National One: Rotherham Earth Titans 56 Coventry 10
Slapdash Coventry made it all too easy for their title-chasing hosts on an afternoon to forget.
Their cause wasn't helped by some unsympathetic refereeing from Mark Wilson, who showed yellow cards to prop Niall Treston after 11 and 38 minutes — the first, more than a little harsh — which became a red and meant that they played over 50 minutes a man down.
But Titans didn't need the added assistance they were given as Coventry undid the promise of an early John O'Connor try with wayward kicking and careless passing which gifted the initiative to the home side and persisted throughout the game.
In essence, Coventry contributed far too much to their own downfall. "The spirit was there, but again the problem was that we made far too many mistakes," said coach Dave Addleton.
"When we should have done the simple thing and cleared our lines, we just gave the ball to them by failing to find touch and it cost us the first two tries.
"It's not easy to play so long with 14 men and you just have to dig in and keep going, but we carried on making basic mistakes.
"You have to chase the game when you are behind but, when you get into scoring positions, you can't do what we did and give the ball away."
There was no hint of what was to come as Coventry dictated the opening exchanges. Ben Russell missed an angled penalty, awarded after just 43 seconds, but Myles Dorrian gathered his own chip ahead to set up an attacking position in the 22 and flanker O'Connor ran on to Will Johnson's popped pass to cross after four minutes with Russell converting.
The lead was shortlived. Two minutes later Michael Whitehead returned a long clearance with interest and supporting hooker Nigel Conroy ran round to the posts for fly half Gareth Steenson to kick the first of a perfect eight conversions.
Almost from the restart, Coventry lost hold of the ball as they ran it back at the opposition to leave Jon Feeley with an unchallenged 45-metre run-in.
Treston received his first yellow card when Mr Wilson ruled that he had deliberately blocked Joe Bedford when the scrum-half took a tapped penalty and ran straight at him. Already under pressure in the tight, Coventry's pack broke up twice in the scrum, resulting in a penalty try.
Winger Kurt Johnson had a try ruled out which he was adamant he had scored and although Russell put over a penalty from the ten-metre line for 21-10, it was game over when the disconsolate Treston was ruled offside at a ruck and dismissed.
Titans drove over from the resulting penalty and line-out for Hendry Fourie to touch down and with skipper Will Johnson nursing a knee injury and not coming out for the second half, Coventry shipped four tries in a dispiriting third quarter to Brendan Burke, Michael McComish, Brian Tuohy and Barry Jacobsz — two of them coming from counter-attacks when Cov were in promising positions and turned over the ball.
Coventry regrouped and spent much of the the rest of the game going forward, but their efforts went unrewarded - which pretty much summed up their day.
ROTHERHAM: Whitehead; Tuohy, Burke (Turnbull, 59), Hennessey (Blackwood, 57), Feeley; Steenson, Bedford; Corsar (Croall, 50), Conroy (Hanna, 65), Hopcroft (Carey, 50), Bornman (Lund, 65), McGowan, Fourie (Cochrane, 50), Jacobsz, McComish.
COVENTRY: Russell; K Johnson, Dixon, Sanders (Binham, 61), Takarangi (Toft, 76); Dorrian, Walls (James, 52); Treston, Friswell (Protherough, 48), Brits, Tonkin (Rheeders, 48), Nimmo, T Johnson, O'Connor (Venter, 52), W Johnson (Rimmer, h/t).
Referee: M Wilson (RFU).