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Coventry (5) 13
Bedford (0) 12

Coventry gained some satisfaction in beating a First Division side, but the slenderest of margins will not be enough to see them through the second leg of the Cheltenham & Gloucester Cup at Bedford next Sunday.

Their best chance of building a reasonable cushion came during a first half characterised by unforced errors by both teams. Coventry dictated most of the play during this period, but they were unable to apply sustained pressure because of handling mistakes, poor passing and often an inability to retain possession going into the tackle.

Both teams achieved an unprecedented number of turn overs so that the game moved backwards and forwards in a disjointed, haphazard way.

When a swift movement in the 13th minute opened up Bedford's right flank the Coventry wing Andy Smallwood just failed to make a brilliant catch from a wild pass with the line at his mercy.

Coventry eventually had their noses in front in the 13th minute when scrum half Tony Dawson took a swift close range tap penalty to put in the Canadian lock forward Kevin Whitley.

Luis Criscuolo hooked his conversion attempt wide and as the half-time whistle went it was already clear that Coventry might struggle to open up a big enough lead to take to Goldington Road.

Criscuolo kicked an early penalty goal in the second half but Bedford were now building momentum and they closed the gap when a line movement going left saw James Hinkins cross in the corner.

Coventry raised their supporters hopes with a brilliant length of field try in the 60th minute, but it was to be their final score.

Mick Curtis slipped the ball to Criscuolo in a planned move and the fly half flung a long pass to full back Matt Gallagher. He released Smallwood on the left, Dawson took an inside pass and up steamed the No. 8 Rob Salisbury to take the final ball and crash over.

But Coventry seldom fought their way out of their own half after that score. Bedford once again applied sustained pressure and the home defence crumbled in the 67th minute when a short tap penalty produced a try for Junior Paramore which Whetstone converted.

Coventry team: Gallagher; McAdam, Curtis, Minshull, Smallwood; Criscuolo, Dawson; Crane, Soden, Morgan, Whitley, Fountaine, Crofts, Salisbury, Eves.

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CWN / Sport / Rugby / Coventry RFC / 29 Nov 98

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