Jersey Reds went down by a single point in their opening pre-season outing which took place six months later than teams would traditionally go into action.
Having not played since the last day of February 2020, the Reds made a charter day-trip to the Midlands as part of the build-up to the Greene King IPA Championship starting in March.
The match featured plenty of running rugby, with the home side scoring six tries to the visitors’ five.
The Reds made the best possible start with some attacks straight from the kick-off and before too long Brendan Owen ran a powerful direct line close to the posts with just three minutes on the clock.
And the Reds’ lead was doubled to 14 points with as many minutes gone – this time a powerful maul made ground inside the Cov 22 and then when the ball was spun wide Dan Barnes found Ryan Hutler who raced through to the posts.
The hosts got back into it just before the ‘quarter-time’ water-break when Nic Dolly, who spent time on loan at the Reds from Sale Sharks, went over from a maul.
Impressive back row linkage from Cov saw skipper Ryan Burrows find Tom Ball for a run to the posts but a straightforward conversion hit the post (10-14).
The Reds went over from a maul as half-time approached, with Tim Grey scoring from close range and Cope adding a magnificent conversion from the touchline.
The hosts had the last word before the break as Dolly crossed again from close range to make it 17-21.
The tempo remained high in the second period in spite of a raft of changes, and the visitors stretched their lead when Bader Pretorius crossed within 10 minutes of making his debut after some good build-up play from Zei Alexis.
After Rob Knox pulled one back for the home side (22-26), Cov then took lead for the first time with the best score of the game, featuring some excellent interplay down the left flank culminating in Tom Emery going over in the corner.
The Reds crossed for a fifth try from a scrum to retake the lead, with Tim Grey picking up and feeding Josh Bainbridge for the try (pictured above), which Pretorius converted impressively (27-33).
But the home side were back in front when Knox took an interception in midfield and raced 50 metres to score, an easy conversion making it 34-33.
The Reds were mostly pinned in their half during the closing stage, which featured some feisty exchanges which saw Sam Lewis of Cov and Reds skipper Sean O’Connor sent to the sin-bin, and the Reds weren’t able to work the field position required for a winning score.
However it was an encouraging display from the visitors after an early alarm call and flight to Birmingham for what was their first match for 50 weeks, and the first outing for a squad with more than 50% new faces. Some inaccuracy was to be expected, but there were plenty of positives to take away from a sub-zero afternoon at the Butts Park Arena.
Pic by Simon Hall
Coventry (15-9, 1-8)
Louis Brown; Rob Stevenson, Andy Forsyth, Will Owen, Callum Sirker; Dan Lewis, Pete White; Toby Trinder, Nic Dolly, Alex Gibson, Nile Dacres, Cameron Jordan, Adam Peters, Tom Ball, Ryan Burrows (c)
Suva Ma’asi, Sam McNulty, Luc Jeannot, Phil Boulton, James Harper, Alex Woolford, Sam Lewis, Ben Nutley, Mario Pichardie, Joe Snow, Kieran Wilkinson, Evan Mitchell, Tom Emery, Rob Knox, Louis James, Joe Brock
Jersey Reds (15-9, 1-8)
Tom Williams; Ryan Hutler, Brendan Owen, Dan Barnes, Lesley Klim; Brendan Cope, James Elliott; Dan Richardson, TJ Harris, Ciaran Parker, Zak Farrance, Sean O’Connor (c), Max Argyle, Kyle Hatherell, Tim Grey.
Jack Macfarlane, Roy Godfrey, Zei Alexis, Jack Higgins, Rory Bartle, Josh Bainbridge, Cam Nordli-Kelemeti, Bader Pretorius, Ma’afu, Spencer, Heatherley
Tries: Dolly 19, 40, Ball 29, Knox 53, 70, Emery 56
Conversions: Wilkinson 40, 70
Tries: Owen 3, Hutler 14, Grey 36, Pretorius 48, Bainbridge 65
Conversions: Cope 3, 14, 36, Pretorius 65
Referee: Alex Thomas. Assistants: Jamie Leahy, Simon Park