Coventry 49 Blackheath 29

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Club concede to Cov class

A fine, sunny spring afternoon, a firm dry surface, and two sides with plenty of pace in their respective back divisions (Coventry have passed the half-century mark on four occasions this term), this was always anticipated to be high scoring encounter.

In that respect the 1,949 crowd in the Butts Park Arena were not to be disappointed with eleven tries, all from open play, seven of them in favour of the hosts. Two late scores would disguise the fact that with ten minutes to go, Blackheath were a mere five points adrift, but Coventry were largely the dominant side, even though they were pegged back twice after stretching out a substantial lead.

In fact Blackheath made the better start. After Matt Jones and Gordon Ross had exchanged early penalties, Coventry conceded a string of infringements, their frustration evidenced by the temporary banishment of tight-head Chad Thorne for backchat, and the visitors took advantage as Markus Burcham sent Alex Gallagher in for a converted score following line-out ball.

Nevertheless, as the West Midlanders regained their composure, the powerful running and ball retention going into contact, allied with consistent support play, which for much of the season kept them in close contention at the top of the table became apparent. Loose ball was mopped up for a two-man overlap to sweep down the left flank, outside-centre Rob Knox scoring, and on the half-hour, as the hosts built up the pressure, Blackheath ran out of tacklers before full-back Scott Hamilton crossed the goal-line.

Moments later a break from inside-centre Will Hurrell sent Dan Rundle (the wing whose pace had decided the outcome of the reverse fixture at Rectory Field in December) speeding over for a third try and at 22-10 the signs were ominous for the visitors, but Ross’ quick throw-in, and Geoff Griffiths weaving run through the midfield for Mike Canty to cross, reduced the deficit to just five points at the interval.

Within twelve minutes of the re-start Coventry had pulled away again. Going through the phases once more in the Club twenty-two, space soon opened up for left-wing Rhys Williams to score, and number-eight Sam Pailor’s line-break in the 52nd minute led to a try for Jones, the fly-half converting his own score on his way to a final personal tally of 19.

Again Blackheath responded. Bertie Haskins came off the bench to pop up in the inside-centre channel to send Chris Sewell across, and Joe Hardy’s break along the left touchline saw ball spread across field for Tom Chapman to scamper over in acres of space, bringing the visitors back within a score of their hosts.

Just for a while the momentum lay with the Kent side, but Blackheath’s ability to protect the ball going into contact never matched that of the opposition and possession was too frequently turned over.

Ironically, in a game dominated by open running rugby, the telling moment came as Cov’s dominant scrum scored a strike against the head, putting the Club under the pressure that conceded the 72nd minute penalty that stretched the score to 37-29.

Now the hosts, with their large crowd roaring them on, could relax, and with a break down the right flank from their own half of the field, followed by loose ball, producing second scores for Knox and Rundle respectively, Coventry could celebrate a comfortable victory.

Next Saturday Blackheath return to Rectory Field for the final match of the season when they take on Fylde in the battle to for fifth place in National League One. Kick-off is at 3.00 pm

Coventry

Tries: Knox 2, Hamilton, Rundle 2, Williams, Jones
Conv: Jones 4
Pens: Jones 2

Blackheath

Tries: Gallagher, Canty, Sewell, Chapman
Conv: Ross 3
Pens: Ross

We now have a Blackheath Channel on Grandstand where you can to watch the highlights of this match – click here to find out more.

Graham Cox

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