“The “Tigers” who come here today fresh from a big win at Twickenham last week over Harlequins are without question England’s top club at
So opens John Butler’s programme notes for the Coventry v Leicester game that took place almost 35 years ago. Coventry’s painful decline since then is in stark contrast with Leicester’s ability to remain at the pinnacle of the elite clubs in this country and beyond.
The only notable absentee for Leicester on the day was Peter Wheeler, the England hooker. Hare, Dodge and Woodward were already well established in the national side and little could we have imagined what Woodward would go on to achieve as England coach some 23 years later. Cusworth had received the first of his 12 caps for England the year before and would go on to play over 360 games for the ‘Tigers’ – I believe he is now Argentine Director of Rugby!
Tim Barnwell, on the wing, was a former Coventry player and a popular one at that, although I seem to rememberl him playing more in the centre?
Plenty of familiar names in the Cov side, too. Peter Rossborough at 32 would have been the seasoned pro in the side by then, but still a crowd pleaser. Paul Knee captained the side from one wing with Simon Maisey, a very loyal servant to the club, on the other. The half back pairing of Buttimore and Thomas were also favourites of the crowd, although Buttimore was standing in for Huw Davies who was on Varsity duty. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a player either before or since ‘talk’ to the referee as much as Steve Thomas. Had he played in the era of the yellow card, I don’t think he would have last the full 80 minutes many of the games! But Thomas epitomised the Coventry spirit and was always prepared to throw his body on the line; a brave player who was always the first name I’d look for on the team sheet in those days. I can still recall him lighting up a cigarette almost before the final whistle had blown.
Steve Brain and Mal Malik would leave to join Rugby Lions and Graham Robbins would be capped by England only to lose his place in the national side to Dean Richards. Another memory was of Robbins scoring a bag load of tries from the base of the scrum in the days when the Coventry scrum was so dominant.
It is interesting to see how the quality of the programme had improved over the years! Costing the princely sum of 15p, there is far more reading material in it and the cover illustration of David Duckham is evidence of the impact he had at the club, having retired the year before. In those days, Coventry were running three sides, the FIRST XV, EXTRA FIRST XV and the YOUTH V, although of the 5 matched arranged for the YOUTH team, 4 had been cancelled. Thank goodness for the our own Academy!
Coventry lost the game 19-24.