By David Lawrence
Coventry bagged two tries in each half to stun English champions Saracens in the opening round of the Premiership Cup in front of a record crowd at the Butts Park Arena.
Hooker Suva Ma’asi and centre Will Wand crossed before half-time with Ryan Hutler then scoring a debut try before fly-half Pat Pellegrini rounded things off in the final seconds.
Sarries claimed the opening points of the game when, on ten minutes, a line-out ball was worked across the pitch to Ben Harris lurking in the centre and he powered over the line with Manu Vunipola kicking the conversion.
Coventry’s response was impressive. Four minutes after conceding, they won their own line-out to kick-start a number of drives from the pack only for the visitors to keep them out.
But the pressure told two minutes later when, from another line-out, a well-worked catch-and-drive manoeuvre saw Ma’asi shoved over the try-line.
Cov pressed again soon after when debutant Hutler showed great speed down the right only for Toby Knight to clear his kick ahead to safety.
Both sides went close to adding to the scoreline – Sarries being penalised as they drove for the line and Cov being held up following another catch-and-drive – before a frenetic four minutes at the end of the half saw each claim a second try to delight the 4,109 in the ground.
It was the Premiership side who crossed first on 36 minutes when, from a scrum, the ball was worked to the opposite flank where Harris showed strength and pace to run in his second of the game.
Then, three minutes later, a successful Coventry line-out saw the ball passed into midfield where centres Will Rigg and Wand combined, the latter muscling over from short range.
Just four minutes into the second half and the Blue-and-Whites crossed again thanks to an excellent move off the back of the line-out with replacement hooker Jordan Poole feeding scrum-half Will Chudley who in turn teed up Hutler who finished things off beneath the posts.
Sarries winger Harris had been the star turn of the opening half but was kept quiet after the break until 20 minutes in when he nipped through to gather a cheeky chip over the defence from replacement scrum-half Aled Davies only to be engulfed by Cov’s quick-witted defence.
The tireless Pellegrini thought he had added his name to the scoresheet four minutes from the end only for the referee to haul play back for an earlier knock-on.
But he did get his deserved try with the final move of the game. Excellent work from his pack managed to see out the final stages lodged in the far corner and when the ball was popped to the outside-half he zipped through a tired Sarries defence to score under the posts to give himself the simplest of conversions.
Final Score: Coventry 28-14 Saracens