Rhinos stun league leaders
Rugby league: Ipswich Rhinos 22 Coventry Bears 14 -BATTLING Ipswich Rhinos pulled off the biggest shock of the season to overcome national table-toppers Coventry Bears in a pulsating Rugby League Cross Conference encounter.
Ipswich Rhinos 22 Coventry Bears 14
BATTLING Ipswich Rhinos pulled off the biggest shock of the season to overcome national table-toppers Coventry Bears in a pulsating Rugby League Cross Conference encounter.
Few outside observers gave Ipswich a chance against a side unbeaten this year with five straight wins.
But Ipswich – led by Chick Knox Macaulay and player-coach Paul Roberts – had worked hard in training leading up to the contest and the players were quietly confident of proving their recent improved form was no flash in the pan.
And a brilliant late try from scrum half Paul Thurston helped secure a memorable victory for the Rhinos.
Castleford referee Paul Gluck's excellent handling of the game enabled the two sides to fully express themselves in a free-flowing game in which the outcome was in doubt until Paul Le Marquand's match-winning last-minute try and conversion clinched the spoils for the jubilant Rhinos.
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Roberts did his Welsh selection chances no harm with the opening try when he burrowed his way over from close range after ten minutes.
Dave Signor added another try to extend the lead ten minutes before half-time, before Coventry's Rob Lowe reduced the arrears with a try that was promptly converted by Scott Carver.
A feature of the first half was some relentless and bruising defence by both sides in a tense encounter.
Tom Shaw exposed an overlap on the Ipswich left flank to bring the teams level soon after the interval.
But Rhinos' England rugby union Under-19 international Tavela Kwilimbi – who scored two tries at St Albans last month – made a good impression on his home debut with a solid performance, confidently running several balls out of defence.
For Coventry their South African stand off Alex Van Der Walt kept the Ipswich defence on their toes with some astute kicking.
But ten minutes from time and with the scores still level a touch of class from Thurston tipped the scales towards the Rhinos.
Thurston looked covered when he picked up the ball on the halfway line. But he threw two outrageous dummies to sidestep his way through the Coventry defence before sprinting clear with time to celebrate before touching down under the posts for a memorable try.
There was still time for Shaw to again exploit Ipswich's left flank and he managed to get the ball down in the corner one-handed before being dragged into touch.
The difficult kick was not converted – a decisive factor in the match – and Ipswich retained a two-point lead.
Ipswich's defence held firm, despite some intense pressure from the much larger Coventry pack.
But most of the late exchanges took place in the Coventry half and a crucial turnover involving Rhinos' Brendan Cook led to a huge up and under that went over the Coventry winger and safely into Pete Le Marquand hands for the decisive touch down under the posts.
Le Marquand got up to take the conversion and seal a great victory for Ipswich over their previously-unbeaten guests.
Ipswich's young back row of Cook, Signor and Andy Windridge worked tirelessly throughout the game, taking everything their opponents threw at them and were the difference between the two sides.
Ipswich now take a well-earned rest before returning to action in a local derby at Humber Doucy Lane on June 22 when Bedford are the visitors (2.30pm).
Ipswich Rhinos: Paul Le Marquand, Tavela Kwilimbi, Chick Knox Macaulay, Ryan Wood, Jel Barrett, Peter Le Marquand, Paul Thurston, Adrian Evans, Paul Robert, Lee Haylock, Brendan Cook, Andrew Windridge, Dave Signor, Steve Gleeson,Tom Aylott, Adam Cook, Richard Jones.