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Cov keep it clean in mud as Fylde pay the penalty.

Byline: JOHN WILKINSON Rugby Reporter

COVENTRY 47 fylde 3 CONDITIONS, and dare it be said, officials, can be a great leveller, and Coventry had to overcome both as well as stubborn opponents on their way to an ultimately comfortable margin of victory.

A wet, muddy Butts Park Arena pitch limited any real prospect of a free-flowing game, and it was the 63rd minute before Cov made sure of maximum points as Fylde defended with a commitment belying their position at the foot of the National League One table.

Bizarrely, that fourth try was the first from open play - Cov's first three scores all penalty tries as Fylde's efforts to contain the home forwards went too far.

Reward as that was, however, it was deep into added time before Fylde's tenth transgression of the first half produced a yellow card, and - although two more followed after the break as the penalty count continued to rise - the subsequent stop-start pattern and low tempo of the game was a source of frustration for the home supporters.

Cutting loose in the final quarter, however, Cov finished in some style and - their seven tries taking them to 130 for the season, equalling last season's club record total - on a day when they were one of only two teams in the division to secure a try bonus point, their lead at the top is now 16 points.

"The most important thing was to get five points, keep taking things a week at a time, and as that was the most we could have got out of the game, I'm happy that we've done that in the conditions," said director of rugby Rowland Winter.

"Looking back at the first half, we were working hard but without the accuracy and without the clinical edge, but in the second half we got the reward in terms of tries for our power game, the hard yards from our forwards, and for a little bit more direct play from everyone across the park.

"On a pitch like that I'd challenge anyone in the stand to go out there and try to walk on it, let alone run or play rugby, so you need to play in the right areas of the field and I thought the decision to kick so much was right.

"Some of our execution wasn't quite there, especially in the first half, and we need to look at how we returned some of their kicks as I felt we lost a lot of the territorial battle in the first 30 or 40 minutes.

"But when we kept the ball in hand a little bit more in the second half and got a bit more direction before kicking, we were far more successful."

Despite forward pressure it took Cov 18 minutes to make the breakthrough, referee Callum Sharp eventually awarding a penalty try after a succession of scrum offences.

Another stalemate followed until Greg Smith kicked a fine 40-metre penalty for Fylde on 35 minutes, jolting Cov into life and prompting a prolonged spell of pressure which led to a second penalty try no less than ten minutes into added time and a yellow card for visiting hooker Ben Gregory.

After a scoreless third quarter, with Fylde's penalty tally now up to 17 the 63rd minute brought another set-piece penalty try, stretching the score to 21-3 with Fylde losing Nick Ashcroft and Henry Hadfield to the sin bin in the space of three minutes.

Cov finally found the extra space to work in, and Phil Nilsen powered over for the bonus point before Tom Emery, George Oram and - on his debut - Paddy Ryan followed him across the line in a final flourish, Will Maisey adding three conversions. SCORING: Coventry: tries penalty try 3 (18, 40, 63), Nilsen (68), Emery (70), Oram (74), Ryan (78); conversions Maisey 3 (68, 71, 79). Fylde: penalty Smith (35).

COVENTRY: Emery (Stokes 46), Knox (Tolmie 71), Grove, Fenner, Trimble (Emery 69), Maisey, Brazier, Brown (Jeannot 49), Tolmie, Jeannot (Boulton h-t), Jubb, Oram, Makaafi (Ryan 46), Daynes, Narraway.

FYLDE: Carleton, Hadfield, Wilkinson, Fowden, Bailey, Smith, Dolly, Lewis, Gregory (Burtonwood 60), Irving, Garrod (Ashcroft 60), Parkinson, Corrie, Hopwood, Fairbrother.

REFEREE: Callum Sharp. ATTENDANCE: 1,357.

CAPTION(S):

Top, Dave Brazier fires the ball away to Cov's back line; (left) Tom Jubb halts a Fylde move as Brett Daynes moves in; and (above) it's all mud fun! PICTURES: NICK MEREDITH
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Feb 5, 2018
Words:733
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