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Home > News > Coventry 35 Exeter Chiefs 28 Saturday 4th April 2009
Your News Coventry 35 Exeter Chiefs 28 Saturday 4th April 2009

Written by John Butler

Just every so often one has the privilege of witnessing a game and performance that will stick in the memory bank for a long time. This was one of those occasions.

Looking at the facts, Coventry went into the game against a side second in the table and very much still in the promotion stakes with a squad decimated by injury and unavailability. The outcome was truly remarkable as Cov produced probably their best result since moving to the Butts Park Arena with an overall performance that was also up there with the very best.

It is almost impossible and probably unfair to single out individuals after such a victory. Scrum half Mike Walls won the man of the match award with one of his best performances in a blue and white shirt, with new skipper Chris Whitehead an absolute terrier, leading by example with a phenomenal work rate and that said, all 17 played a truly heroic part in a wonderful team victory.

Yet, early on with Coventry having first use of the wind, although the side looked well up for it, with several penalties given away, it was 3 -13 after 18 minutes, surely the West Country side would not let that slip. Steenson with an early penalty punished Coventry, Ben Russell replying in kind after Chris Whitehead had led a charge.

With tackles missed however, Chiefs left wing McKenzie was able to run in two unconverted tries and it was backs to the wall at that stage.

Coventry's first real moment of hope came then after 25 minutes. A quick tap penalty, a trademark all afternoon, saw possession moved left for George Dixon to stride through a tackle for Russell to convert the try well for 10 -13.

With Sam Herrington having another fine match in the loose storming into the visiting 22, Russell missed the subsequent penalty before Cov went in front. Again Herrington was held only for the alert Mike Walls to cross on the narrow side, Ben Russell converting for 17-13.

The excitement and action continued however, Exeter through a Steenson penalty and conversion of his own try after dummying through leaving the Chiefs 17 -23 ahead at the break.

Facing the stiff breeze, could Cov hold on or even better take the game to their visitors. In truth they dominated large portions of the second half with a quite monumental effort. With second row Tuohy rightly yellow carded and Laurie Mc Glone held close in, Russell chipped three more points back but then after 58 minutes, Exeter were able to extend their lead back to 8 points, replacement Ward crossing after Coventry lost possession of the ball bobbing loose in their own half, Steenson again missing the conversion. Remarkably though, that was to prove the Chiefs last score.

Mike Walls chipped over a drop goal after 61 minutes, 23-28 and then as excitement grew even more, replacement Tommy Hayes used his skill and experience to cross wide out after several minutes of solid pressure. No conversion, but now 28 pts all.

Then right on 80 minutes, after absorbing pressure, Cov won a penalty inside their own 22. More tap and go from Mike Walls set Donovan Sanders free to half way, a flip pass to Ben Toft and the left winger stormed away for try number four under the posts and a bonus point. Not surprisingly and quite rightly the home crowd went wild. Tommy Hayes converted with ease, there was just enough time for an anxious few moments before Walls triumphantly booted the ball into to touch to seal a truly remarkable win.

Even with this victory, after looking at results from elsewhere, championship rugby is still not quite guaranteed for next season, but after a performance like this one it is surely very close indeed. A great day.

Coventry. Ollie Winter, Kurt Johnson, George Dixon, Donovan Sanders, Ben Toft, Ben Russell, Mike Walls, Rob Dugard, Chris Whitehead (Capt), Rudi Brits, Sam Herrington, Henno Venter, Jamie Miller, Darren Clayton, Laurie McGlone.

Replacements; Tommy Hayes for Russell, Ronnie McLean for Johnson.

Not used; Stewart Pearl, Kevin Davis, Ollie Atkinson, Dave Addleton, Howard Graham

Coventry. Tries; George Dixon, Mike Walls, Tommy Hayes, Ben Toft. Conversions; Ben Russell 2, Tommy Hayes. Penalty goals; Russell 2. Drop goal; Walls

Exeter; Tries; Paul McKenzie 2, Gareth Steenson, Stephen Ward. Conversion; Steenson. Penalty goals; Steenson 2

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