1stXV v Coventry, Sat Apr 14, 15:00, Match Preview
This Saturday Ampthill welcome 2017/18 National 1 Champions Coventry to Dillingham Park.
The history of rugby in Coventry can be traced back to 1874 when the first organised game was played against Allesley Park College with one half conducted according to rugby rules and the other according to association rules.
Old Bull Fields was the first permanent location and when the ground became enclosed, it became known as the Butts with the first match played in 1880 against Stourbridge.
Ben Tuke & H G Wells were the club’s first internationals, both representing Ireland in 1894 while Coventry’s first British Lion, W Judkins, travelled to Australia in 1899. Nine more Coventry players have since worn the famous red jersey.
Early in the 20th century the Butts was lost when the professional Northern Union game took brief hold in the city. After the First World War the clubs first home was at Binley Road, a cricket ground before Coundon Road was purchased in 1921 and became Coventry’s base until the turn of the 21st century.
On the playing field Coventry had remarkable success through the decades with the club continuing to produce many international players for the home nations while the Midlands team that defeated the touring Australians in 1958 was two thirds Coventry.
The Warwickshire county side was dominated by players from the club with more international representative honours in the ’60s & ’70s while the 1973/74 RFU Club Knockout Cup win was achieved in the clubs centenary year.
The introduction of leagues into England in the ’80s coincided with lower on field achievement with the club spending just one year at level 1.
1996/97 saw Coventry very close to promotion to the top division, losing a home & away playoff to London Irish, but at great financial cost resulting in a rescue package for the 1999/2000 season. With Coundon Road needing investment beyond the means of the club the decision was taken to return the club’s roots and Butts Park Arena saw it’s first game at the beginning of the 2004 season.
However, the financial situation remained precarious culminating in the club’s relegation from the Championship (level 2) at the end of season 2009/10. Steady progress has followed with the club now on a secure financial footing.
Coventry’s spectacular 2017/18 sees them with a played 27 won 26 record and a thoroughly deserved promotion to the Championship next season. Last week they gained revenge on Blackheath 37-10, the only side to have come out on the right end of the scoreline against them.
Ampthill’s hoodoo side, Darlington Mowden Park, won a very tight match with a last play of the game penalty try last week. The 4th last kick of the game win in 8 matches between the two clubs since the promotion playoff!
Director of Rugby Mark Lavery comments “Coventry, one of the most famous rugby clubs in England, have for a time been a sleeping giant. However, they have certainly woken up having lost only once this season ( to Blackheath) in what can only be described as a tour to force where pretty much everyone else has succumbed to the juggernaut.
Roland Winter and his excellent coaching team and playing group deserve massive plaudits for a great job really well done. They schooled us at the Butts Arena and we will have to be right on our game if we are to avoid being embarrassed again.
It’s a huge honour to have yet another Championship club come to Dillingham Park and we would like to say we look forward to it but if we are as inaccurate as we were last week it will be a long afternoon on Saturday.”
Breaking News – The 1881 fixture against Coventry Development has been cancelled. Ampthill were somewhat surprised to hear at 22:15 on Thursday night that Coventry’s development team would not be turning up at Dillingham Park because they couldn’t get a side together.