Coventry Rugby hit the Boxing Day bull’s eye against the Archers when two tries from Jimmy Martin and 17 points from Pat Pellegrini paved the way for a five-try success.
Playing in front of a partisan Butts Park Arena record crowd of 5047 the hosts scored three tries before the break then went on to secure a bonus point success with two further second-half touchdowns.
The win was built on a solid scrummaging and lineout display by their forwards while Will Rigg carried often and hard and scrum half Will Chudley managed the game impressively.
This result lifts Cov to fourth in the table – and with a visit to third-placed Bedford scheduled for New Year’s Day, Alex Rae’s team could go into the January break within range of the top three.
Cov saw very little possession in the opening stages but when some ball eventually arrived the blue-and-whites immediately capitalised. An immaculate Pellegrini touch-finder took play into the Archers’ 22 before two powerful Will Rigg carries created the space for Ryan Hutler to send Martin to the corner.
The hosts went close to extending their advantage when Obi Nkwocha galloped to the line only to be brilliantly held in goal by a desperate Marcus Ramage tackle.
But the BPA faithful only waited a few seconds for the next try as Cov returned the goal-line drop out deep into the visitors’ 22 where Jordon Poole sent Pellegrini over for a try which he also converted.
The hosts had a third score on the board before the half-hour mark. The excellent Chudley released Martin and Pellegrini down the blindside, then when play came back to the right Tobi Wilson broke a tackle and forced his way into the corner.
Cov’s Tongan no.10 added the extras with a fine kick but Nottingham almost immediately reduced the arrears by seven points. Full back Ellis Mee was the eventual beneficiary after the home side failed to deal with a bobbling ball inside their own half following a midfield scrum.
Although scrum half Mike Stronge added the conversion this was cancelled out on the stroke of half-time by Pellegrini’s simple 20-metre penalty which left Cov holding a 15-point interval advantage.
Rigg almost extended this when he got on the shoulder of a scorching Will Wand break only to be brought to ground by a last-ditch tap tackle five metre out.
But referee Harry Walbaum adjudged Nottingham had killed the ball on the ground and after they duly lost Mee to the sin bin, from the resulting lineout Cov drove skipper Poole over for their bonus point try.
Nottingham replacements Ryan Olowefela and Jack Dickinson then combined to good effect and it was the hooker who claimed a try behind the home posts which a third replacement, Morgan Bunting, converted.
Following the arrival of a raft of their own substitutes it was Coventry that struck next through a superb solo effort from Martin. The pacy winger found a gap in the Archers’ kick chase on halfway and totally wrong-footed the covering defence in a 55-metre race to the posts which left Pellegrini with a simple conversion.
The hosts then lost Hutler to the sin bin for a deliberate knock-on in midfield and following the concession of a series of penalties were forced to spend a lengthy period in deep defence.
And eventually the pressure told as visiting skipper Scott Hall forced his way over for a try which Bunting improved after Nottingham spread possession wide from a five-metre scrum.
Recently-signed Fijian prop Vili Nairau then had the crowd on their feet with a storming break from which the supporting Wand was just denied in the left-hand corner.
And fittingly it was Cov who had the last word when Pellegrini slotted a simple penalty to extend their winning margin to 37-21.
Coventry Rugby: Wilson (Mitchell, 74); Hutler, Wand, Rigg, Martin; Pellegrini, Chudley (Lane, 55); Chilvers (Southworth, 52), Poole (Caine, 63), Salt (Nairau, 52); Tyas, Nkwocha (Anstey, 60); Ryan, Kvesic (Ball, 55), Nayalo (Bartlett, 55).
Nottingham: Mee (Olowofela, 53); Williams, Ramage, Tiueti, Stapley; Hollingsworth (Bunting, 55), Stronge (Goodwin, 60); Owen (Van Der Flier, 54), Harris (Dickinson, 54), Richardson (Valentine, 54); Ferreira (Shine 29-35 and 58), Joussain; Maloney-Fiaola, Cherry (Ecclesfield, 50), Hall
Referee: Harry Walbaum
Half-time: Coventry Rugby 22-7 Nottingham