by John Butler
COVENTRY, with their proud 16-match winning run for the season, head south east again this weekend when they travel to very old rivals, Blackheath.
With the fixture dating back well into the 1800s, former Coventry squads up until last season had made the journey to SE3 and Rectory Field.
With Club now playing their senior rugby at Well Hall, in Eltham, Cov paid their first visit there last season. The new post code, SE9 6TE, gives some indication of the closeness of the two venues, whilst also giving Cov fans, travelling via their own means, a little help with their route planning!
It is well known throughout the game that Blackheath were one of the first members of the Rugby Football Union, their roots as a club appearing as far back as 1858.
Last season Blackheath finished seventh in National League One. Currently they lie fifth with a new head coach, James Shanahan on board, having moved from Old Albanian following a previous spell at Plymouth Albion. A quick look at one recent Club line-up indicates that the veteran fly-half has played for his latest club, but just, it appears, in the one match.
When this season got underway, with Blackheath winning their first three matches it really did look as if they could become one of the season’s favourites for the promotion spot. Defeat at Butts Park in late September brought an end to that run and currently they have ten wins from their 17 matches played.
Last Saturday, Cov’s hosts this week lost away at fourth-placed Ampthill & District. Their last win came at home on December 9 against Caldy. Overall, six of Club’s wins have come at Well Hall, victims including Plymouth Albion, Ampthill & District and Darlington Mowden Park.
Captain of the club is centre Marcus Burcham, one of some 26 players who were retained from last season. His midfield partner, Mark Cooke currently leads the try count on six, whilst a newcomer this season, fly-half Joe Tarrant, recruited from Ampthill, heads the overall points tally with just over 130.
Nobody can surely quibble with the view that Cov will travel down in good heart and with a very positive outlook, given their run of form and wins. It will not go unnoticed, however, that last season’s first visit to the ground coincided with one of the poorer away performances.
Overall in league rugby, Coventry do currently hold the upper hand in terms of wins gained. The 37-10 Butts Park win in September was Cov’s 20th out of 29 league matches played, Blackheath have won seven, with the other two being drawn.
Looking a little closer, the last win achieved on Blackheath soil was three seasons ago in 2014/15, 36-12.
Going back to last Saturday, with a further eight tries run in against Old Albanian, the season’s tally for Cov rose to a magnificent 103. The record for a league season currently stands at 130, set just a year ago.
The Supporters’ Club is again laying on transport for the game. Kick-off at Well Hall is 3pm.
Blackheath’s highest gate this season to date is 787, with an average overall of 584. Will the ‘Coventry factor’ kick in again to pass either of those figures?
Meantime, the Development squad is also due for some action and looking to play their first Zoo Sports Shield game since December 2. They too travel to take on Blackheath Heathens, who were also defeated at Butts Park in September, 52-19.