What a privilege it was to welcome Championship rugby back to the island for our last game, a stonking 55-12 win over Nottingham. Even better, the game was played in front of the first crowds at a British rugby match since September 2020. The sun shone; the rugby sparkled; and I hadn’t seen so many smiling faces for the longest time!
The visit of the British and Irish Lions to the Island in June felt a little closer this week with the announcement of the squad that will travel to South Africa. The selection is always a great talking point but these are the men selected to do the job and I’m sure all rugby lovers across Britain and Ireland will be behind them 100%. We at the club are super-excited to be hosting this special group of players.
We welcome Coventry Rugby to Jersey for our second home game this season and one which again will be played in front of live fans. Coventry stand 5th in the table with four wins out of seven having beaten Bedford, Nottingham, Ampthill and Hartpury. Their 3 defeats came against Donny, Ealing and last time out to Cornish Pirates.
The Reds will undoubtedly be looking to build on two consecutive wins as they seek to close the 6 point gap to Coventry who sit in 5th place against Jersey’s 7th.
Hopefully, we will have a great turnout, but remember that if you are still a little uncomfortable getting together in large groups, the game is being live-streamed and you can buy your pass via the Reds website.
However you ingest the game - enjoy it!
Come on you Reds!
Coventry will be one of just two sets of ‘home-and-away’ fixtures for the Reds this season, with the Midlanders’ visit to the Island for this Championship fixture following a pre-season clash in February at the Butts Park Arena.
Considering both sides had gone almost a year without any rugby, it was a pretty decent hit-out to start the truncated 2020/21 season, featuring 11 tries and a win for Cov by the narrowest-possible margin (34-33).
Cov went on to play two more pre-season games, giving a decent account of themselves in both outings against Saracens before being defeated 48-33 at the StoneX in north London and by 12-47 on home turf.
The one-point margin seen in the Reds’ game became a recurring theme once league action started: Bedford were defeated 10-9 thanks to a late penalty from Tony Fenner; but Cov fell just short after a stirring comeback against Doncaster at Castle Park, losing 20-19.
After becoming one of seven opposing teams – so far – to finish well-beaten by Ealing, Rowland Winter’s men got on a roll, with a hat-trick of wins against Nottingham (24-36), Ampthill (26-15) and Hartpury (24-47). But the bandwagon stalled at the Butts last time out, with Cornish Pirates coming away winners by 19-30.
Starting this season against Cov seemed appropriate for the Reds, as the two clubs also faced up in the opening rounds of the last two Championship seasons.
Back in the second-tier after an eight-year absence, the Blue-and-Whites hosted visitors from Jersey in September 2018 and marked the occasion with a 20-15 win, having fallen behind during the early stages. The Midlanders eventually finished eighth, belatedly discovering an ability to win away from home in the final eight days of the season with victories over Doncaster at Castle Park and at Stade Santander by 23-36 against the Reds.
Last season the teams met just once as a result of the pandemic, with the opening round of the Championship seeing Jersey revenge in the form of a 22-15 bonus point win. Greg Dyer and Nic Dolly scored two tries apiece, the latter – on loan from Sale Sharks at the time – subsequently joining Cov briefly in 2020 before moving across to Leicester Tigers in March this year. Rory Jennings, another to have played for both clubs, scored his side’s points with five successful penalty attempts.
The clubs' first encounters in a league context took place in 2011/12, the season in which the Reds achieved promotion to the Championship, with a brace of comfortable wins: 29-3 at home, and then a 37-13 triumph at the Butts that clinched the National One title with a game to spare.
Meet the opposition
Full back Louis Brown has been back to his best in recent matches, setting up a number of tries and getting the team onto the front foot regularly. His ball carrying strength belies a slight frame, but regular watchers of Coventry Rugby have become used to seeing him slide out of tackles or step around a defender’s arms.
The 23-year-old’s contributions include pivotal plays for two potential candidates for try of the season – Josh Barton’s against Ampthill and Sam Aspland-Robinson’s against Cornish Pirates – but the distance he gains from his left boot is also important in getting the team downfield from penalties and other set pieces.
Ryan Burrows has been first team captain throughout his near-two seasons at Coventry and has led from the front with one powerful performance after another. He may have ditched his red scrumcap for black in recent weeks, but his play has been no less eye-catching, not least with ball in hand, and was rewarded with the Supporters Player of the Season award a year ago.
The 33-year-old number eight joined from Newcastle Falcons, for whom he played in both the Premiership and Europe. Prior to that Burrows had an outstanding six season at Yorkshire Carnegie, representing the Championship XV against international opposition and captaining the club to a Championship final appearance.