On a weekend which brought back fond memories of last season’s thrilling semi-final win in the Championship Cup, Alex Rae’s 23-man squad made the hop across the channel to face the Jersey Reds, looking to continue their bright start to the 2022/23 campaign.
The weather did not disappoint at the Stade Santander International, and there was a strong sense of optimism in the air as Coventry began the game brightly.
The opening 10 minutes provided everything but a score for the away side, as Cov dominated possession and territory early on. Jersey’s TJ Harris was sent to the bin as his side conceded a third penalty in nearly as many minutes. Cov thought they’d made the most of the extra man as Jimmy Martin went over in the corner, only to spot the linesman’s flag going up for a foot in touch.
Unfortunately, Coventry paid the price for failing to get points on the board, as the tide of the game swung with Jersey’s first score of the day. After a fast counter attack by the home side following a scrum, lots of hands were involved for Tomi Lewis to go over in the corner. Bennett added the extra two points. (7-0)
Coventry demonstrated the resilience that we’ve known to expect from Alex Rae’s young side as they responded brightly following Jersey’s opening try. However, as the first half drew to a close the away side still did not manage to get on the scoreboard.
The Reds doubled their lead as Harris benefited from a virtually unstoppable driving maul. Bennett was once again successful with his conversion. (14-0) That looked to be that for the first half but the reds and TJ Harris had other ideas. As the number of Coventry penalties began to mount up, Harris skirted away from a ruck to burrow his way over the whitewash. Bennett landed his third successful conversion of the afternoon, as a disappointing first period for Coventry was compounded by a yellow card for Toby Trinder on his 50th appearance for the club.
In similar fashion to the first half, Coventry began the second period the better of the two sides. Jersey gave away a number of penalties and were on the back foot early on. Cov missed the first opportunity of points of the second-half with a penalty kick that strayed wide of the posts. Despite the efforts shown by a young Cov team, Jersey extended their lead on the 55 minute mark. Holgate went over under the sticks for the home side after a sharp attack and kick over the top from the Reds. (28-0)
Jake Bridges and Fin Ogden joined proceedings looking to turn the tide. However, Jersey, in a ruthless mood scored the fifth of the day as play reached the hour mark. Lewis was the beneficiary of another excellent probing kick from the home team, before Bennett converted for a fifth time. (35-0)
The travelling supporters that had made the journey were finally given something to celebrate. What is now becoming a trademark score for Coventry took place in Bowl Corner at the Stade. After a kick to deep inside Jersey territory, Jordon Poole dotted down from the hine position of a strong driving maul. Evan Mithcell, now on the field, converted as the team raced back in to position to receive the kick off. (35-7)
A slight hint of a comeback wafted through the Jersey air as Coventry’s first score was swiftly followed by a second. Fullback Louis Brown raced through a tired defence before Mitchell converted once more. (35-14)
Sadly, from a Cov point of view, that was where ‘project: comeback’ ended, as Jersey had the last word of the afternoon. A powerful driving maul allowed Clarke, last season’s joint top try-scorer in the Championship, to touch down for his first of the new campaign just before the final whistle.
It wasn’t our day on this occasion on the Island, however we will regroup and prepare to go again as we host Ampthill next week in what is a huge battle of the Midlands.
We look forward to welcoming everybody back to the Butts Park Arena on Saturday 24th of September for a 3pm kick-off, for our second home game of the season.