Coventry 61, Fylde 32
Fylde ultimately conceded their biggest points total since Rugby ran in 72 against them 13 years ago, though only seven points separated the sides after an amazing first half of tit-for-tat scoring in the Midlands.
For 36 minutes Fylde swapped punches with Coventry team at Butts Park Arena packed with 1,737 spectators.
Coventry scored four converted tries in the first 28 minutes and each time Fylde responded immediately to leave the scores tied at 28-28 in an extraordinary scoring sequence which resembled basketball more than rugby.
But the Lancastrians lost two players to the sin-bin just before half-time as well as influential lock Paul Arnold to injury.
Coventry took advantage, with tries just before and after the break against the 13 men, and then Fylde’s opposition crumbled.
The home side dominated the rest of the game and scored a further three tries.
Coventry picked up where they left off the previous Saturday, when they became the first side all season to beat Ealing Trailfinders.
In the third minute Cliffie Hodgson, their full-back and the top pointscorer in National One, scored a try and added the conversion.
Six minutes later, a neat Fylde break saw a delightful Paul Arnold offload release flanker Ben Vernon, who burst forward and found scrum-half Ryan De La Harpe, who finished off between the posts. Chris Johnson converted.
It was Coventry’s turn to press next, and in the 13th minute their impressive flanker Lewis Ludlam drove over near the posts and Hodgson converted easily.
Five minutes later it was all square once more at 14-14 after Oli Brennand picked up a loose ball inside his own half, made ground and fed full-back Warren Spragg. He pinned back his ears and raced off 40m to score.
The pattern continued in the 20th minute as winger Rob Hurrell scored Coventry’s third try, again improved.
But Fylde weren’t overawed, despite the fiercely partisanship home crowd, and drove forward before skipper Evan Stewart found sufficient space to dive over. Johnson’s goal made it 21 apiece.
There was no stopping the end-to-end action as Coventry forged ahead for the fourth time on 28 minutes, when centre Rob Knox, raced over and Hodgson again goaled.
Fylde’s day began to sour when lock Arnold retired from the fray with a leg injury to be replaced by Mark Goodman.
This didn’t immediately impact on their performance as they hit back almost immediately. Spragg burst powerfully to within 15 metres of the Coventry line and Scott Rawlings powered over.
As Coventry pressed deep in Fylde’s half, the crucial moments of the game were played out. First, Rawlings was adjudged to have killed the ball on the ground and he was sent to the sinbin on 36 minutes.
Within a minute, Joe Robinson joined him when he failed to roll away from a ruck. Referee Andy Rawson then piled on the agony by awarding a penalty try which Hodgson improved to make it 35-28 at half-time.
With Fylde still down to 13 men, tricky winger Dominic Lespierre scored another try, and his side led 40-28.
As if to prove Fylde’s luck was definitely out, Spragg scored a try only to find that referee Rawson had blown for an offence. Johnson kicked the goal but three points were no substitute for seven. However, Coventry picked up the pace again and dominated the rest of the match. They ran in tries by Sam Pailor, a second for Knox and the final one by replacement Jordan Onojaife, then a Matt Jones penalty.
Fylde head coach Mark Nelson praised his hardworking side but was left to reflect on some crucial turning points.
Nelson said: “Coventry are a fine side and have a Championship set-up. Cheered on by such a big crowd, they deserved their win but up to the two sin-binnings we were well in the game.
“The gods weren’t with us but there are good points to be taken from the defeat as well.”