Coventry outlined their title credentials under lights at the Butts Park Arena in a game, which for the neutral and the home supporters, would have been an exhilarating evening. Bang in form, they proved irresistible on the night.

Depleted Cambridge set their stall out from the off, going close in the first few minutes as a breakdown the left by Morgan Veness almost saw Eli Caven in at the corner. A last-ditch tackle prevented the flying winger adding to his impressive try tally this season and set the tone for the rest of the match.

Coventry were pumped, slick and clinical – and despite great work at the breakdown, in defence and at scrum time, the white tidal wave proved to be just too big to contain, resulting in 10 tries for the hosts which took them to over the ton for the season.

Whilst the scoreboard may tell one story, Cov didn’t have it all their way, and the Blood & Sand can take much credit from their own attacking efforts and abilities. Sam Edwards and Steff James fizzed and buzzed, constant changes of pace and direction and a layered attack kept Cov guessing and 33-nil at half-time seemed harsh based on the effort expended.

Cov on the other hand were driven on by scrum-half Toby Venner, on full debut, who scored four minutes in, added a second on the first quarter, and rounded off his hat-trick with the first play of the second half. Prop Eliot Salt went over for their third, hooker Jordon Poole for the bonus point and centre Tom Hitchcock added the fifth on the stroke of halftime. Fly-half Pat Pellegrini was four from five off the tee.

Venner’s third couldn’t have come at a worse time for Cambridge, just back from the interval. Hitchcock’s second made the game even safer for the hosts. But a driving maul just before the hour mark saw Blood & Sand skipper George Bretag-Norris power over, with Steff James adding the extras, reward for the added impetus provided by the replacements as Richie Williams rang the changes from the bench.

Cambridge alumni Will Wand, in sparkling form for his ‘new’ club this season, struck for try number eight for the hosts. Replacement hooker Archie Vanes got his first score for the Blood & Sand from another driving maul with ten minutes left. There was, though, still time for Tobi Wilson and another former Cambridge loan star Jimmy Martin to put an emphatic gloss on the final score.

“Sometimes you’ve just got to credit the opposition”, Williams reflected afterwards. “I thought from minute one to minute eighty they were probably the best team we’ve come up against across the board tonight. The intent that they showed with ball in hand and the speed that they showed, we found it very difficult at times to live with them.”

“Our focus this week was to fire some shots with our attacking game – we wanted to put them under some pressure and I think early on in that first half we showed what we’re capable of. When we got in behind them we made a couple of errors, we had some field position and lost some crucial line outs early on when we could’ve got something that would have changed the final score tonight, but I’m really proud of the players again. We were down to the bare bones tonight, we had Ben Brownlie covering back row, Matt Waring made his Championship debut from the bench, and we ended up with Joe Tarrant on the wing and Steff James at full-back. It was really tough at times tonight but we have a playing group that look after each other and as ever, we’ll learn from those tough lessons”.

Coventry: Mitchell; Hutler (Opoku 51), Wand, Hitchcock, Martin; Pellegrini (Wilson 66), Venner (Chudley 51); Trinder (Nairau 51), Poole (Ma’asi 40), Salt (Andrews 51); Tyas, Nkwocha; Ball, Kvesic (Anstey 54), Nayalo (Owen 40)

Cambridge: Tarrant; Williams (Rayner 65), Hoppe, Hanks, Caven; James, Edwards (Duffin 65); Ellwood (Owen 55), Veness (Vanes 55), Walker (Collins 55); Frost (Waring 71), Bretag-Norris; Adams (Sloot 54), Cardew, Dawson (Brownlie 65).

Referee: Hamish Grant

Attendance: 2964

Half-time: Coventry 33-0 Cambridge


Coventry Rugby:

Tries: Venner (4) (22) (41), Salt (28) Poole (32), Hitchcock (38) (49), Wand (68), Wilson (76), Martin (78)

Cons: Pellegrini (4) (22) (28) (32) (41), Mitchell (68) (78)


Tries: Bretag-Norris (58), Vanes (70)

Cons: James (58)