Coventry Nighthawks provided the ideal opponents at Grange Road in what was an extremely watchable game that offered plenty of food for thought for both sides on its conclusion, which was a 26-21 win for the visitors.
The Championship club fielded a side with players on the fringes of their first team squad and many development team players, a lot of whom are currently out on loan at National League clubs. The balance was the perfect test for the students, who rose to the challenge.
Coventry’s half-back duo Dan Lewis and Will Flinn were combining to put the university on the backfoot for large spells of the first half, but the hosts’ tenacity and defensive spirit shone through. It has been a redeeming feature in all four of their evening fixtures so far this season, and the tough tackling was again to the fore, with the back row of Sean McMahon, Tom Walton and Stephen Leonard particularly prominent.
Lewis was just nudging the visitors into the right areas and in Flinn, Coventry had a livewire who was alert to everything happening around him and quick to try to capitalise on any flat-footedness from the hosts.
It was, however, the opposite that led to the opening try in the fifth minute, with full-back Joey Gatus intercepting a pass in his own 22 and showing a clean pair of heels to race 95m to touch down for the university. Chris Bell’s excellent record off the tee continued with the conversion. The try was certainly against the run of play, but it just shows the potency of Gatus if he gets a sniff of the line, and he was to demonstrate that again later in the game.
Coventry set up camp in the Light Blues’ half thereafter, in what became a very fragmented period with their scrum dominance leading to a succession of penalties. Finally, Ben Adams picked up off the base and passed to Flinn, who in turn put in Morgan Dayes to touch down after 19 minutes.
The visitors’ strength at the set-piece was pegging the students’ back, but they just stuck to the task in hand and tackled as if their lives depended on it.
Coventry were running some good lines, and eventually took the lead as Dayes got clear on the wing and went inside for the supporting Flinn to touch down.
The scrum-half was at it again on the stroke of half time, with some neat running lines and angles created for Adams to get away and then off-load to the supporting Flinn, who scampered through to touch down. Lewis’ conversions made it 19-7 at the break.
The lack of possession had meant that we had not seen too much of the Light Blues as an attacking force, but they grew into the game in that regard after half time.
Gatus had a key role again as he broke past several tackles in the 47th minute before going wide to Fergus Jemphrey who raced away to touch down, and Bell converted for 19-14.
Good play from Coventry saw them go back to two scores ahead, with a neat pop pass from Lewis for Robbie Povey to hit a great line straight through the middle of the defence to touch down under the posts, and the conversion made it 26-14.
Gatus had his second try of the night after play was moved along the line from a line-out, and the No 15 spotted the space to dart into and touch down. George Laing’s conversion reduced the arrears to five points with five minutes remaining.
There was increased optimism from the hosts that they may be able to sneak a result, and they may just have done that had Al Gliksten’s pass out wide two minutes from time just stuck in the hands from metres out.
Alas, it was not to be for the Light Blues, but Coventry were deserving of their win and in a match that was about development for both sides, it seems fair to suggest that both will have gone home quite happy.
Cambridge University: Gatus; Jemphrey, Russell, Triniman, Elms; Bell, Gliksten; MacCallum, Huppatz, Harborne, van der Merwe, Beckett, Walton, McMahon, Leonard.
Replacements: Schusman, Collins, Kasem, Smart, Smeaton, Laing, Mullaney, Story, Lovelace.
Coventry Nighthawks: Povey; Martin, Wells, Fenner, Dayes; Lewis, Flinn; Langley, McNulty, Jeannot, Hutchinson, Russell, Betteridge, Nutley, Adams.
Replacements: Amoako, Prowse, Parker, Mitcham, Beer, Sharpe, Titchener, Creighton.
Referee: George Jones.
Statistics: 5min Gatus try – Bell con (7-0), 19 Dayes try (7-5), 28 Flinn try – Lewis con (7-12), 40+2 Flinn try – Lewis con (7-19), 47 Jemphrey try – Bell con (14-19), 55 Povey try – Lewis con (14-26), 75 Gatus try – Laing con (21-26).
For the full article visit The Cambridge Independent