robinson clashed with Toby Trinder chasing the kick. However, after receiving the appropriate treatment both managed to continue and the game could really get going.
Doncaster, needing points and needing them early, started just as they had planned. Kyle Evans ran under the sticks after latching on to a great break from full back Harry Davey. Sam Olver added the extras and Donny had reduced their 13 point deficit to just 6.
Five minutes later Cov responded, and responded emphatically. After some patient build up in the Donny 22, an excellent carry and offload from Fred Betteridge found Jordon Poole. The skipper on the day dived over, allowing Fenner the chance to level the score, which he did from the tee.
Unfortunately, from a Cov perspective – Doncaster had another a few minutes later. With a penalty advantage, the backs spun it wide for Harvey Davey to dot down neatly. Olver landed another conversion leaving the score at 7-14.
The tempo of the game was fast and furious from the off, however a small period after the 20 minute mark gave the home crowd a chance to catch their breath as both sets of teams engaged in a rather lengthy game of kick tennis. It was Coventry, and Louis Brown that finally spotted a gap that was worth taking a run at. Brown linked up nicely with James Martin as the two broke down the middle of the park. After moving the ball wide, it seemed like a fairytale try for Tony Fenner was surely on cards, bar a last ditch tackle bringing the fly half down just meters out. Tiki Nayalo was not to be stopped however, especially from such close range. The conversion was successful and the scores were level once more at 14-14.
It looked like things would be even on the day going in to the break, but Donny had other ideas. Patient play from the rather large pack gave John Kelly the chance to go over before Olver once again landed the extra 2 points. Olver was less successful with a penalty kick just moments later off the back of a scrum penalty as the ball strayed to the right of the posts. This meant that the score going in to the sheds was 14-21 on the day, and Cov ‘s aggregate lead was at 6 points.
Sam Olver got the second half underway for the visitors, and he shortly after got the chance to atone for his missed penalty at the end of the first period. A penalty for not rolling away resulted in 3 points for the away side. (14-24)
On the 50 minute mark, Fenner responded in the private battle of the goal kickers as he landed a penalty from some distance to regain the 6 point lead on aggregate. A yellow card for Doncaster and Tom Smith for illegally bringing down the rolling Cov maul, meant Coventry could kick it to the corner and do it all again. Josh Bainbridge went over and the Butts erupted as it seemed the tide was turning very much in the home team’s favour.
With 20 minutes to go; things changed. Within the blink of an eye Coventry were down to 13 men as now the Doncaster pack were flexing their mauling muscles. James Tyas and Jake Bridges received yellows in quick succession, the latter resulting in a penalty try and the score was looking unfavourable at 24-31.
With 10 mins to go, Cov still had a slender 6 point aggregate lead. Perhaps the moment of the match came in this period as Fin Ogden cleared Coventry lines with a long box kick, the chase was fast and determined, and James Martin won a turnover penalty on the halfway line, much to crowds delight and relief.
A Tonny Fenner penalty on 75 minutes from an improbable angle was incredibly important, as it meant that the away side needed more than a converted try to win a brilliant tie between the two Championship clubs. (27-31)
The Coventry defence stayed resilient, before quite unusually, it was Adam Peters that kicked the ball off the park – meaning that despite a 27-31 loss on the day, Cov had won the tie 62-53 on aggregate.
A semi-final away to Jersey (just the one match this time) awaits for the boys in blue this coming Friday 13th May at the Stade Santander International, kick off at 7pm. Thank you for all your support this season at the Butts Park Arena, and we look forward to welcoming you back for the 2022/23 season.