Fylde suffered their biggest defeat for many, many seasons when they lost to Coventry by 0-64, conceding ten tries in the process at the Woodlands. The gulf between a professional, mainly fulltime squad and a squad of part timers, with an average age of 22, was predictably wide.
Coventry were powerful throughout, with forwards and backs combining fluently. On a still and warm October day at the Woodlands, perfect conditions for running rugby, the visitors eschewed their limited, forward-oriented style of previous seasons on this ground and looked to attack from anywhere on the pitch.
Fylde struggled to get in the game from the opening whistle. In the 3rd minute Coventry attacked down their right, then switched left to send winger Tom Emery in for the opening try. Fly-half Will Maisey was unable to make the conversion.
Fylde soon upset referee Leahy at the tackle breakdown and he punished them heavily throughout, by the fulltime whistle awarding 14 penalties against them and 4 for the Lancastrians. From a Coventry penalty in the 12th minute, Maisey kicked for the corner and the subsequent driving maul rumbled over the line with hooker Scott Tolmie the last man up. Maisey converted for a 0-12 lead.
The Fylde pack held their own in the scrummages but were unable to make much progress in the loose exchanges. Another penalty conceded by Fylde in the 17th minute led to a reprise of the earlier action and this time it was impressive flanker Jack Preece who touched down from the maul.
With Coventry winning the collisions, Fylde had to live off scraps of possession and their handling was sometimes faulty when they did get the ball. Coventry weren’t all about mauls as they moved the ball around looking for chinks in a hard working, gutsy Fylde defence. In the 24th minute skipper Heath Stevens spotted a gap and stepped his way to score under the posts. Maisey converted for a 0-24 lead.
The more or less one way traffic continued when on the half hour, from another penalty kick to the corner, Tolmie was driven over for his second try of the afternoon. Maisey converted this, as he also did in the 36th minute following a flowing move which saw winger Anthony Matoto score a lovely try down the right. The 1st half for Fylde was summed up when David Fairbrother was shown a yellow card for a high tackle in the 38th minute. Coventry trotted off to the changing rooms at the break with an overwhelming 0-38 lead. Fylde had only breached the Coventry 22m line on one or two occasions.
Fylde introduced halfback Danny Carlton and flanker Toby Harrison at the beginning of the 2nd half but, down to 14 players, they almost immediately conceded a 7th try in the 44th minute when winger Tom Emery found lots of space down the left and scored with ease. Maisey had been replaced at 10 by Ben Palmer but the newcomer was unable to convert the try from wide out.
At last Fylde upped the intensity of the play and began to challenge the Coventry defence. They threw themselves forward and camped inside the Coventry half for an extended period. With a decent share of possession Fylde, with Mark Irving and Harlan Corrie joining the fray, launched some impressive attacks. None was better than fullback Tom Carleton’s scintillating 60m break when he slalomed past several Coventry defenders before being caught by Matoto on the line and was unable to get downward pressure for a deserved try.
In the 58th minute Fylde suffered another setback when prop Jake Pope looked totally puzzled when referee Leahy sent him to the sinbin. The inevitable penalty kick to the corner and a driving maul resulted in hooker Tolmie’s third try.
A minute later Coventry gathered the restart kick and attacked quickly down their left and Emery scored his hat-trick try. Palmer converted for a 0-57 lead. Five minutes later they broke on the right and Heath Stevens finished off the move with his team’s 10th try. Palmer converted for a 0-64 lead. Another major blow to the home side was the sight of the outstanding Carleton being helped off with a damaged ankle in the lead up to Steven’s try.
To their credit, Fylde heads didn’t drop and they battled on in the last 15 minutes without being able to get a deserved score.
It will be a major task for Warren Spragg and his coaches to pick up their young charges for further tough games ahead. Fortunately, they won’t be facing the Blues every week but there are no easy opponents in National One. From the bottom of the division, the comfort of mid-table looks a long way off.