Coventry v 1stXV, Sat Apr 23, 2016, Match Preview
Ampthill travel to Coventry on Saturday for the ‘last’ 1stXV first time visit to a new ground of the season in this season of ‘firsts’.
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.
Having begun this season with high expectations results have been mixed, with Coventry lying 9th in the National 1 table with a played 28 won 12 record.
Last week Ampthill, now unbeaten in 10 games and with a played 28, won 19 record, extended their winning run with a hard fought victory 25-21 over Fylde. The visitors proved skillful and determined opposition who prevented the home side from taking advantage of numerous scoring opportunities.
Amps squad this week sees the return of Will Evans at openside, a fit again Joe Tarrant starts at flyhalf while Syd Blackmore rotates to the bench.