Rugby Union: Coventry master thoughtful progression

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The Independent Online
Coventry. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .22

Havant . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3

THESE ARE the moments when clubs are either happily looking forward to the future, marking time, or down in the dumps. At Coundon Road, you had the two extremes, Coventry's ambition of promotion to the Second Division all but realised and Havant left to face the harsh realities of relegation.

Even the weather smiled on Coventry. Havant having won the toss, one of their few successes of any kind in a winter of suffering, decided to play into driving snow. It was an odd decision, made to look ridiculous when the sun came out and the wind dropped at the interval.

With that sort of luck, Havant had not a hope. Five penalties in seven attempts saw Richard Angell hog the scoring and, as if things were not bad enough for the visitors, Nick Thomson then stole a try 10 minutes into the second half.

When the leagues were introduced in 1987, Coventry's experience of the high life was all too brief. They dropped straight out of the First and last season were one of seven sides relegated to the Third in the restructuring process. But they were already planning their escape.

It was no good reflecting on past glories, when David Duckham flew the flag by winning 36 English caps. Coventry's heyday ended when they completed a John Player Cup winning double in 1974, their centenary year, and the last player from the club to be capped by England was the hooker Steve Brain in 1986.

Now according to Peter Jackson, another of the club's famous former internationals and long-serving secretary, Coventry are capable of putting themselves back on the map. 'The signs are very promising,' he said. 'The future was laid down three years ago and things are starting to come to fruition. It was not easy. We've had to rethink all our ideas.'

One of the problems has been building up the playing strength, which is a bit of a vicious circle. 'When you are failing,' Jackson said, 'people want to leave, whereas the success of a club will always give you players. We knew that if we hadn't got it right by the end of this season we were going to be in deep trouble.'

Coventry, however, four points clear at the top of the table, have been getting it right and one point from two matches is all they need. On Saturday week they are away to Bedford - who, together with Fylde, are also battling for promotion - and they conclude their programme at home to Redruth.

Not that Jackson is counting his chickens - 'anything could happen at Bedford. We've played down there too often to call that one straightforward.' Then again, as Redruth, with 15 League defeats already behind them, will be keeping Havant company in the Fourth Division next season, no one is expecting Coventry to fall at the last.

Coventry: Try Thomson. Conversion Angell. Penalties Angell 5. Havant: Penalty Russell.

Coventry: R Gee; B Evans (capt), M Lakey, N Thomson, D Woodman; R Angell, S Dowson; G Tregilgas, D Addleton, W Bullock, L Crofts, R Mackie, W Phillips, K Hickey, J Horrobin.

Havant: R Davey; J Bates, S Parry, S Powelly, A Jewett; P Russell, D Jones; D Rees, R Whitehead, M Rees, M Baldwin, R Ward (G Curtis, 53), M Sheldon, W Knight (capt), N Roach.

Referee: A Ellison (Leatherhead).