by John Butler
COVENTRY take their impressive record of 12 straight wins to The Rock on Saturday, a ground that has traditionally been a particularly difficult place to achieve a positive result.
Rosslyn Park’s home in Priory Lane, Roehampton, is the venue for the Blue & Whites who are looking to extend their brilliant start to the season whilst cementing top spot in the table.
Not that Park’s surroundings, which now include a 3G pitch, have proved to be particularly happy for recent Coventry squads. It is also the venue for the famed, long-standing Public Schools Sevens, staged each spring.
Records show just one Coventry win and a draw from their last seven visits since league fixtures between our two clubs recommenced after a 15-year break.
The solitary win is fondly remembered by Cov fans – a quite extraordinary 50-45 result secured in the dying moments, right at the end of the 2014/15 season. It was a game which saw Coventry roar away in a quite spectacular start into a big lead by half time before Park came back to lead, only to then be denied in injury time.
The 19-points all draw came three years earlier in 2011/12.
Overall in league rugby, which saw the first meeting in 1993/94, there have been 19 games to date. Setting aside that one drawn encounter, Rosslyn Park have enjoyed rather better results with their win tally currently standing at twelve to Cov’s six.
It is with that background then that Cov travel south east this weekend to play a Rosslyn Park side who have not enjoyed the best of results so far in 2017/18. They are on their day, however, quite capable of beating anyone, a factor so evident throughout National League One.
Having finished last season in sixth place, Park are currently lying 12th. New head coach Kieran Power, ex-Ealing Trailfinders, is in charge of a young squad, having taken over from Scott Seddon, now in Hong Kong.
Park’s record shows just three wins and a draw thus far, the last of the successes coming at home against Caldy (36-32) back on October 21. The other two wins have come at home against Loughborough Students and away at Old Albanian by a big margin, early on when OAs were missing their Saracens contingent.
Rather like Cov, Park are currently embroiled in fixtures against the top sides in the division, losing both of the last two away at Darlington Mowden Park and Ampthill last Saturday, whilst drawing at home to Plymouth Albion.
One influential figure who featured last weekend and who has not, it appears, played that much this season is No.8 Hugo Ellis, a thorn in Coventry’s side more than once.
Two of the players who left during the summer and who had Cov connections were winger Mark Kohler, now with Bury St Edmunds, and lock/back row Ed Milne, plying his trade with London Scottish in the Championship.
Just three of Park’s summer recruits played in the defeat at Ampthill, former Loughborough wing Benjo Marfo, hooker Carl Gibson who joined with the new head coach from Ealing Trailfinders, and back row man Ollie Hutson.
Three of Rosslyn Park’s previous squad head their points tally at the moment. Fly-half, and the main goal kicker, Harry Leonard is currently on 94 points, with centre Andrew Henderson and full-back Henry Robinson both having run in five tries, Hutson being on four.
From a Coventry perspective, the task facing the squad, fresh from defeating Plymouth Albion, is far from easy. However, with 72 tries chalked up already for a match average of six, confidence should again be high, both from an attacking and defensive point of view.
With James Stokes and Scott Tolmie both now on ten tries for the season, and with others pushing hard behind, hopefully the artificial playing surface will see those tallies increased. It is worth recalling as well at this stage that with the tries flowing, the individual club record for a season is still 17, set 21 years ago by Andy Smallwood.
Kick off time at the Rock is 3pm with the Supporters’ Club again poised to ferry good numbers down to the game, not allowing for those choosing to travel privately.
Meantime, the Development squad are also scheduled to be in action away from home. They are due to travel to familiar surroundings previous Coventry squads have faced, down in Gloucestershire at Cinderford.