The business end
Seven months after visiting the oldest rugby club in England at
the start of their odyssey in National League 1, Jersey make their
final away trip to a club that was once England's most
The changing lines of the rugby map is such that Jersey, a
backwater known only to those who'd come over to play tour matches,
find themselves in the same league as Coventry. Not only that, but
a win for the Islanders will trigger a third successive promotion,
leap-frogging their illustrious hosts and climbing to the second
tier of the RFU pyramid.
No wonder DoR Ben Harvey has been stressing the importance of
business as usual - it's probably one of those occasions where
concentrating on the bigger picture could lead to a lack of focus
on the job in hand.
The target is, in theory, straightforward - any win, even a
scratchy 6-5, would take Harvey's team beyond the reach of rivals
Ealing and deliver the National 1 title without the need for a
result against a dangerous Fylde outfit in the season's final game
With the prospect of sealing the deal looming, it's little
surprise that huge numbers of supporters will be making their way
to Cov's Butts Park Arena home for the game, by whatever means.
Planes, boats, automobiles… there was even a rumour that a member
of the Jersey Wanderers squad had been seen trying to hot-wire one
of the amphibious 'duck' vehicles that take tourists from St Helier
to Elizabeth Castle in order to utilise it for crossing the
But the visiting party will encounter a proud club keen to
finish their own season on a high. The Cov Treasurer may be looking
forward to a bumper crowd and busy takings from the bar and
pre-match lunches, but at 3pm the home team will be doing
everything they can to deny their guests the result they crave.
News from the Jersey camp
Not really the time for wholesale changes, if you can avoid them,
and it looks like there will be just two for Jersey from the team
who did an efficient job on Macclesfield last week, albeit without
the flourish shown at Tynedale before Easter.
Macc made life difficult for Jersey in the first half at St
Peter, turning round just 10 points behind, but second-half errors
were ruthlessly punished by the home team, a bonus point was
achieved in the 73rd minute and eventually six tries scored in a
Back to the changes - with Kingsley Lang still injured, Jethro
Rawling is selected to wear number 6 ahead of Steve O'Brien, the
veteran Irish flanker now finding himself as the 21st man or
travelling reserve. Rawling has had few opportunities since coming
on loan from Leicester Tigers in March, but will now get the chance
against a team where he also spent a loan spell earlier in the
season, including an appearance as substitute against Jersey at St
The other change is in the backs, with Ed Dawson recovered after
illness and likely to play on the wing. Dai Bishop is set to start
on the bench after a reshuffle which sees Mike Le Bourgeois coming
into the centre and Ashley Maggs drop out of the squad after a
The regular bench forwards of recent weeks, James Gethings and a
pair of Clyde-Smiths, are likely to be on duty once again alongside
Bishop and scrum-half Brendan O'Brien. Unlucky to have been third
in the pecking order for much of the season behind skipper Dave
McCormack and Nicky Griffiths, O'Brien's chance comes after
Griffiths was banned for four weeks following his red card for a
'tip-tackle' offence against Tynedale.
Jersey 29 Coventry 3, December 3rd 2011
A ruthless second half display in wet and windy conditions
earned Jersey maximum points and a ninth successive win.
Coventry took the lead through Luke Myring's straightforward
penalty, but Jersey were 10-3 up at the break following a penalty
try and five points from the boot of 'Le Booj'.
Turning up the heat in the second half, Jersey sealed the game
with tries by Nick Trower and Steve O'Brien around the hour mark,
and added the icing of a bonus point, courtesy of a second penalty
try, with three minutes left.
Cov's season to date
The season began in unconvincing fashion, with narrow wins over
Cinderford, Stourbridge and Sedgley, a draw with Blaydon and a loss
Moving into October, the team began to find their form, 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. The Ealing result came by 29-26 at Butts Park Arena
home, with props Adam Parkins (2) and Ethan Waller claiming tries,
alongside second row Sam Herrington.
Defeat in Jersey was the start of a rough patch for the
Midlanders who had just one win and a draw in seven outings, but
since the start of March their form has improved with just two
losses, to Ealing and in-form Blackheath, in the past six games. A
39-26 win over Fylde was the highlight of this spell. Last weekend
Cov scored five tries but still finished well-beaten by Ealing
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 half-back pairing of Lewis Barker and Elliott Read, were
ever-present during the first half of the season, but an injury
against Ealing makes ex-Rugby Lions man Barker a doubt for Jersey's
visit having played 27 of the 28 games thus far.
Coventry have not been a prolific try-scoring team this year -
78 tries puts them ahead of only Barking and the Bees in this
respect, with seven try BPs. Top try-scorer Heath Stevens (8) is
also likely to be missing this weekend after the centre was injured
In the pack, watch out for Ethan Waller, the teenage prop who is
dual-registered with Northampton (where his brother Alex plays),
the tough blindside Brett Daynes, ever-present throughout this
season, and second rows Sam Herrington and the Frenchman Benji
Dechartres, who rejoined in the summer after a season with Eastern
Suburbs in Sydney.
In response to injuries and the need to strengthen the squad,
Cov have recruited a number of new players including three overseas
imports. Khrist Kopetzky, a 30-year-old half-back, is a France 7s
international who has joined from French First Division side
Blagnac and was formerly with top clubs Pau, Agen, Begles-Bordeaux
and Tarbes Pyrenees. New Zealander James Otutaha, is a former
Marist & North Harbour midfielder who has played in the UK with
Brixham and also has senior RL experience in his home country.
Experienced Tongan international hooker William Hafu, 28, has
played for Silverdale RFC and North Harbour in New Zealand and the
Penguins international side. He can also play in the centre.
Another new centre is Callum McBurnie who has joined on loan
from Moseley where he had substantial Championship experience.
The coaching team at Cov is an experienced one, headed by DoR
Phil Maynard, formerly with the Bees, assisted by Dave Addleton and
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.
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
played a key role in this process and held the positions of
Chairman and President until businessman Jon Sharp became Chairman
in February after serving on the Board for the previous year.
At a meeting last week Sharp told supporters he was ambitious to
get Cov back to Level Two by 2014, and would be doubling the
playing budget. A key part of this strategy is to maximise revenue
from Butts Park Arena, an excellent facility, and from match-day
crowds which the aim is to double from the current average figure
of just over 1,000. Both that average, and the bar takings, should
be boosted this weekend, when the record for this season at BPA of
1,399 seems certain to be broken, and perhaps the 1,500 which is
Cov's record since moving grounds.
Famous Sons of Cov - how long have you
• 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
• The hey-day was probably from the late 60s to early 70s. In 1967
five Cov players were in the England XV v New Zealand - Judd,
hooker Herbert Godwin, lock John Owen, scrum-half William Gittings
and wing Rodney Webb (thanks to another son of Cov, Mick Curzons,
for this nugget).
* In January1973, centre Peter Preece (son of Ivor, 12 caps) and
wing David Duckham (36 caps, 10 tries) both played for England
against NZ, and by September that year 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 the All Blacks in
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
• Jersey will have two former Cov players on duty tomorrow. Centre
Donovan Sanders played more than 100 games in four-and-a-half
seasons at BPA after joining in late 2004, while loosehead Dai
Maddocks was on the books from 2007 to 2010, including the
administration crisis of late 2009
• 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, now with Sedgley Park
• Hooker Steve Brain is believed to be the most recent player to
be capped by England while playing for Cov, in 1986
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,
while the following afternoon the Beeb will relocate to Butts Park
and do the whole of Ssturday Sportscene from the ground, including
live commentary available on FM, AM and online
• Preview in Friday's JEP, and extended match coverage on
• Scoreflashes on @jerseyrfc Twitter and the 'Rolling Maul' rugby
• Regular updates on Channel 103 on Saturday afternoon from around
• Highlights on Channel TV at 6.15pm on Monday, and online.
Fylde and Blackheath gave up their mathematical chance of the
league title last weekend after an entertaining encounter in
south-east London. Club were the winners, and have taken 45 points
from nine games, meaning they could yet claim third with victories
over the Bees and Rosslyn Park.
Fylde now entertain Jersey's sole remaining rivals for the
National One title, Ealing, in a mouth-watering tie on the
Blackpool coast, featuring the two highest scoring sides in the
league (they have 262 between them). Ealing know they must win what
looks likely to be a high-scoring game, and hope Jersey fall at
Coventry, to reduce the current six-point margin to a mere one or
two ahead of the final round of games, when Jersey host Fylde and
Ealing have a straightforward-looking home tie against the Bees. It
would be a grandstand finish to the season, but one nobody in
Jersey hopes to witness.
Lots of interesting promotion and relegation issues are nearing
their conclusion, including a terrific tussle in National 2 South
between Richmond and Albanians, plus five clubs battling for the
play-off spot in 2 North. Esher will be relegated from the
Championship, unless they can get five points at London Scottish
and deny their hosts a bonus point. Even then it could end up in
the courts as Scottish have highlighted an apparent ambiguity in
the regulations involving the tie-breaker for teams finishing
Some important games involving other CI teams this weekend.
Good luck Guernsey who need two points from their game against
Hove to claim the league title in London 1 South and win promotion
to the national leagues. Should the Sarnians fail to get the points
this weekend, they are guaranteed a home play-off next weekend, and
then face Jersey in the annual Siam Cup encounter on May 5th.
Jersey United Banks face a Hampshire Plate semi-final at New
Milton on Saturday afternoon, while at St Peter Beeches play St
Jacques from Guernsey in the MacMillan Cup Final at 12.30,
followed by the Sugden Cup at 2.30 between Jersey 2nds and LQ
Hope everyone enjoys their weekend's rugby - it's a big
Why not get yourself a Hot Pot (Curry or Chilli served with rice) in the supporters marquee £8 per pot.