Another extremely long rivalry, originally dating back to the late 1800’s, will be renewed this Saturday.
Cov visit Bedford Blues’ long-established home at Goldington Road, for what will be the 13th round of Championship fixtures.
It will be the beginning of a challenging period for the squad, since the next four weeks feature three testing away games plus Hartpury’s visit to the Butts Park Arena.
Cov and Bedford will undoubtedly have met 130-or-so years ago, although exact dates are not available. The Bedford club was actually formed 12 years after Cov in 1886.
It is also highly probable that fixtures continued on some basis during the wartime years. What can be stated without question, however, is that November 1946 saw the firm resumption of regular fixtures which have carried on almost unabated ever since.
Well almost! With Cov being relegated from the Championship at the end of season 2009/10, there has subsequently been probably the longest spell on record, nine seasons, when rivalry between West and East Midlands has not taken place.
That is all set to change, with seventh-placed Cov facing a difficult task as they seek to chalk up a first away win of the season against opponents who sit three positions higher in the table.
Bedford Blues, with their famed Goldington Road slope, always pose a very serious threat on home turf. They have lost just once there this season – very early on against London Scottish, while title-chasing Ealing Trailfinders were their most recent victims two weeks ago.
Last weekend the Blues fell to a 29-13 defeat in Jersey in a contest which reports suggest was much closer than the final score-line suggests.
The long-serving director of rugby Mike Rayer is in charge of affairs, having re joined the Blues in 2005 after a period back in Wales with Cardiff.
Bedford, notably through chairman Geoff Irvine, who also heads up the Championship committee, have never attempted to hide the fact they are not seriously chasing Premiership Rugby; they did experience a short period in the top flight before relegation took them back down.
The Blues are always well supported at Goldington Road, where a faithful following very similar in nature to that which Cov enjoy, has settled regularly well above 2,000.
Playing links over the years have tended to be quite close. Current Cov prop forward Phil Boulton made well over 100 league appearances for Bedford, while Pete White also spent two seasons with the Blues before arriving at the BPA.
Former Australian Sevens international and back-row forward Ben Adams is another member of the Blue-and-Whites’ squad, to have made the journey north after spending two seasons with the Blues.
Saturday’s meeting will be the 32rd between the clubs at league level, the first of which took place in season 1988/89. Currently, Bedford have a 19-10 lead in the series, with two matches drawn, although Cov claimed an exciting 34-27 win in September’s BPA encounter. The last time the Blue-and-Whites won at Goldington Road was in season 2002/3.
Interestingly, the two drawn matches both ended up 15-all. Both took place on Coventry soil – as many Cov supporters will doubtless remember the last of those took place in 2009/10 at the Ricoh Arena at the end of a particularly stressful week for the club!
Kick off time on Saturday is 3.00pm. The supporters’ club have been busy selling coach seats, so if you intend travelling via that method, urgent contact should be made via CRSC1874@gmail.com.