Coventry 30 Otley 14
Coventry opened their win account at the third time of asking as they dominated a poor Otley side.
The visitors were disappointing in that Coventry never allowed them to settle into their stride, attacking and hustling Otley at every opportunity throughout the 80 minutes.
This was a different Coventry to the teams on duty in previous defeats to Sedgley Park and Rotherham.
Quicker to the breakdowns, strong in the tackle, Coventry were quicker in speed and thought than their Yorkshire visitors.
Teamwork was the key but a couple of performances stood out like beacons. Flanker Gareth Gravell showed top form, stealing the ball seemingly at will and being rewarded with two tries, one in each half, while Coventry skipper Hendry Rheeders at No 8 gave a towering performance at the base of the scrum. He caused panic in the Otley defence whenever he ran with the ball.
Rheeders had a hand in Coventry's opening two tries, the first a line-out take on two minutes when the ball was shovelled crossfield to Jon Higgins who was held up but found full-back Richard Davies on hand to score.
It was Rheeders again on 16 minutes, the big South African charging from the base of the scrum and knocking full-back Tom Rock for six. Nik Witkowski and Higgins created the space for Gravell to claim his first try.
Rheeders said: "We did very well today, I thought
we played well all over and I am glad to take the five points. The line-out was working well with Ben Gulliver taking lots of ball and we played very well. I am glad to get a win and I thought, with John Higgins back today and Richard Davies going back to full-back, we looked a better side.
"I have been telling anyone who would listen to believe in us and after today, you must."
The return of John Higgins after a bout of mumps was a big bonus. Higgins was back at fly-half and with Davies at No 15, offered a more creative pivot.
Gravell's second try on 51 minutes, a bread-and-butter effort after a close-in line-out, was eclipsed by returning crowd favourite Kurt Johnson's interception try after 62 minutes. The Barbadian international raced from his own 22 to dive flambouyantly over the line untouched, to a huge cheer.
For Otley, with veteran half-backs Simon Binns and Dave Scully showing signs of Father Time catching up with them, this will be a severe setback.
Replacement Tom Johnson's red card on 74 minutes, for a second technical offence of preventing release of the ball, failed to ruffle Coventry as they repelled late Otley pressure. Glen Wilson's late try was purely consolation as Coventry, with resolute defence and calm authority, held the key.
Coventry will hope that this result will enable them to rediscover the winning run of the second half of last season. On Saturday, they played with a confidence and verve that was curiously missing in two previous defeats. A dominating pack laid the groundwork for this much-needed victory.