COVENTRY Rugby held out in an edge-of-the-seat finish to secure their second IPA Championship win of the season and end Bedford’s unbeaten start in a rousing encounter at the Butts Park Arena.
Coventry scored 21 points in a devastating nine-minute spell in the first half on Sunday, playing some outstanding rugby as they built a 29-7 lead.
However, Bedford steadily clawed their way back after the break and Coventry were hanging on in the closing stages with a man in the sin bin.
It became a real test of character but Coventry showed superb defensive resilience to survive in front of another 2,000-plus crowd and claim the 34-27 victory to take maximum points from the first meeting between the old rivals for nine seasons.
Jake Sharp, making his Coventry debut against his former club, kicked an opening penalty but Bedford responded with a try wide out on the right from Jamie Elliott which was well converted by Ed Coulson.
Coventry regained the lead towards the end of the first quarter when Bedford overthrew at a line-out and Ben Nutley led a counter move for Andy Bulumakau – also on his debut – to race through between the posts, Sharp converting.
And Coventry added two more tries in quick succession to leave their visitors reeling – Nutley again prominent before Tom Kessell raced over and Tony Fenner finishing off after a surging run by Jack Ram with the Bedford defence in tatters.
Sharp converted both for a 24-7 lead.
Kessell then burrowed over in the left corner for his second try on 34 minutes on the end of a long break by Tom Jubb as Coventry continued to find space but Bedford closed out the half with a Ryan Hutler try and conversion and penalty from Coulson to get them right back in the game.
Kessell was denied his hat-trick by a forward pass soon after the restart but Adam Peters claimed Coventry’s fifth try midway through the third quarter when the ball went wide from a line-out, but as the penalty count mounted against the hosts, Bedford pushed forward relentlessly and tries from Hutler and Harry Davies cut the gap to a single score with James Voss in the sin bin.
Sharp missed a relatively straight-forward penalty attempt but Coventry defended for all they were worth to claim the win.