yorkshire Carnegie put in a valiant performance in an 11-try thriller at Coventry but ultimately went down 51-32 in the Championship Cup on Saturday.
Director of rugby Chris Stirling named several changes to the starting 15 that beat Nottingham 39-19 last week, including a debut for Samoa international second row Fa’atiga Lemalu who joined the club this week from the Sunwolves. Senior academy prospect Rian Hamilton was rewarded for his fine performance off the bench last weekend with a first start for the club.
It was the hosts who started the brighter team, immediately putting pressure on the Carnegie defence and forcing an early penalty which was expertly dispatched by Will Maisey.
Carnegie fought back well and managed to craft a try after 10 minutes when Andy Forsyth showed great pace and power to break through the line and off-load to Chris Elder who beat finished superbly. Jacob Umaga added the extras in front of the posts which put Carnegie 7-3 ahead. Umaga – excellent last week – then added a penalty from 40 metres, increasing Carnegie’s lead to seven.
The first half was played with a great pace which saw both teams having equal shares of possession and territory. It was Coventry who were more ruthless in converting their chances into points however. Two tries and a penalty within the space of 10 minutes completely changed the complexion of the game.
A further try from the hosts just a minute before half-time meant Carnegie trailed 25-10 at the break, with work to do in the second half.
Messages from the coaching staff at half-time seemed to have an impact on the pitch as Carnegie came firing out of the blocks, scoring a fantastic try just two minutes into the second period. A wonderful high ball claim and break from Harry Davey put the Coventry defenders on the back foot, allowing the ball to be sprayed out wide to Andy Forsyth who made no mistake from short range.
At this stage of the game it really could have gone either way, both teams had chances to score points but too often the case for Carnegie was poor execution, leading to turnovers. A Coventry try after 53 minutes was cancelled out five minutes later when Elder went over for his second of the afternoon. Almost an exact replica of his first as Forsyth broke through the line and off-loaded brilliantly.
The pinpoint precision of Umaga’s kicking was putting Carnegie into great positions deep into Coventry territory which sooner or later had to lead to points.
On 70 minutes an outrageous off-load from Antonio Kiri Kiri allowed the ball to be spread wide to captain Matt Smth who powered over in the corner. A further penalty from Umaga levelled the scores at 32-32 with just seven minutes remaining, setting the game up for a grandstand finish.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be for the visitors as three quick-fire tries at the end of the match ended any Carnegie hopes of making it two wins out of two in the cup. However, they do come away with a try bonus point and a lot of positives to take away from the performance.
Coventry Rugby: Stokes (Lewis, 40); Bulumakau, Knox, Fenner, Trimble; Maisey, Kessell (White, 53); Gibbons (Titchard-Jones, 61), Tolmie (Dawidiuk, 52), Alo (Boulton, 48); Woolford (Voss, 63), Oram; Voss (Jubb, 53), Ram (Preece, 48), Adams.
Yorkshire Carnegie: Elder; Brown, Forsyth, Bullough (Davey, 20), Hamilton; Umaga, Fox (Wolstenholme, 56); Thomas (Hill, 50), Donnellan (Buckle, 56), Foster (Mitchell, 64); Lemalu, Smith (Frost, 76); Romaine, Bainbridge, Kiri Kiri (Ward, 79).
Referee: Neil Chivers.