Coventry v Newcastle: Nov 2 1996 – watch it as the story is retold (Part 2)

(This post won’t make a great deal of sense if you haven’t already read yesterday’s, a link to which can be found below:

Coventry v Newcastle: Nov 2 1996 – watch it as the story is retold… )


An 11-9 lead at half time!

It was such stuff as dreams are made on.

Coincidentally,  those in the crowd that day had just witnesses a tempest of sorts in those opening 40 odd minutes, one created through the commitment and determination of a Coventry side intent on blowing Newcastle off course and shipwrecking them on the stormy seas of the second half to come.

I don’t recall anything particularly of the half time break, other than I would normally pop to the loo just to stretch my legs, but so packed was the stand that day that I decided not to make the trip, preferring instead to soak up the atmosphere created by a crowd not quite believing what they had  just witnessed and already anticipating the second half, unsure how events might unfold but far more confident than perhaps the could have expected to be prior to the start of the game.

The second half didn’t start well and it looked ominous when Jez Harris failed at the restart to kick the ball 10m and then Andrew kicked the ball almost 50 metres to find touch well inside the Coventry 22. Worse was to come as Addleton’s throw wasn’t cleanly gathered at the lineout and Newcastle took advantage as Tim Stimpson (another England international) made some valuable metres to win a penalty as Coventry dived over.

Instead of taking the fairly safe bet of the three points, yet again Newcastle opted to go a quick tap penalty, only for Horrobin to hold Armstrong up and allow Coventry defenders time to get their shape back to halt the next Newcastle wave of attackers. As the ball went wide, Andrew decided to go for a drop goal and, much to the relief of the Coventry supporters banked in front of the Railway End, he was well wide of the target.

If Coventry needed a reminder of the dangers of relaxing their concentration then that was it…

There then followed a five minute spell in which most of the play took place between the two 40m lines with both teams making a number of mistakes. It was during this period that Jez Harris missed a three pointer, this time a 40m penalty kick following a Newcastle infringement in the lineout with one of the their players pulling down the Coventry jumper.

It wasn’t the easiest of kicks but we had seen Harris kick a number of these already that season, so it was something of a surprise when his attempt went wide and the score remained 11-9.

A spell of sustained Newcastle pressure was to follow in which they scored from two penalties. The first was really the result of a very young looking Lee Crofts’ over exuberance. Having just come on for Andy Blackmore, who had hobbled off with an ankle/knee injury, in the space of just over a minute he first put in an unnecessary shove on a Newcastle player after the ball had gone out of play, and then was penalised after being a bit ‘over eager’ when tackling Doddie Weir. I have to say, though, the yellow looks a bit harsh in retrospect given he was given a ‘friendly’ elbow from Archer just seconds before, something which can clearly be seen on the clip moments before the ruck leading up to the penalty took place.

Coventry, then, were also down to 14 men (as Bentley had been sent off in the final minute of the first half for a punch on Andy Smallwood). Up stepped Andrew and Newcastle retook the lead again, 11-12.

It’s around this point that Rob Hardwick sustained a wound to the head which required him to leave the pitch to have stitched. Richard Blundell, a hooker, replaced him and Dave Addleton moved to prop against Ireland international Nick Popplewell , something which can be clearly seen on the footage.

And I have to say, the Coventry scrum seemed no worse for it!

The second penalty followed another passage of play in which Newcastle retained the ball well. From a solid scrum close to the half way line, Newcastle worked the ball forwards and Coventry encroached. A quick tap penalty saw Ryan charge forward and, and as Paul Ingleston on the accompanying commentary remarks, through Jez Harris (with of a hint a forearm, perhaps?).

Newcastle continued to rumble on, with backs and forwards  combining well as they spread the ball left and right. Andrew seemed to double up as scrum half at one point as Armstrong was pulled into the forwards’ surge. Eventually, almost under their own posts and after some muscle sapping defence, Coventry were penalised for coming round offside and Rob Andrew duly did the honours to further extend the Newcastle lead to 11-15.

At this point of the game, some of the players looked to be struggling a little, with Grewcock down injured and one or two of the others blowing heavily.

The signs weren’t too encouraging.

Coventry 11 – 16  Newcastle

However, Coventry began to work their way back into the game and exert increasing pressure on Newcastle’s defensive lines and eventually, after two quick tap penalties in positions where you might have expected Coventry to take the 3 points, the ball went wide and Andy Smallwood dived over in the corner.

It really all came from a pick up and drive from the base of the scrum by Ian Patten. He was tackled, but in doing so Newcastle went over the top and conceded a penalty. Hardwick, back on by now having been patched up, took a quick tap and was in turn tackled but Newcastle, having not retreated 10, were yet again penalised.

This time Eves took the tap and Patten made good yards (how many times did he do that during the course of the game?), passed wide to Harris who threw out an indifferent pass that missed out Ritchie Robinson. However, the bounce favoured Coventry and Gallagher flicked the ball onto Kilford who passed the ball out to Smallwood. With little room to play with, Smallwood sensibly dived early for the line and slid in for the try.

And, as you can see and hear…the crowd went made.

Harris missed the conversion but Coventry took the lead 16-15.

Pulsating stuff.

But despite just a few minutes of the game remaining, probably 3 or 4 at most excluding injury time (to repeat from yesterday’s post, the timings aren’t accurate on the tape), Coventry did exactly what they had done in the first half….conceded from the kick off. Andrew’s restart was knocked on and from the  ensuing scrum Newcastle moved the ball through the phases to a position in front of the posts on the 22m line. Andrew jinked one way, then the other and popped over a neatly taken drop goal which actually scraped the inside of the post on its way over.

Coventry 16 18 Newcastle.

I remember thinking at that stage Coventry had let the game slip by and that Newcastle, with all their stars and the vast experience they had within the team, would close the game out. Even now, having watched the game several times in the last couple of days, I still feel nauseous in those final moments as Coventry strove to break down the Newcastle defences one last time.

I won’t do anything other than let you watch those final minutes unfold – no comments could do justice to the tension that really was almost  palpable. A Jez Harris missed drop goal, from a closer range than the one he final knocked over, just added to the feeling that Coventry had fallen short at the final hurdle…

This final section is the longest.

So wherever you are, whatever you should be doing, take a break.

Go and make a cup of coffee, grab a Hobknob or two and just sit back and enjoy the final 6 minutes unfold. I still get goose bumps as I watch the Cov players roar on the crowd in the seconds before the final whistle.

It’s mesmeric.

And I was there….

Coventry 19 18 Newcastle

Well there it is…the greatest Coventry game I’ve certainly ever watched.

Passion, pride, commitment all wrapped up in a good deal of skill and craft. At the time, it exemplified everything that was good about Coventry RFC and it still does today. Maybe the days of 7500 turning out to watch Cov are long gone, but the belief that Cov will produce another performance of that nature is there in me every time I watch Coventry, home or away.

Every single time…

…including Saturday’s game down at Henley.


A couple of footnotes…

Mick Carter mentioned that Dave Addleton ended up packing against Ireland international Dave Popplewell whilst Rob Hardwick was getting some running repairs to a head wound, with Richard Blundell coming off the bench to be hooker.

Thanks to Rob Carter’s comment yesterday, I worked out how to take a screenshot and below is the evidence to support Mick’s comment. Not particularly clear, but clear enough…

2016-03-28 (3)

And one last thing – Paul’s commentary was fantastic.

Not bad for a first and only go at producing a voiceover.

There is one line that stands out for me, one line that I’ll take away and will doubtless use as my own at some point in the future…!

It sums up perfectly how we all felt once the referee had blown his whistle for the last time as hundreds of jubilant fans ran on to the pitch…


You can tell the Coventry players, they’re the ones without shirts…



17 thoughts on “Coventry v Newcastle: Nov 2 1996 – watch it as the story is retold (Part 2)

  1. Hi Kevin – many thanks for taking the time to post a comment.
    Happy memories indeed…the recording was a copy of the original VHS tape that the club had produced. I’d lost mine some time ago, probably in a house move, but someone was good enough to loan me theirs which I had commercially copied.
    Many thanks for the kind comments – I’ll certainly keep it going until the end of the season! Please feel free to comment – the more the better!

    Kind regards,


  2. Firstly TIM this was a tremendous run down memory lane….. having been there (yes honestly) it had slipped into the misty memory banks, the most vivid image I have is of John Bentley belting Andy Smallwood right in front of me. Yes I was in the Grandstand (an oxymoron there) not in the usual place, ie the Cowshed. I had passed a large format video tape of this match to John Butler a few years ago. My father had rescued it during the last hectic days at Coundon Road. Was it this you based your review on, or another recording from somewhere else? Keep up your blogs they are lovely reading!

    David, there’s been a lot written over the years, but not in a book form that I know of… BUT I have a copy of the CENTENARY Booklet which has a lot of what you may be interested in included. The 1973-4 playing squad with 9 internationals by my count, a list of all internationals to that date, the famous picture from that time showing COV’s 11 internationals, (2 missing), the England tour of New Zealand in 1973 when they beat the All Blacks, Peter Rossborough will tell you about that, and so on! If you can’t find a copy I will lend it to you on the promise it comes back! This was just before the 2 John Player Cup wins in the late 70’s.

    Otherwise John Butler must be as good a source of COV info as any…….

  3. tim,
    i’k also like a copy of the dvd if thats possible-happy to make a contribution oto cover your costs or to charity if you prefer.
    tony(aka tonker on unofficial site )

  4. In Rowland’s defence, he has had tapes of the games and also spoken to the Scott at length on several occasions…he seems to be someone who does his homework thoroughly and whilst it is hugely disappointing to see the likes of Sam and George Oliver leave in April, if they don’t fit in with the game plans that the new DoR and his coaching team are planning to put in place, then it’s probably best for them if they do go, rather than spend a season on the bench or elsewhere. Don’t forget, the new coaches have also involved in the recruitment process…
    I can’t really comment on the apparent lack of response to Sam’s emails etc…that is s strange one. However, I did understand from something that I’ve read that RW had had sit down talks with every players, so Sam missed out somehow.
    Sam has been a really consistent player, someone who the supporters have warmed to from his earliest appearances (remember how poorly he was following an injury to his nose that saw him hospitalised for some time…?); I’m sure he’ll get the send of he deserves…

  5. I’ve just been thinking a bit more (a lot more actually – whilst creosoting my fence!) about Sam’s comments. I’m led to the conclusion that the new DoR’s stance as to who will form part of his plans has been formed on the basis of coming over to Cov to watch training during the week. Presumably, because he doesn’t join Cov until June, he is under contract at Cambridge and hasn’t therefore attended any of our games, so his mind has been made up whilst watching and observing players at Cov’s training sessions. I find that slightly limiting, because the real deal is out on the field of play. And given that he is such a favourite with Cov supporters because of his standard of play, does it mean that we are wrong to hold him in such high esteem and are at odds with the new DoR accordingly? I have to admit I’m puzzled.
    In addition, according to Sam, he had difficulty getting the attention of the DoR in order to be able to talk about next season, and was fairly summarily dealt with whilst being told that he does not form part of the DoR’s plans. Surely man-management is a critical factor in any situation – most particularly where individuals are looking for an indication as to their status and their future?
    It all seems a bit odd and slightly unsettling to me.

  6. Thanks Tim, I hadn’t realised that Sam had added to your blog about him. His comments make interesting reading. Isn’t it unfortunate, to say the least, that he appears to have been given short thrift by the DoR? Even more fascinating to read his words that he would undoubtedly have signed if a contract had been offered. Great shame. I’d love to know why it was felt that he would not be part of the future plans.
    I’m going with The Old Wise One (aka Kimbo) to Henley on Saturday. And, despite my serious disillusionment after the Ampthill game, I will be renewing my season ticket……! And that’s because things do now look much more promising for next season.

  7. Hi Tim
    Sorry, but you’ve lost me. Where has Sam left a comment, please?

  8. Hi Cliff – comments can easily be backdated as you’ve now found out! Agree about the similarities between Sam and Ian Patten, although for me Patten has arguably been the best no 8 we’ve had since Graham Robbins and we’ve had a few good’uns since Robbo. Sam left a comment which you can find on the same post – it might raise the blood pressure a little, so be warned! Am working on the DVD…stay tuned.

  9. Hi Tim
    I don’t know whether your blog allows a comment to be added two or three days after you’ve published it, but here goes anyway.
    I’ve only just had the opportunity to watch the Newcastle game excerpts and, my goodness, wasn’t I lucky to be there? Fantastic memories.
    But the point of this reply is say how much, for me, Ian Patten so much reminded me of Sam Pailor. He’s similar in size, he moves similarly, he has a similar look about him, he plays similarly, he gets around the field and makes himself a nuisance wherever he goes, he makes the hard yards similarly……I could go on. But this comes only a couple of days after your blog about Sam, so it’s all the more poignant.
    I guess Sam’s growing business (I wish him all the success in the world) would be the main reason why he has declined the opportunity to train three times a week (on the assumption that it’s he who has declined rather than him not being offered a new contract) and family commitments could have had a part to play too. Nevertheless, it’ll be a great shame to see him go.
    As a matter of interest, someone else talked about getting the video put onto a DVD. If this is possible, how do I go about getting a copy?

  10. Wow…how spooky is that! Someone obviously had a crystal ball! The article in the CT is an interesting idea…perhaps asking people ask if they have any memorabilia that could be temporarily put on display somewhere at the Butts, provided the club was okay with that…there really should be a ‘museum’ of sorts…could be tied in with an evening of chat from Peter R and anyone else around at that time who would be interested in getting involved (gratis, I’d hope!)…
    Plenty of ideas out there but the club would need to be supported and a group of supporters interested enough to actually get involved…good idea though, Rob

  11. David’s query ties in to some extent with some thoughts I’d been having recently, inspired in part by an earlier post on this blog regarding ways to drum up support for the club.
    We talk a lot on here and the unofficial forum of glory days gone by, which makes me wonder how many people in the city below a certain age know just how mighty Cov once were?
    Perhaps the club could produce an article for the CET highlighting our proud past combined with the plans to revive the team’s fortunes. Some photographs of our past internationals, cup winning sides and even mention of the day we beat virtually a team of internationals, might just arouse some interest in some and remind lapsed supporters that Cov were there doing the business long before Wasps came along.
    I don’t know of any books about Cov’s past Dave, but there was a booklet brought out to commemorate the centenary in 1974. I’ve just had a leaf through it and it appears to have been compiled before the Knockout Cup victories in 73 and 74 so there is very little about the 70s era.
    There is an interesting paragraph near the end which questions the benefit of the cup competition to top level clubs and finishes by saying:
    ‘should time prove that it is serving no real purpose, there will be no real difficulty in abandoning the same’
    …. Prophetic words.
    Of more interest, perhaps, is a paragraph earlier in the conclusion which mentions the increasing financial and administrative problems being faced by rugby clubs. It goes on to say that to improve the situation:
    ‘attempts must be made to obtain greater support from local residents by involving them in the club’s activities, so that they feel wanted and have a place to go where they will always be confident of meeting friends. To do this attractive amenities have to be provided, and Club officials and players should freely mingle so that everyone feels it is our Club and not a case of ‘us’ and ‘them’.

    That for me says it all.

  12. Hi David…thanks for leaving a comment!
    I’m certainly not aware of any literature n the great Cov sides of the 60s and 70s but there might well be. John Butler is the club archivist and he’s probably the best person to contact…sorry I can’t be of any help.

  13. Wow. First time I’ve seen that since watching it live.

    The sheer number of tap penalties!

    In an earlier exchange of comments, getting hold of a copy was discussed. I’d still love to get hold of one to watch with Dad. Perhaps drop me an email.

    Thanks again.

  14. Tim,

    Very much enjoyed the trip down memory lane.

    Is there a book of Coventry RFC history available that particular recalls the 60’s and 70’s when we were the greatest….


    Date: Tue, 29 Mar 2016 06:57:41 +0000 To:

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