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Coventry Rugby v Nottingham – Championship round 20 match preview

Phil Boulton in cup action against Nottingham earlier in the season (pic: Nick Meredith)  Words – John Butler

We have not quite reached Easter, yet round 20 of the Championship on Saturday will be Coventry’s final home appearance of the season.

One is pushed to remember when the home schedule finished so early, but thanks to fixture planning, that’s the way it is this year.

For the fourth time this season, Nottingham are the opponents, in what is now a pretty key encounter for a number of reasons.

For several weeks the general belief appears to have been that Cov, in this challenging first season back at level two, have been pretty safe from becoming dragged into the scrap at the bottom of the table.

And now the Blue-and-Whites know that a win in this final home game finally removes any lingering doubts which may still exist.

With only five points banked from their last five games, Cov’s dip in form has coincided with other results largely going against them. This means Nottingham’s visit takes on greater significance than would have been the case a month ago.

The Green-and-Whites arrive at the BPA in seventh place, two above Cov, safe in the knowledge that a mid-table finish is almost within their grasp.

Following defeat at London Irish last weekend, head coach Neil Fowkes, who has 30 years’ service to the club, commended his players for their performance. He was also quoted as saying they will not let their season simply die – perhaps a gentle reminder to his squad who have lost their last three matches.

Nottingham have eight league wins from 19 games, three of which have come on their travels, at Yorkshire Carnegie early on, Richmond and Doncaster in February.

Among their squad is hooker Jake Farnworth, who many Cov fans will remember played 13 games for the Club whilst dual-registered from Leicester Academy between 2014-2016.

In the reverse direction, the currently-injured James Stokes and Will Maisey have both had spells with Nottingham earlier in their careers.

Shane O’Leary, a 24-year-old Canadian fly half, tops Nottingham’s points list and that of the wider Championship with 157. Winger David Williams has eight tries to his name while Jordan Coghlan has claimed six.

With thanks to David Green of the Nottingham club, who has access to statistics going back to the late 1800’s, it has been possible to determine Coventry and Nottingham first met in season 1891/92, with Cov winning that first encounter which took place in the East Midlands.

Post-war, it was 1955/56 before fixtures resumed. Looking strictly at league meetings however, following the drawn encounter before Christmas at Lady Bay, Nottingham lead the sequence 11-7. Nine meetings have now passed since Cov beat their East Midlands rivals in the league, so, for many reasons, a change in that statistic would be very welcome.

Many home fans will doubtless recall with a great deal of pleasure it was against Nottingham in 1996/97 at Coundon Road when the club’s record league score of 102-22 was achieved. 13 tries that day saw the hard-worked scoreboard operator hastily find a rusty nail to add to the board, so the famous third digit could be added – heady, long-gone days!

Back in the present, with the assistance of fervent home backing, hopefully recent results can be forgotten on Saturday as the squad look to end their home campaign on the winning note which has typified much of the BPA season. Kick off is 3.00pm.

Advanced tickets for Saturday’s Greene King IPA Championship clash with Nottingham, preferentially priced at £18 (seated), £15 (standing) and £2 (ages three to 16) are available before 4pm from the Butts Park Arena ticket office on 02476 231001.

Entry without an advanced ticket is also available on the gate.

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