Welcome one and all to the final game of the 2018/19 season. And what a season it has been for the Reds!
After a sluggish start with three consecutive defeats away games, the boys finally hit their straps and set-off on a ten match winning streak that saw them rocket up the table. Regardless of what happens against Cov, this will be the team’s highest ever finish following 2 fifth-places over the previous 2 seasons.
Coventry have had a very credible first season back in the Championship. They have proven very hard to beat in front of their voluble home crowds and currently sit in eighth place. We welcome their officials, players, coaches and many supporters to Jersey for this double-header match-day!
I'd also like to welcome many of our Mini & Junior players, officials and parents, who sadly have been deprived of their long-awaited season-ending contests with Guernsey. Rough seas led to the cancellation of today's ferry crossing and consequently there's been no Junior Siam Cup. Commiserations to you all, and I hope our senior players can provide some good entertainment by way of minor consolation.
As the season is coming to an end, I would like to thank Harvey and the team for a great season, our non-rugby staff and volunteers for all their hard work, my fellow board members, our amazing corporate sponsors and of course our wonderful Reds supporters.
Enjoy your summer.
But before you do, ring those bells and bang those boards.....come on you Reds!!
Coventry returned to the second tier of English rugby this season after an eight-season absence. And this proud club, formerly one of the most renowned names in the country and boasting large numbers of England internationals, have made a good fist of the Greene King IPA Championship.
After 21 games 'Cov' are lying eighth in the table and their tally of 46 points is the most by a promoted club since the Championship moved to its current 12-team format a decade ago. This achievement has been built on the back of a solid record at their Butts Park Arena home, where average crowds of around 2,200 have been the third-highest in the division.
The first home win came on September 1st when the Blue & Whites came from behind to beat the Reds 20-15. In total Cov have won seven of their 11 home games, losing out to the top two, London Irish and Ealing, Doncaster and, most recently, Nottingham by 31-32 earlier this month.
Away from home it was a different story, with no wins in 13 league and cup away-days up to the end of March. There were some close calls during this time - a draw at Nottingham and single-point reverses at Doncaster, London Scottish and Bedford (by 53-52!) - but it was only last Saturday that the streak was finally ended with a 33-41 success at Castle Park against the Knights.
Founded in 1874, Coventry took up residence at their Coundon Road ground in 1921 and became 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.
Relegation from the Championship in 2010 came during Cov's lowest ebb, with financial problems leading to administration and the need to consolidate in National 1. The club are now seeking to build on their solid start to life back in the Championship and become - at least- an established force at this level.
Cov and the Reds met twice in 2011/12, when the Reds won 29-3 at home and then clinched the Nat 1 title and promotion on a memorable day at Butts Park Arena, winning 13-37.
A number of players have played for both clubs, including many of those involved in Jersey's rise through the leagues such as Donovan Sanders, Dai Maddocks, George Dixon, Henno Venter and Hendry Rheeders. The current Blue & White squad includes three former Reds: James Voss, currently on a season-long loan from Leicester but set to make a permanent move across the Midlands this summer; veteran Tongan back row Latu Maka'afi; and club captain Heath Stevens, who spent a month on the Island in 2016/17.
Meet the opposition
Coventry’s 34-year-old rugby director joined the club at the end of the 2015/16 season and has since overseen Coventry’s return to the Championship after an almost decade-long absence.
Winter’s coaching career began in Northampton Saints, where he worked with the junior academy and community teams.
He was then head coach at Bedford Athletic, and also gained experience with the England Counties U-20s structure and the senior Eastern Counties team.
In 2013, Winter took over as director of rugby at National Two South Cambridge who he took into National One two years later.
Coventry finished fourth in his first year at the helm, before lifting the National One title 12 months later after a campaign during which his team won 27 of their 30 matches and finished 19 points clear of their closest challengers.
Former Northampton Saints scrum half Tom Kessell enjoyed a successful loan spell at Coventry last season, before making the move a permanent one prior to the start of the current campaign.
The 29-year-old No.9 joined the Premiership giants from Cornish Pirates in 2015 after an outstanding season had ended with him being named as Championship player-of-the-season.
Thereafter he made 22 first team appearances for the Franklin’s Gardens club, while also playing a starring role in the Northampton Wanderers side which lifted the 2017 Premiership A League title.
Truro-born Kessell, who is a product of the Pirates’ youth system, has made 25 appearances for the Blue-and-Whites this term – more than any other player – 17 of which have come as part of the starting XV. He has scored six tries.
Pacy back-rower Ben Nutley, who joined Coventry over the summer, has made an eye-catching contribution to his club’s first season back in the Greene King IPA Championship.
The 27-year-old progressed through Northampton’s academy prior to playing 83 times for Saints in the Premiership, Anglo-Welsh Cup, A League and in Europe.
Nutley, who has represented England at U19 and U20 levels, was part of Northampton’s Aviva Premiership and Challenge Cup double in 2014.
Able to operate across the back row, Nutley’s mobility and combative breakdown work has marked him out as one to watch during his first season at Coventry.
To date he has made 19 appearances for his new club, scoring three tries – two of which came during his man-of-the-match display in Cov’s enthralling 53-52 defeat at Bedford Blues in February.