5th February 2018, 10:00 | university
Coventry came from behind to beat Birmingham 46-26 and clinch this year's BUCS Midlands 1A league title in an enthralling contest at Westwood Heath.
Dylan Bale and Dan Glover each claimed a double, whilst George Green, Tom Fletcher, Dan Jones, Jack Pomfrett, Luke Vjestica and Dante Morley-Samuels also crossed over to secure the trophy.
The hosts headed into the game knowing that if they could overcome a spirited Bulls outfit, they would be crowned league champions regardless of whatever the outcome from second-placed Oxford’s clash with Loughborough.
However, Coventry initially seemed overawed by the occasion and found themselves 10-0 down within the first 15 minutes of the contest after two quick-fire tries from Ben Summers and Alex Best.
The visitors were full of confidence after pummeling Leicester 80-0 last time out and they quickly extended their early lead as Laurence Sidwell finished off a well-worked move.
Although title favourites struggling within final day fixtures is a recurring theme within the game, Coventry were desperate to stop the title from slipping through their grasp.
Substitute Dan Glover was introduced to the contest in an attempt to build some momentum in the hosts' sets, the in-form man made an immediate impact, grabbing two crucial tries to pull Coventry back into the thick of the action.
Glover's arrival was the moment that sparked the leaders into life, suddenly they began to implement the very success formula that has seen them head the table for the majority of the campaign.
Coventry were suddenly playing the expansive rugby they had become accustomed to and gained control of the meeting, Bale scored two crucial tries to complete the comeback, before the favourites crossed the whitewash a further six times to round-off a magnificent season.
Speaking prior to his involvement in the prestigious University Origin fixture, Coventry's Bale said: "Birmingham put up a huge performance on Wednesday, scoring a brace of tries within the first 15 minutes putting us under an incredible amount of pressure.
"The lads once again pulled together and toughed it through the rough patch to come out with a fantastic win that ultimately resulted in us being crowned league champions.
"The mental toughness of the team has been apparent all season, we’ve won numerous games through coming from behind, that’s solely down to the lads' determination."
After losing just once throughout the entire season, Coventry have enjoyed a year to remember, Bale believes this is down to the the group's involvement with the institution's Sports Performance Programme: "The amazing training that the Team Phoenix programme has provided for the players since pre-season has been an integral part of our success.
"We've got a lot to improve on for next year but as a club we are immensely proud of every individual that put their hands up this year to play for us and thus contribute to the league win."
Along with Bale, Coventry had three players selected for the Southern Universities squad ahead of the University Origin clash - Dan Jones, Dan Glover and Dante-Morley Samuels were all selected to face their Northern counterparts.
Lewis Munyoro, Kieran Sherratt and Thomas Fletcher were also included in the original training squad, a real sign of just how talented the group is.
Whilst Birmingham were beaten by a 20 points margin, Harry Leek believes his side can be proud of their efforts: "It was an excellent team performance.
"Everyone put in 100 per-cent, obviously we ran out of steam at the end but overall, it was a good performance to take into our cup clash with Sheffield next week."
Coventry: Jack Pomfrett, Junior Ncube, George Green, Luke Vjestica, Adam Castles, David Lister, Tom Fletcher, Jack Craine, Dylan Bale, James Morton, Kieron Mackenzie, Juan Calvo Paz, Daniel Jones. Interchanges: Josh Kelly, Hubert Derex Briggs, Dan Gover, Dante Morley-Samuels
Birmingham: David Evans, Robert Etherington, Joe Price, Laurence Sidwell, Ben Summers, Harry Leek, Ben Walsh, Miles Young, Alex Haynes, Zack Hurst, Adam Causey,Tyler Bircher, Alex Best. Interchanges: Guy Leonard, George Ofosu-Osei, Mikey Boyd, Sam Zeller
Oxford produced a sublime attacking performance to beat Loughborough's second string 52-20 at University Parks.
While the win wasn't enough to secure the championship for the hosts, they finish the season as runners up, an impressive achievement within any competition.
Finally, there was no result between Leicester and Oxford Brookes.
Next week's fixtures in full:
Wednesday 7th February 2018 - BUCS Rugby League Trophy Round of 32
Edge Hill vs Oxford Brookes
Venue: Edge Hill Pitches RFL, Edge Hill University, St Helens Road L39 4QP
Birmingham vs Sheffield (Kick-Off: 3pm)
Venue: Metchley Park Playing Fields, Metchley Park Road, Harborne B15 2PG
Leeds Beckett A v Leicester
Venue: Milford Sports Club, Kirkstall LS5 3AS
All games kick-off at 2pm unless stated otherwise.