Knights give new chief Howells rousing start
Coventry 13Doncaster 40
DONCASTER Knights gave new director of rugby, Lynn Howells, a winning start to life at Castle Park.
Knights, who finished a best-ever third in National League One last season under Clive Griffiths, look set for another successful campaign on the evidence of their 40-13 win at Coventry.
With Cerith Rees and Frenchman Antoine Nicoud teaming up at half-back, new backs coach Justin Bishop on the wing, and Wes Davies at full back, the back division had a different look to it and it did not take long to show it had the pace and cutting edge that was largely missing last season.
Nicoud showed his skills with an early sharp-angled break by almost cutting through a scrambling defence, and it was no surprise when Doncaster opened the scoring.
Good phases through the middle by the pack saw the ball moved out for Bishop to show the defence a clean pair of heels.
Rees failed to add the extras, but he was on target with a penalty after Coventry had handled in a ruck.
It took Coventry 25 minutes to break into the Doncaster 22 when they kicked ahead to touch but the Knights lineout was secure and the threat cleared.
Doncaster had a lucky escape as Donovan Sanders broke their defence and elected to kick and chase to the line only to be beaten to the ball by Paul Bailey who cleared to touch.
From the resulting lineout, James Miller gathered and spun to the line only to spill the ball.
At this point the the game boiled over and Spencer Davey was left needing treatment for a cut eye after looking to be elbowed by Oliver Hodge, lucky to only to concede a penalty, during a fracas.
Rees secured his side an 11-0 interval lead with a penalty.
Coventry had had their chances but hadn't taken them, while Doncaster's problems had concerned poor ball retention.
Mark Woodrow replaced the injured Rees a the start of the second half.
Both sides exchanged penalties early in the second half, before Ben Russell's second success closed the gap to eight points.
The home side threw everything at the Knights but their defence stood firm.
Woodrow missed a penalty chance but the visitors, who were taking a stranglehold on the game at this stage, didn't have to wait long to add to their tally.
Twice in three minutes the backs cut loose at pace and crafted excellent tries to kill the game.
Nicoud broke right off a midfield scrum before throwing a long miss-pass to the arriving Davies who stepped, broke a tackle, and sprinted away to the posts.
When Coventry overthrew a lineout ball the alert Simon Grainger latched on to it, turned and spun it wide where Woodrow broke and then sent Bishop away and his beautifully timed pass to Bailey saw the winger flying down the right and round to the posts to make the extras simple for Woodrow, who had also converted the previous try
Coventry brought on a number of replacements to try and get something from the game, and the ploy produced dividends when Russell broke a tackle to score a try he also converted.
Partly down to the own errors, and desperate Coventry defence, Knights had to wait until the 79th minute for a bonus point.
Nicoud broke from a five-metre scrum and though stopped just short of the line, he found skipper Glen Wilson in support and he touched down.
There were worrying moments as Wilson lay injured , but to great cheers the No 8 rose and finished the game.
And what a finish!
With the last move, Davies carried the ball upfield before off-loading to replacement prop Richard List, whose thundering run was stopped inches short.
Following quick recycling, Woodrow was on hand to pick up and dart over for a fifth try, which he himself converted.