IT WAS a game they should have won, after a rampant second-half display in front of a record crowd.
But Cinderford’s comeback was not enough, as they slipped to a 31-29 home defeat to Coventry in the final National One match of the year, while new recruit and former Gloucester captain Adam Balding was taken to hospital in a neck brace at halftime.
Cinderford captain Robbie Winchle broke the deadlock in the seventh minute when he intercepted a wayward Cov pass, and passed to free-scoring winger Nev Codlin.
Coventry could not live with Codlin’s pace and, he raced over half of the pitch to plant the ball under the posts. Fly-half Mark Davies duly added the simple conversion and the hosts were seven points up.
But the visitors struck back from a lineout deep in Cinderford’s 22, when scrum-half Louis Silver seized possession and darted over. Full-back Cliffe Hodgson added the extras and it was all square.
Cinderford’s backline was firing effectively, and from a line-out a Davies dummy pass outfoxed Cov and found Mike Wilcox, with Sam Baker outside him, but the fullback was brought down by a bulldozing tackle.
Cov were proving dominant at the scrum, as Cinderford were penalised again, but it was the visitor’s errors that proved costly in the next phases of play.
First pinged for knocking on and then for being offside, Cinderford made territory, unlucky not to ground the ball after several pick-and-gos from a driving maul.
Davies took control and a kick bounced cleverly for captain Winchle to score Cinderford’s second converted try under the posts.
But the Foresters’ ill-discipline at the breakdown began to rear its ugly head.
Centre Rob Knox, making his debut, scored a try in the corner after a series of phases and Hodgson converted superbly from a tight angle on the touchline into the wind.
Coventry remained in possession and put Cinderford under pressure at the breakdown. Caught twice for being offside, Cov doubled their lead on the stroke of halftime.
Kicking ace Hodgson crashed over from a simple backs move, and kicked another tricky conversion to make it 21-14, before Mark Kohler went over on the stroke of halftime.
Former Gloucester captain Balding was replaced by Joe Garner and Codlin came off for Stef Hawley at the start of halftime.
Cov suffered an early blow when lock Thomas Poole was binned for a dangerous tackle, and Cinderford made the most of the territory and possession.
From a five metre line-out Cinderford muscled a driving maul over in the corner, Tom Bozzard the man to ground the ball to make the score 28-19, before a Hodgson penalty minutes later put Cov 31-19 up.
Cinderford arms were in the air minutes later after a period of pressure on the try-line, but it was held up by Cov for a five metre scrum.
Garner crashed over but the ball was deemed to have been knocked on, and Cinderford’s luck was in danger of running out.
A Matt Jones tackle put a stop to Baker’s break, though Cinderford remained camped in Cov’s 22, starving the visitors of possession as the game entered the final quarter.
Cov continued to hold Cinderford out, until the deadlock was broken in the 63rd minute, as Harry Casson bulldozed over, though again Davies missed the conversion.
Punches were thrown from the Cov camp, and from the line-out deep in Cov’s 22, Cinderford’s driving maul crashed over with Tom Bozzard touching down.
But Davies missed another conversion in the breeze, and Cinderford were 31-29 down with eight minutes to play.
In injury time, a barraging driving maul bulldozed almost 15 metres, before the referee adjudged possession was lost and the final whistle blew.
Cinderford had to be content with two bonus points, while Cov celebrated their first ever victory at Dockham Road.
But it was not all doom and gloom in the clubhouse - Gloucestershire RFU chairman Pete Williams awarded Cinderford their RFU accreditation for the next two years.
CINDERFORD: M Wilcox, A Pickersgill, J Adams, R Winchle (c), N Codlin (S Hawley, 40), M Davies, C Stuart-Smith (R Boughton, 65), W Davis, T Bozzard, E Booley (T Heard, 62), H Casson, E King, R Birkin, W Keenan, A Balding (J Garner, 40)
REPLACEMENTS: L Fortey
COVENTRY: C Hodgson, M Kohler, R Knox, J Otutaha (L Myring, 56), W Hurrell, M Jones, L Silver, D Hobbs, C Locke (M Price, 62), T Ryan (C Thorne, 62), B Daynes (M Hubbart, 70), T Poole, Ed Milne, R Nash, M Tibbats (c)
REPLACEMENTS: A Smit
REFEREE: Shane Lewis
STAR MAN: Tom Bozzard