OAs become Coventry’s 13th straight scalp

Max Wilkins tries to break through the Coventry defence

Max Wilkins tries to break through the Coventry defence - Credit: Archant

Old Albanian 19 Coventry 21

This was a tough fixture to start the New Year and, happily, both sides contributed to a full blooded forward exchange and a fascinating clash of defences.

Coventry have had a great past three months and came to Woollams on the back of 12 straight wins. They have good reason to be second in the National League One table. Their victory was in doubt in the last quarter and OAs will rue the might-have-beens. However, if you take the chances when presented you will rise higher in the rankings.

Three tries each was probably about right in this wind-dominated fixture and Coventry’s experience and attention to detail just saw them home with the penultimate score when Lewis Ludlam was on the end of an unlikely breakthrough.

The first half saw OA’s mistakes punished and the few opportunities which came their way still left them with no points on the board at the break. Dan Watt’s second minute penalty attempt just shaved the upright but Matt Jones made no mistake with his opening kick three minutes later. By this time, Watt was a spectator suffering from a facial injury and his exclusion from the rest of the match may well have had a crucial bearing on the result.

Wayne Evans brought his own brand of brilliance to the fray when he followed up his own chip kick to the posts after half an hour for Jones’ improvement; Robert Knox finished nicely and Jones’ conversion took the visitors’ lead to 17 points at the break. Yet Coventry had not used the wind fully in this period.

OAs made no such mistake and were rewarded when, after a vital turnover, the forwards forced their way to the line and Billy Johnson was awarded the touchdown. Will Magie converted.

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The next 20 minutes saw a gradual increase in power from OAs and the visitors were pinned in their own half, though defending furiously. Then fly half Jones took one too many liberties and the referee allowed him a 10 minute rest. During this time Nick Foster found the smallest of gaps and Magie’s improvement reduced the margin to three points.

The home pressure continued and should have borne more fruit when Chris May appeared to have the line at his mercy. The final touch proved elusive, however.

Then Ludlam made his presence felt for Jones to convert. The bonus point was retrieved for OAs when Jimmy Speirs crashed over in the corner to put an end to a great encounter.

Spectators of every stripe agreed that this performance bodes well for Andy Holloway’s charges and Coventry left the scene more relieved than anything else. January is still a very difficult month for OAs with a trip to Blackheath on Saturday and the visit of Rosslyn Park the following week. These tricky contests will show how much the squad has taken from this latest test.