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Cambridge unable to stop the power of Coventry

Chris Leathem touched down for Cambridge against Coventry.
Chris Leathem touched down for Cambridge against Coventry.

Defeat on the road in National League One

Substance won the battle over style in Cambridge’s trip to Coventry in National League One.

And it was not just substance but substantial size that saw the hosts score eight tries to the visitors’ two in the 55-12 win.

It was supposed to be the meeting of minds, a carefree all-running approach from both sides as Coventry director of rugby Rowland Winter pitted his wits against the side he got promoted last season and good friend Ross Stewart, who was his successor.

But a powerful pack did the damage for the hosts, with the back five particularly dominant.

Jack Willis stood out with his all-round play, proving very prominent at the breakdown, and in the second row, Brendan Snyman was a colossus.

Hooker Scott Tolmie also put in a big performance, with his ball carrying and pace catching the eye.

It felt like the first five minutes had a bit of staggering impact on Cambridge, and they were left adjusting to the consequences for a little while afterwards.

The first scrum saw them driven backwards, and from the first accurate Coventry line-out, the rolling maul ate into the visitors’ territory, although it did take 13 minutes for the hosts to get their first try.

As good as the hosts were in how they played though, Cambridge gave them too many opportunities to make hay.

Possession was at a premium and so it was so important that when Cambridge had the ball, they looked after it well. However, that was not the case and it just left them having to exert even more energy to try to win it back again.

Coventry’s line-out was as destructive a weapon as you will see as they set up rolling maul after rolling maul that Cambridge just could not stop.

So it was all the more frustrating for the visitors that when they cleared their lines with the boot, the ball often did not go far outside the 22 but into touch and so they were left awaiting another set piece from the hosts.

From a Cambridge perspective, the first half was a non-event as they only made it inside the Coventry 22 once and were instead faced with a rearguard action to try to keep their opponents at bay.

This they did well for large parts, but it is virtually impossible to withstand such pressure for 40 minutes.

As it was, three catch and drives from Coventry led to tries from Tolmie, Darrell Dyer and Rob Knox, with Anthony Fenner kicking three conversions and a penalty to make it 24-0 at half time.

Ten minutes after the break, Coventry earned their bonus point through a penalty try after another powerful catch and drive from a line-out.

Cambridge were starting to see a little more of the ball, and created a good chance for Chris Leathem to evade a few attempted tackles to dot down.

But Coventry roared back as Owain James came in off the wing and side-stepped a couple of defenders to score.

Five minutes later, Brett Daynes powered over the line to score against his former club with the hosts’ six try, and from the restart, Coventry ran it straight back at Cambridge and had a couple of overlaps for James to get his second try.

Cambridge were not done, and James Ayrton wriggled his way through to touch down, with Jack Green adding the conversion.

But Coventry had the final say, and aptly it was from another catch and drive, and from star man Willis, with Will Maisey’s conversion completing the victory.

Coventry: Hodgson; James, Hircock, Wheatcroft, Knox; Fenner, White; Stankovich, Tolmie, Boulton, Jubb, Snyman, Willis, Povoas, Dyer.

Replacements: Litchfield (Boulton, 31), Daynes (Povoas, 56), Byrne (Stankovich, 60), Maisey (Fenner, 60), Pritchard (Hodgson, 64).

Cambridge: Furbank; Hutchinson, Hema, Ayrton, Portsmouth; Green, Trotter; Langley, Griffiths, Jones, Moon, Bretag-Norris, Rawlings, Johnson, McCloud.

Replacements: Leathem (Hutchinson, 40), Seal (Jones, 47), Laxton (Rawlings, 51), Ruddock (Griffiths, 56), Liebenberg (Trotter, 60), Jones (Langley, 68), Langley (Johnson, 73).

Sin bin: Cambridge – Portsmouth (technical offence, 34), Seal (technical offence, 71).

Scorers: 13 Tolmie try – Fenner con (7-0), 28 Dyer try – Fenner con (14-0), 39 Knox try – Fenner con (21-0), 40+3 Fenner pen (24-0), 50 penalty try – Fenner con (31-0), 56 Leathem try (31-5), 60 James try – Fenner con (38-5), 65 Daynes try (43-5), 67 James try (48-5), 69 Ayrton try – Green con (48-12), 76 Willis try – Maisey con (55-12).

Attendance: 1,185.

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