Preview to Coventry (a) 03.12.11


Eight-win Jersey get ready for two-tone Cov

Wasn't it gratifying to see Jersey's Matt Banahan praised for his politeness and good behaviour during the Rugby World Cup, in contrast to many colleagues?

The mention of Banners' exemplary conduct during a sponsors' day in New Zealand with Land Rover was picked up by this week's JEP and splashed across page 3, complete with quotes from his time at JRFC (and not even a mention of the Siam Cup red card!).

Contrast with some England contemporaries, who seem pretty pleased with themselves relative to what they've actually achieved in the game - the phrase 'Too Much Too Young' springs to mind in some cases.

Too Much Too Young was also the title of a song by legendary ska band The Specials, who hail from Coventry. Their frontman was Terry Hall, and the name of the referee for Saturday's Jersey v Coventry game is... Terry Hall. Spooky? Too right, it's a Ghost Town out there...

Contrived intros aside, there's another attractive match-up on the Jersey rugby calendar at 3pm this Saturday. National One contains some big-name clubs from rugby history, and none more significant than Coventry, who after a difficult couple of years seem to be a club on the up once again.

News from the Jersey camp

Jersey's resolute defence, attacking prowess and winning habit was enough to secure an eighth win on the bounce against Macclesfield last weekend.

Returning to St Peter, the Islanders will be hopeful of continuing to rebuild the fortress that was successfully breached by Ealing five games ago, although some changes in personnel will be required.

Skipper (and part-time football coach) Paul Rodgers was hoping to return to action for the first time in six weeks this Saturday, but this now seems unlikely, while stand-in Graham Bell injured his ribs against Macclesfield and is also doubtful. Lock Nathan Hannay will be absent as he serves the second week of his two-week ban following his dismissal at Cambridge last month.

While Nick Trower and Kingsley Lang stand by to move into the pack if required, the return from injury of players such as Ross Broadfoot and Glenn Bryce offers options to Ben Harvey in the backs.

Dai Maddocks and Donovan Sanders are set to take the field against their former club. The Welsh prop played 34 times for Cov in the 2009/10 season, while Donny made more than 100 appearances between 2004 and his move to Jersey in the summer of 2009.

Cov's season to date

This is becoming a habit - for the third time in five weeks Jersey meet a team who have just defeated league leaders Ealing.

Cov's win came by 29-26 at their Butts Park Arena home, with props Adam Parkins (2) and Ethan Waller claiming tries, alongside second row Sam Herrington, whose try was his fourth of the season, added to a tidy 15 in 2010/11.

The season began in unconvincing fashion, with narrow wins over Cinderford, Stourbridge and Sedgley, a draw with Blaydon and a loss at Wharfedale.

Moving into October, the team began to hit their straps (whatever that means), scoring 159 points in five outings, made up of four wins and a two-point defeat by Cambridge.

November was a mixed bag, with away defeats at Blackheath (34-25) and Fylde (45-14) combined with home wins against Ealing and the Bees.

Cov managed to retain a fairly large proportion of last year's squad, who achieved a creditable eighth place in National One with 69 league points and an entertaining average of 7.5 tries per game (113 scored, 111 conceded).

New signings this summer included Luke Myring, formerly of Northampton and Roma Olympic, a goal-kicking centre who has notched 115 points, including three tries, so far this season, and the 21-year-old Ulster wing/ full-back Mark O'Connor.

Cov's likely half-back pairing, Lewis Barker and Elliott Read, have played in every game so far this season and are showing a growing understanding, which can only bode well for their team's attacking potential and game management.

In the pack, watch out for Waller, the teenage prop who is dual-registered with Northampton (where his brother Alex plays), prolific try-scorer Herrington and the tough blindside Brett Daynes, ever-present thus far this season.

Absentees with injury include French lock Benji Dechartres, who rejoined in the summer after a season with Eastern Suburbs in Sydney, skipper Jamie Miller, who rejoined from Bristol but has a long-term ankle injury sustained in just the fourth game of this season, and the marauding flanker Alex Nash, man-of-the-match against Ealing.

Coventry - a potted history

Founded in 1874, Coventry took up residence in their Coundon Road ground in 1921 and developed into one of England's leading clubs, especially during the 1950s, 60s and 70s with a stream of players capped by England, as well as a hat-trick of John Player (National) Cup titles from 1972-74.

The decline from this heyday coincided with the advent of the league system in 1987 and Coventry became a fixture at Level Two throughout the 1990s and beyond, including the move to Butts Park Arena in 2004.

In 2006, Chairman Keith Fairbrother, who had taken over the club after it went into receivership in 1998, sold the club to businessman Andrew Green, but three years later the club was placed in administration. A rescue package and the formation of a new company, Coventry Rugby Ltd, came in January 2010, but hampered by a 15-point deduction stemming from the financial woe, Cov were relegated at the end of the 2009/10 season.

As mentioned previously, this was followed by the consolidation at Level Three last season, which came amid a backdrop of determined re-establishment of a proud club on a firm financial footing and with a central role in its local community. Former England full-back Peter Rossborough has played a key role in this process and currently holds the positions of Chairman and President.

Famous Sons - how long have you got?

• Alan Rotherham captained England during a 12-cap career in the 1880s, but later shot himself in 1898 at the age of 36.

• Ivor Preece, 12 England and a Lions' cap in the 1940s and 50s, including six times captaining his country

• Peter Robbins, 19 caps from the late 1950s, alongside his contemporary Bert Godwin (11 appearances)

• Phil Judd won 22 caps for his country at prop in the 1960s, skippering the team five times, and toured Jersey with Coventry in 1955 when aged in his early 20s [stop-press - a programme and pics of this tour match will be on display in the club on Saturday]

• The hey-day was arguably 1973. When this writer made his first-ever trip to Twickenham in January of that year, centre Peter Preece (son of Ivor, 12 caps) and wing David Duckham (36 caps, 10 tries) were both playing, and by September this pair were joined in the backline by clubmates Geoff Evans (9 caps) and Peter Rossborough (7 caps, 34 points) in a historic win over New Zealand in Auckland.

This is far from an exhaustive list, and still wouldn't be even if one mentioned other well-known names who turned out for Coventry even though their fame was largely earned elsewhere. These include Fran Cotton, Zinzan Brooke, Mike Umaga, Richard Cockerill, Andy Goode and Danny Grewcock.

Triv about Cov

• Two Coventry players, Messrs Duckham and Cotton, were in the All-time Lions XV selected by Bill McLaren
• Cov have the second highest average crowds in National One, with a figure of 968, while almost 1,400 watched last week's game with Ealing
• As well as Dai and Donovan, other recent players with Jersey connections include George Dixon - top-scorer with nine tries in 2006/07 and Henno Venter
• Hooker Steve Brain was the last player (that I could find) to be capped by England while playing for Cov, in 1986
• 22 out of Cov's 38 tries this season (excluding three penalty tries and one by a sub) have been scored by forwards, the highest proportion in National One.

Following the game

Don't forget that you can keep up-to-speed with news from Jersey v Coventry through the following channels:
• Preview on BBC Radio Jersey's Sportscene from 6- 7pm on Friday, and live commentary on Saturday afternoon
• Preview in Friday's JEP, and full match coverage on Monday
• Scoreflashes on @jerseyrfc Twitter and the 'Rolling Maul' rugby forum
• Match report on Channel 103 on Saturday afternoon, either just before or just after 5pm depending on how many times the ref stops his watch
• Highlights on Channel TV at 6.15pm on Monday, and online.

And finally...

Having poked fun at Statbunker last week, I should make clear that printed volumes are not exempt from innocent errors and typos. Perhaps in a bid to make light of Cov's troubles during 2009/10, the RFU handbook tried to make the campaign sound like a drinking competition, reporting that Coventry had been relegated in the play-offs "despite finishing 21 pints clear of Birmingham Solihull in the regular season."

Enjoy the game, and let's hope the weather improves!

Tom Innes


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