Coventry booked their place in the Championship cup final with a thrilling away win over an injury-hit Jersey Reds side.
The home team exploded into life from the off, with Reds winger Will Brown putting in a sumptuous kick for scrum half James Mitchell to score. Referee Dan Jones however silenced the crowd as he pulled it back for offside. Almost from the resumption the visitors were over at the other end, with the Coventry ‘9 -Josh Barton - finding a hole in the home defence to burst through and feed Sentiki Nayalo for the first try. Tony Fenner converted, as he did six minutes later after another Barton break, this time feeding captain Jordon Poole. A Fenner penalty after 15 minutes gave Coventry an extraordinary, but deserved 17-0 lead.
Jersey were shell-shocked, but steadied the ship by moving the ball fast and wide. But with chances opening up, the final pass just wasn’t clinical enough and repeated infringements stunted any momentum gained.
Coventry’s rearguard action was fantastic throughout, and despite Jersey being camped on their line, the visitors repelled everything the Reds threw at them, a theme that would continue throughout almost all of the evening.
On the half hour however the resistance broke and Wesley White - in his last Reds’ appearance - scored from the back of a powerful maul. Brendan Cope added the extras with a cracking conversion from out wide. The half ended with Jersey in the ascendancy, and the second began in a similar vein. Try scorer Nayalo was binned for a late high swinging arm, and for the sin-bin period Jersey battered away in the visitors ’22. The next score was crucial, but despite all their pressure Jersey couldn’t go over, and it was a Fenner penalty for Coventry that seemingly took the game away from Jersey.
The Reds kept going, but the Cov energy levels stayed high, cheering every decision, and every ball won like it was the final whistle. Try as they might, the home side just couldn’t get enough sustained pressure.
As the game drew to a close, the five-day turnaround and the intensity of the Coventry defence appeared to have taken its toll, as finally gaps began to appear and Jersey started to take advantage. A huge Jersey maul went close, but the next went one better as local boy Harry Doolan was credited with the score late on. Crucially the conversion was missed, but after claiming the restart, Jersey finally played some of the rugby the Islanders have become used to, and after pulling the visitors left and right, Scott Van Breda went over in the corner.
The final score was too little, too late for the Reds, whose players slumped to the floor at the final whistle. A huge opportunity was missed to play and potentially host a final, but the Reds just didn’t rise to the heights reached in recent games, a high penalty count going against them, as well as a Coventry side who were fired up from the opening seconds, and Coventry won through to contest the cup final in a week’s time.
Harvey Biljon, Jersey DOR, said: "It was tough to take, we didn’t lack desire or effort but we just couldn’t get a foothold in that first half. We have had a lot go against us, both before and during the game, but again showed great resilience and on another day we could have got the win."
Report by James Hewlett
JERSEY REDS: B Owen, Van Breda, Roberts, Barnes, Brown; Cope, Mitchell; Flynn, Harris, Longwell, Everard, Cook, Argyle, Wynne (capt), Thompson.
Replacements (all used): Doolan, Godfrey, Nicol, Humfrey, White, Simmons, Leeming, Holgate
COVENTRY: Brown; Stevenson, Forsyth, Knox, Martin; Fenner, Barton; Trinder, Poole (capt), Boulton, Peters, Tyas, Betteridge, Bainbridge, Nayalo (YC 45).
Replacements: Ma’asi, Jeannot, Bridges, Thomas, Ball, Ogden, Stanton, Aspland-Robinson
REFEREE: Dan Jones. Assistants: Lionel Spooner & Ian Bibey
Half Time: 7-17
Tries: White (29) Doolan (75), Van Breda (79)
Conversions: Cope (29)
Tries: Nayalo (3) Poole (9)
Conversions: Fenner (3, 9)
Penalties: Fenner (15, 68)
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