Leamington Royals slipped to a 38-12 defeat at Coventry Dragons in their opening Midland Premier League Championship South clash of the season.
The game was a repeat of the 2015 play-off semi-final, which Royals won in golden point extra-time and there was little between the two sides in the first half of Saturday’s encounter.
Royals immediately forced Coventry into defending repeat sets and deservedly took the lead when their loose forward broke through the line and scored next to the posts. Tom Hyam added the conversion.
Coventry responded with a try of their own after a couple of knock-ons were missed in the build up to their hooker crashing over. The conversion was missed.
For the next ten minutes both sides completed their sets but defences remained on top despite some smart handling.
Royals centre Paul Salvin then smashed through his tackler and made yards down the wing before being hauled down by the Dragons full-back. The ball was quickly recycled and Royals vice-captain Liam Wellings handed off his marker before crashing over for a score which was improved on by Hyam.
A period of Royals’ ill-discipline then allowed the home side to camp on their line which resulted in a converted try to bring it back to 12-10 at the interval.
The second half kicked off amid wind and rain and allowed Dragons to introduce their late-arriving second-row who boasted international pedigree with Jamaica.
Royals managed to contain him but he eventually stamped his mark on the game with two quickfire converted tries.
The loss of two players prior to kick-off began to show as fatigue set in for Leamington, with Coventry scoring three further tries as gaps started to appear.
The Royals remained committed, however, and the final ten minutes failed to produce any further scores as both sides continued to put in brutal hit after hit.
Royals’ difficult start to the season continues tomorrow with a trip to reigning champions Northampton Demons.