by John Butler
HAVING enjoyed another enforced playing break, Coventry resume match action on Saturday and for a number in the squad, including director of rugby Rowland Winter, it will be a return to very familiar territory at Volac Park, the home of Cambridge RFC.
For the Coventry club, it is a first visit there in four seasons. At the end of the 2012/13 season, Blood & Sand – to quote their full nickname – were relegated to National Two South, before being promoted back to National One as champions at the end of last season.
For quite a number in the squad, though, the surroundings for Saturday’s return league fixture will be very familiar indeed. Backs coach Brendan Burke made the summer move with Winter, having been part of the Cambridge squad which secured promotion last season, while Brett Daynes, James Stokes and Corey Hircock all made the move too.
Awaiting them in the Cambridge squad, as they seek a fourth successive win, will be former Cov fly-half Jack Green, although the number 10 has not been in the Cambridge match day squad recently. Former Coventry members, scrum-half Ross Keven was also part of the squad earlier in the season, although not now appearing to be listed there.
Ross Stewart, from Northampton Saints, took over as director of rugby this season, and the playing squad contains several players who are very experienced, although not all are tending to make the starting line-up regularly, including James and Mike Ayrton, centre/wing Albert Portsmouth and scrum-half Stef Liebenburg in the backs and back row forward Steve Hipwell.
Cambridge are currently 12th in National League One, 12points away from the relegation places. A fine away win at Fylde two weeks ago certainly helped their cause considerably and with five matches to go, they would appear to have done just about enough to ensure safety.
In some respects, considering their league position, the Blood & Sand have a rather unusual playing record which shows them having an away record pretty well the same as that achieved at Grantchester Road.
Indeed, the last home win has to be traced back to late November when Hull Ionians were defeated, although in that time a high-scoring draw was achieved against Blackheath. Others to have tasted defeat at Volac Park are Macclesfield, Loughborough Students and Fylde, which means the Cambridge win in Lancashire last time out saw them seal a notable double.
With Cov seeking to continue another winning run, they will however travel in the knowledge that although they won the earlier encounter at Butts Park with some ease, 55–12, their hosts also have a reputation for being high scoring. A feature of the November meeting at BPA was the total dominance achieved by the Cov pack, and that surely will be an area where the Blue & Whites will hope to dominate again on Saturday.
It will not be a great surprise for anyone to read that meetings between our two clubs have all been very recent, the first in 2010/11. Cambridge won all of the first four meetings before Cov rectified that somewhat by gaining the league double themselves in 2012/13, the season when Cambridge were subsequently relegated back to League Two. As mentioned, Cov won earlier this season so Cambridge still lead 4-3.
Refreshed after the two week playing break, whilst surely not being complacent, Cov will make the relatively short journey east on full of confidence after their fine home win over Ampthill.
Whilst the top two or three places in National League One are, in reality, now out of range, there is still plenty to play for as the final month of the season draws closer.
Kick-off at Volac Park is 3pm.