by John Butler
COVENTRY face what promises to be both an intriguing and potentially exciting afternoon this Saturday.
Cambridge’s Volac Park is the venue where a large number of Cov supporters are expected in support of their team.
Hosts Cambridge, Blood and Sand as they are officially nickname, are currently eighth in National League One, but in hosting Coventry one suspects they will be in pretty fine fettle following a couple of notable wins over recent weeks.
Up until October 14th, Cambridge had not enjoyed success on home soil since last November, but that changed with a 50-23 defeat of Rosslyn Park. Then last Saturday, they travelled the relatively short distance to Ampthill and came away with a narrow 8-7 wind-blown win. Any success achieved on that particular ground certainly deserves to be taken very seriously.
Cambridge await the arrival of Cov with a record showing four wins from eight, the other two successes both coming on their travels at Caldy and at Fylde on the opening day of the season.
Director of rugby at Volac Park is Ross Stewart, who took over when Rowland Winter made the move to Cov. Veteran Darren Fox has returned to the club this season in a player-forwards coach role.
Coventry can expect to come up against some other familiar faces. Rob Conquest, having briefly returned to Darlington Mowden Park after his spell at Butts Park last season, was in the starting line-up at Ampthill while Jack Green, who landed the late penalty last week, and winger Ashley Elvers both have Coventry connections from the past and were on the replacements bench. Another former Coventry member named in the Cambridge squad this season is scrum-half Lewis Barker, again well remembered at Butts Park before departing to Old Northamptonians.
The Cambridge club are another who run many sides at all age group levels with three senior sides, a big youth and mini section plus a thriving women’s section.
Coventry’s hosts have been extremely helpful in advance of the visit in making catering and other facilities available to the expected large following from Butts Park who wish to avail themselves, notably pre-match.
Cov go into the game in the knowledge that following events overall last weekend they currently have a six-point cushion at the top of National League One but, equally, will not be taking anything remotely for granted.
It will be an interesting second return to Volac Park for director of rugby, Rowland Winter, with James Stokes and Brett Daynes also boasting previous senior experience there from their time at Cambridge and centre Fraser Dingwall having come up through the youth ranks.
There have been eight previous meetings overall, all in National League One, the first being in season 2010/11. Cambridge actually won each of the first four matches played. Conversely, Coventry have won the last four, last season’s first encounter bringing a 55-10 margin at the Butts Park and the return ending 36-27 when one can recall a particularly strong fightback from the hosts in the second half.
The other key element in advance of Saturday’s meeting is, of course, Cov going into the game with 16 straight wins – eight from last season plus eight from this season’s opening two months. Victory would mean the squad of 2017/18 moving ahead of the club’s current league record set three years ago.
This weekend will also see Darlington Mowden Park, currently fourth, host third-placed Plymouth Albion. Blackheath and Ampthill also both face away matches. Another weekend which could see more changes taking place amongst the top five.
It all promises to be another exciting afternoon for the travelling faithful and, indeed, for everyone involved at Coventry Rugby in these particularly exciting times.