Cov v Cambridge RFC: an explosive cocktail?

76 years ago today, the city of Coventry woke up to see the devastation caused by the Blitz that had destroyed most of the city centre.

As a result, today Coventry is the city of peace and reconciliation.

Without wishing to trivialise whatsoever the events that took place on the evening of 14th November 1940, a bit of peace and reconciliation might well be exactly what’s needed come the end of this week, depending on the outcome of Coventry’s game against Cambridge on Saturday.

Blood and Sand, the name by which Cambridge RFC is known by its faithful followers, is apparently also a cocktail that involves the mixing of whisky, cherry brandy, vermouth and orange juice.

Cov v Cambridge or a few Blood and Sands…

Both have the potential to be an explosive combination.


Week 12 and Cov’s seventh home game of the season.

Routines are now established.

Some press releases in the first two or three days of the week (although maybe not this week with John Wilkinson taking a well-earned holiday), usually a couple of interviews on the website, more often than not a coach and a player,  a quiet mid-week and, with the announcement of the team on Thursday, the build up to the game on Saturday starts in earnest.

Except that this week it’s all rather different, with visitors Cambridge making a welcome return to the BPA in just 4 days time. Whilst it might just be another home game for most supporters, for a number of players and coaches it is anything but…

Bragging rights’ a go go for this one.

A number of the squad and management team have connections with Cambridge, opting as they did to leave Cambridge and join Rowland Winter here during the Summer months, despite their former club having also gained promotion this season into National 1.

I can’t help but feel that there will be players out on the pitch, on both sides, who’ll believe that they have a point or two to prove. Those from Coventry will want to make a statement, short and to the point, to the effect that whilst they enjoyed some great times at Cambridge and have left behind some great friends, the move for them was the right one.

For Cambridge, I can only imagine that there will have been players hoping to move with Rowland to Coventry and who weren’t invited and therefore maybe a little put out, or who feel that RW’s move was premature and he should have stuck with a side that was promoted to the same league anyway to help consolidate their position in the third tier of national rugby.

Not to mention, of course, a group of passionate Cambridge supporters who probably feel huge loyalty towards Rowland Winter for everything he achieved with the club and who were gutted when he decided that a move to Coventry was the better option.

How good would it be for Cambridge RFC to show that actually whilst he is still missed, the club is doing very well without him, thank you very much…

I imagine when the National 1 fixtures were released in July, the Coventry game was very much one of the first Cambridge fans looked for, similar to the Moseley fixture for the Coventry faithful. I’m sure such passions will add a little something to the contest and whilst there will be plenty of smiles and happy memories exchanged after the game, it will be as keenly fought a contest as we have seen all season.

I understand that Coventry scores have been read out at most of Cambridge’s home games with the supporters offering the appropriate good-natured response according to whether we’re winning or losing…

…nice touch that and certainly indicative of the respect that Rowland Winter is still held over at Granchester Road.

I guess it’s a bit like the Will Hurrell situation for many Cov supporters. When he moved to Doncaster there was massive disappointment, but we also recognised that he deserved the opportunity to try his hand with a bigger, more ambitious club (?) and so all we could really do was to wish him well.

Whilst Cambridge are rightly enjoying a pretty decent start to their season and aren’t too far behind us in terms of their league position, I’d tentatively suggest Coventry probably offer RW greater opportunity of further progression beyond this league than perhaps Cambridge did whist he was there – and in saying as much I hope I haven’t incurred the wrath of any Cambridge supporters as it’s certainly not my intention to do so.

And besides, it’s something that Rowland Winter himself alluded to in the weeks leading up to his official appointment in June. Back in March, in an interview for the Coventry Telegraph, he gave us an insight as to why he had decided to leave Cambridge:

Cambridge know my ambition, they know how hungry I am for development and progression, and I was ready for a new challenge…I wanted stretching which I haven’t been this season, so this is an opportunity to come to an ambitious club and take another step.

I’m sure they’ll have been some very disappointed Cambridge supporters, but most will be grateful for the role he had in taking them back up into National 1 and will be wishing him well, other than for the two Coventry games, of course.

And it will certainly had an extra bite to the game. I would expect there will be a few travelling fans at the game on Saturday, all keen to see Cambridge put one on Coventry, in the nicest possible sense. I’m sure I would too in that situation.

And the likes of James Stokes (whose birthday it is on Saturday!), Brett Daynes, Corey Hircock, and Brendan Burke (I’m sure I’m missing one – Pete White…or is that a Bedford connection?) will be eager to do their bit to support Rowland and to justify their own reasons for joining Cov…not that they really need explaining. Tom Wheatcroft also had a few seasons at Cambridge before joining Ealing Trailfinders, so he’ll also have a vested interest in the fixture.

No one wants to be on the losing side, but with so many close ties on either side, a defeat will be all the more galling.

I’ll be interested to see the reaction of the rest of the squad as well. They’ll understand just what it means to Rowland Winter, and to the other players with a connection to Cambridge, and you’d hope that the players will respond accordingly, not wanting to let RW down and giving everything they can to ensure a successful outcome, as they always do.

Supporters, too, will have their part to play and if Cambridge do bring along a coach full fans to the game, the least we can do is let them see exactly what it means to be a Coventry supporter.

Loud and proud, so-to-speak.

There’s already been plenty of interest on Twitter, with Cambridge supporters looking forward to meeting some old friends. The mood is one of interest and excitement, and it should create a fantastic atmosphere in which to play the game. Despite the Autumn internationals being in full swing, if the game attracts another decent crowd of 1100ish, then it could be a noisy affair.

Fortress Butts…


If there are any Cambridge supporters popping over to read this post, I’d be really interested to know why Cambridge is referred to as ‘Blood and Sand’.

I’ve tried to find an answer on the Internet, but could only come up with references to television shows about Spartacus, a couple of films about the rise and fall of a matador, a cocktail drink, an archaic exclamation,  a few obscure references to poetry and prose and a bar/restaurant.

I’ve a feeling that I’ll regret asking the question as it’s going to pretty clear to most, but it wouldn’t be the  first time I’ve failed to see the blindingly obvious…

…anyone help out?


Cliff Bennett, the Chair of the Supporters’ Club (and if ever a man was born to the role, then it is he), contacted Ampthill yesterday, and spoke to the Secretary regarding concerns about the unfortunate events that occurred there last weekend. If you haven’t seen his comment from yesterday, it’s well worth a read so I’ve copied the key points below…

– the pitch outside the clubhouse, along side the main road, is not only smaller than the pitch they play on but is of a much inferior quality, and is much less suitable for supporters viewing purposes
– they had to call an ambulance again yesterday for an injury to a junior who suffered a dislocated shoulder. After waiting for two hours they phoned the ambulance service again to be told that there was no available ambulance and they could not say when one would be available, so the young lad was taken to hospital by car.
– one of the Coventry supporters who travelled on the coach fell over on the slippery path. She severely banged her head and damaged her back and, because she was already cold, she suffered considerably from shock and felt very unwell, both in the clubhouse after the game (where she did manage to warm up) but also on the coach on the way home
– it was not possible to hold two minutes silence because the players were already out on the pitch having completed their warm up and had changed into their playing kit, and because there is no tannoy facility to tell both the players and the supporters what is happening

I can only repeat that the club can’t be blamed for the length of time it took the ambulance to arrive at the ground – that is very much out of their hands, although you would hope that the club is following that up with the appropriate body who oversee the ambulance service.

However, the comments don’t address the general criticism from those of us who were there or who are familiar with the ground, namely accessibility to the main pitch.

Or rather inaccessibility.

Whilst the two pitches by the clubhouse might be smaller than the one they play on, they could be made into one larger pitch with room for supporters. Yes, it would be at a cost,  but where there is a real risk of serious injury as there was on Saturday, perhaps in the long term it is a small price to pay.  The fact that an ambulance can’t get close to the main pitch directly, or a gurney for that matter, is indefensible and should ever  a serious injury occur (please God it won’t), then any similar problems encountered could mean the club is going to be liable given all the concerns that have been previously expressed.

It is a known risk and at the moment not one that the club feel is necessary to address, given this response. It is a lovely setting, with some lovely folk there, but the club do need to resolve this issue. And if supporters are hurt just in the simple process of getting to the pitch from the clubhouse that only reinforces the problem.

Common sense says you don’t leave yourself open to such liabilities.

The excuse regarding the failure to hold the two minutes’ silence is poor, to say the least.

All the club would have needed to do was to tell the captains that five minutes before kick off the referee will blow his whistle to indicate the players should line up facing the supporters, whereupon there would be two minutes silence prior to the start of the game.

It would have been obvious to all. No tannoy would have been required, and if the club had been better prepared, a couple of supporters/helpers could have gone round the crowd at 2.05 just to explain what was going to happen…or indeed it could have been included in the programme.

And the fact that there is no means of getting messages to a large group of supporters is itself a health and safety issue…

Anyway, that’s the last I’ll write on the matter…it’s Ampthill’s responsibility.

Cliff has rightly raised the concerns of the away supporters; how the club now responds is very much its own concern.


After the game on Saturday, why not celebrate or commiserate with a:


One thought on “Cov v Cambridge RFC: an explosive cocktail?

  1. A very thoughtful blog today Tim. Also sad to read of the young players’ injury the next day plus the injury to a Coventry lady fan. I am very thankful to Ben Guliver for arranging the spot for me to go in the car. It is a very good viewing point. But as i have pointed out on the message board a very difficult drive for an ambulance containing a patient.

Any thoughts:

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