Clinical Coventry withstand late comeback to dump Blues out of cup

Coventry rugby claim a lineout in their cup tie against Bedford Blues at the Butts Park Arena in the Championship Cup
Image Credit: Kie Fewster / Twitter

Bedford Blues are officially out of the Championship Cup after a 33-24 defeat at Butts Park Arena against Coventry sealed their fate.

Coventry are the Championship’s form side; a clinical 42-12 victory against Doncaster Knights followed a victory at league leaders, Ealing the weekend before and they made it three consecutive wins on Saturday afternoon.

The hosts were the first team on the scoreboard as Suva Ma’asi crashed over from close range with Evan Mitchell adding the extras, and it was the same pair who doubled the lead after twenty minutes.

Coventry could have been far and away soon after but stern defence kept Bedford in the tie and on the half hour mark, their character was rewarded as Jake Garside raced away to tap down in the corner.

Jake Garside scoring the first of his two tries against Coventry in the Championship Cup
Jake Garside scoring his first of two tries (Image Credit: Claire Jones / Twitter)

Moments later though, Coventry restored their two try advantage in bizarre circumstances.

Bedford’s Matt Worley pounced on a misplaced pass but was caught in the Coventry half only for Tobi Wilson to intercept a Bedford pass to run it back up the other end to touch down unopposed.

There was still time in the first half for the hosts to gain their bonus point as Will Rigg offloaded to Tom Ball for Coventry’s fourth try and at 26-5 ahead, it was going to be a long road back to keep the Blues’ cup hopes alive.

Late comeback gives glimmer of hope

A big forty minutes were required to reignite the Blues’ cup campaign and it began in perfect circumstances as Garside scored his second try of the afternoon; sealing a flowing move that went through the hands of both Worley and Seàn French.

Coventry were keeping their visitors at arms length and showed why they were doing so well in the regular Championship season and their pressure told as they were awarded a penalty try on the hour mark.

Tui Uru was also sent to the sin bin as Coventry found themselves 33-12 ahead with time running out.

Bedford Blues' Seàn French against a Coventry defender in their cup encounter in February 2023.
Seàn French added to his try count for 2023 as Bedford fought back (Image: Claire Jones / Twitter)

It was now or never for Mike Rayer’s side and despite being a man down, the Blues gave it a good go with a late spurt of tries to set up a tantalising finish.

Jack Hughes’ latest try closed the gap to sixteen points while Will Maisey – introduced for Louis Grimoldby on the hour – kicked the extras to add to his monumental points tally for the season.

Seàn French, who has seen his try count increasing into 2023 also got on the scoreboard thanks to a wonderful assist from Le Bourgeois to close the gap to nine, but they were not to go any further as Coventry closed out the tie.

Positives to take

While taking the pool stages to the final game would have been advantageous, Mike Rayer and his coaching team will take some positives from the character shown, especially late on.

Coventry, who sit third in the Championship table, showed their class and tenacity to keep their own cup hopes alive and will now hope Bedford do them a favour next weekend and beat the Knights to progress.

There were also key minutes given to the fringe players of the squad while resting key names such as Will Maisey and Michael Le Bourgeois in what is a packed league schedule ahead for the Blues.

That schedule ends on 29th April against today’s opponents and both will still hope to possess spots in the top four to end an impressive season for both clubs.