by John Butler
THE wait is almost over! Following 11 weeks of preparation and planning for Cov’s coaching team and the players, the first test for the keenly-anticipated 2017-18 season comes this Saturday with the senior Coventry squad travelling north to East Y0o0rkshire.
Awaiting them will be Hull Ionians at their traditional rugby surroundings of Brantingham Park.
This will be the second time a Coventry squad has visited the venue on the opening day of a season, with Saturday’s encounter being just the fourth time the clubs have met there.
There can be no denying there is a great deal of pressure on this latest Coventry side as they approach the new season. Whilst there is general acknowledgement that National League One seems to prove more demanding as each season progresses, the overview nationally appears to be that most opponents see Cov as certainly one of the favourites for the one promotion place, with some going even further with their predictions.
It is against this background that the current squad takes with them an unbeaten club record against Ionians. Six straight wins from the matches played to date.
In truth, not too much is known about Saturday’s hosts in terms of their preparation. Last season they just escaped the relegation places by finishing 13th, one place below the previous year. Close season they have lost influential back row forward Laurence Cowen to Birmingham Moseley, but other than that little is known in terms of recruitment or players departing.
What is known, however, is that over the past two weeks Wharfedale, from National Two North, were defeated 31-10 at Brantingham Park whilst last Saturday, Ionians took two sides to National Two newcomers Sheffield Tigers and won both matches.
Each of the six matches played between Hull Ionians and Cov have been high scoring. The first of those meetings came in season 2013-14 when, again on the opening day, Coventry’s winning margin was 41-12. Last season, in gaining the double, the final scores were 40-21 in the north and 50-38 in the return at Butts Park. Such has been the extent of the respective scorelines achieved, the smallest aggregate total of 37 came in Cov’s away fixture in 2015-16 – that also being the occasion when the margin of victory was also the smallest to date at 21-16.
There can be no denying hope and expectation levels of the Coventry faithful are high but, equally, with fully 30 matches to play, feet need to be firmly on the ground.
Following a really positive close season, however, which has seen the squad boosted by the arrival of several experienced players, it is understandable why those hopes and ambitions are where they are.
A large away following to Brantingham is anticipated, the squad knowing that the support they can expect to receive is, without any real question, the best in the division.
Back at home, for those not travelling to Yorkshire there is the opportunity to watch the Development squad in action as they take on Cambridge in Coventry (venue to be confirmed).
The match is being staged as a warm-up for the squad in advance of their forthcoming Zoo Sports Shield league games.