By Oscar Mortimer
After a disappointing end to what was a great performance in the BUCS Super Rugby earlier in the week, it was time for Loughborough Students to take on Nat 1 giants Coventry. This would very much be an uphill battle, and could be the toughest contest Loughborough have faced thus far this season. When describing Coventry with regard to National League One this season, the word ‘dominant’ is an understatement. Coventry had won 18 of their 19 games, making them the most formidable side in the league.
The turn out on the day was magnificent. Coventry’s reputation failed to precede them, as it was Loughborough who got off to a brilliant start in the match, by intercepting a Coventry pass within the away side’s 22. Coventry’s winger was then caught offside, giving Loughborough a penalty try after just 3 minutes of play. It became immediately clear that Loughborough were rising capably to the challenge. They defended well, and raised the pressure gauge against a more than capable Coventry defence. And in attack, players such as Suvwe Abano and Henry Wheadon were making surging runs in the forwards that kept Loughborough looking dangerous. The two teams then jostled for possession in the centre of the park until Coventry broke the deadlock with a try in the 19th minute. They failed to convert it however, and Loughborough were given a sigh of relief as they remained in the lead. This relief quickly washed away though, as Coventry made a quick break from the restart, and scored in the corner. This time it was converted and Coventry took control on the game. Play then levelled out; the rugby that largely defined the first half from this point echoed the notion of an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object. Infringements were minimal, and the game became a display of both teams providing textbook attacking and defending simultaneously. That was until Tim Bitrim evidenced his agility, making a rapid sprint up the left flank of the pitch. He was brought down, but a Coventry infringement at the resulting breakdown, allowed Owen Waters to do what he does best, and kick Loughborough 3 points closer to Coventry with a penalty as we entered the 38th minute. When the ref blew to signifiy the end of the half, Coventry had a narrow two point lead, and Loughborough could still capably win the contest.
Half Time: Loughborough 10 – 12 Coventry
As the second half began, the home crowd were hoping it would unfold much the same as the beginning of the first. Sadly, for them, the opposite transpired, as Coventry opened the scoring in the second half with a well worked try from their forwards, which was converted. Loughborough’s chance of catching up to their rivals appeared to be disappearing. They persevered though, and fought back immediately. in the 57th minute, Tom Stapley caught the ball with Coventry line looking unmarked. He seized the opportunity to chip the ball behind of his opposing players. He caught them totally off-guard, and charged through into the Coventry in goal area; and managed to snatch the ball out of the air and place it down just before it reached the dead ball line. An incredible try that was followed quickly by an incredible kick by Waters to bring Loughborough right back into the. The next 10 minutes of play was more dramatic than what had come before. Coventry scored and converted, taking them 9 points clear once more. Only for Stapley to score another try of his own, with a Waters conversion. In the 68th minute, the visitors scored their final try of the game, but failed to convert. That failure meant that Loughborough needed only score one more try to draw level and end the game in a stalemate. Coventry tightened up their ranks, dug their heels in and faced the attacking onslaught from Loughborough students. Loughborough students worked incredibly hard to drive Coventry toward their own line, but the evenness of the showdown could take them only as far as the 22’ line, before the ball was turned over and Coventry kicked to touch and ended the game.
Overall, a frustrating defeat in a game that very well could have gone Loughboroughs way. However, a performance such as that should be celebrated. Loughborough played aggressive, yet calculated and mistake free rugby which could serve them well in the forthcoming matches.
Full Time: Loughborough 24 – 31 Coventry
Our Phaidon man of the match was Tim Bitrim. Coventry have a dangerous backline that is comprised of players who are incredibly agile. However, in this game they were outshined by Bitrim playing against them. He took Loughborough out of some tricky spots in the game, and also showed how with the ball in hand, he can seamlessly carve open a team’s defence, and change the state of play entirely.
Our second man of the match this week was Victor Keunen, due to injury, we have been without Victor’s presence on the field for a while now. Against the poll position in the league, he showed just what we had been missing out on. He expertly commanded the contact area, and provided a serious challenge to the Coventry pack