by John Butler
PRIOR to league rugby, links between Coventry and this week’s visitors Esher were largely limited to 2nd XV fixtures.
Our first meeting at league level came in season 2007/08. There was then a gap of some four seasons, before we faced each other again in 2012/13, and this weekend’s game will be the 16th.
The clubs are closely matched on results so far. Following the 61-26 away success earlier in the season, the biggest we have achieved over Esher, Cov lead 8-7. Esher’s one success to date at Butts Park came in 2015/16, by a single point at 13 -12.
The Esher club was formed originally some 49 years after Cov in 1923. They boast a lot of ground at their Molesey Road headquarters in Hersham, which over the years has hosted quite a number of representative matches, not least involving England Women.
Esher are said to have plans to redevelop the site, whilst in recent years they have enjoyed pretty close links with Premiership clubs Harlequins and London Irish.
They finished last season in eighth place and after last week’s home draw with Ampthill are currently 12th in the table. Their record in what has been something of an up and down season shows five wins plus the one draw frpm the 18 games played.
By all accounts, last week’s draw was gained after a notable second-half comeback which saw Esher notch up 19 points, only to be denied a win following a late Ampthill penalty goal. It was a result which brought to an end a run of five defeats.
Esher’s five wins have all been achieved at home, the last of those being against Fylde on November 25. The others were against Darlington Mowden Park, Blackheath, Rosslyn Park and Old Elthamians.
There were relatively few departures from Molesey Road during the last close season, some 17 newcomers joining around 25 retained players. One of those new to the squad, although at Esher previously, is back row forward Ali Bone, formerly with Cov last season and also Chinnor. Ali played in the earlier encounter against Cov, but has not featured recently.
Among the players who remained are winger Spencer Sutherland and hooker Devlin Hope, both of whom have previous Coventry links. Spencer has also not been in the side recently, while Devlin was on last week’s replacement bench.
Two fly-halves currently head Esher’s points list. Paul Roberts has 78 and Stephen Boatman, who landed two conversions against Ampthill, 52.