Doncaster on Saturday – when the knights come along at the end of the day, some were half-alive and some had run away

When the knights come along at the end of the day
Some were half-alive and some had run away
But Hear our triumph, hear our shout
We’ll probably drink a barrel of ale and much, much more
Hooray, hooray, hooray, yeah
Over the hill went the swords of a thousand men

Tenpole Tudor – ‘Swords of a Thousand Men’

In just nine days time Coventry Rugby host Newcastle Falcons in what many Cov supporters see as THE game of the season, with plenty of interest already being shown on the Unofficial Messageboard and elsewhere.

And indeed for those present at Coundon Road back in 1996 to witness what is still, for me, the most memorable performance of any Cov side since I started watching Cov, next week’s fixture is full of nostalgia, played as it was in front of 7500 partisan supporters against a side full of internationals including the likes of Underwood, Andrew, Armstrong, Weir and Ryan.

And although it will be a great atmosphere, in front of what will surely be the biggest crowd of this season (and possibly last season as well), the game away to Doncaster Knights this Saturday is of far greater significance. I’m likely to be very much in the minority here and but whilst the visit of the Falcons is certainly going to create a lot of local interest, there have been plenty of others in the last few seasons that have been of greater importance.

Back in 1996, three teams were promoted from what was then the Courage National Division 2. Two automatically (Richmond and Newcastle – easy to forget that Richmond won the league that year given Newcastle’s star studied side) and one via a play off between 3rd and 4th. Coventry were always in the running for a promotion spot but in the end fell short in the second leg of the play off, losing to London Irish.

Whilst Richmond and Newcastle were the best sides that season, the gap between them and the rest wasn’t as great as it currently is between the Newcastle 19/20 side and the rest of the Championship, with the possible exception of Ealing.

With the three available promotion spots back then, 5 or 6 teams were in with a shout of promotion, so every fixture was significant, every point hard earned and under the charismatic Derek Eves Cov, with players of the calibre of Harris, Hardwick, Horrobin, Patten, Addleton and co, were a force to be reckoned with.

It was a game very much of its time and whatever the result, whatever the performance, next week’s game against Falcons won’t carry quite the same significance simply because of what was at stake back then. Context was everything.

Which is why the trip up to Doncaster is probably of greater consequence as this is a much better marker in terms of how we are progressing as a team right now. Whilst we don’t currently bare comparison with Newcastle, we most certainly do with Doncaster Knights.


Cov might be 4 places above Doncaster in the table but our away form once again this season is such that to any neutrals interested in the result, Cov will likely be likely as not the underdogs. We have just the one win on our travels at the moment against hapless Yorkshire Carnegie (not forgetting, of course, the excellent draw down at Ealing before Christmas) and only YC and Hartpury have a worse away record than us, with Hartpury presumably soon to at least equal ours as they have yet to play Carnegie.

Donny have only lost 2 of their home games at Castle Par, winning their last 3, and they ought to be full of confidence going into the game. A big test then, and probably a better indicator of where we currently are than Newcastle at home the following week.

Last season we travelled up to Castle Park in April – game 21 of a 22 game season and still without an away win. Few of us who travelled north did so with any great optimism but on the day Cov were superb and thoroughly deserved the win, which was followed up the week after with an even better performance away to Jersey.

Those two away wins in the final two games of the season turned what had been up to then a decent first campaign back in the Championship into a very good one.

A loss on Saturday, therefore, would be a disappointment for sure. Hopes of a top 4 spot still remain, with Ampthil yet to Pirates, Ealing, Bedford and Newcastle at home and us, Jersey and Nottingham away, but for us to be in with a shout, we have to beat the likes of Donny albeit away from home.

For that reason, the game this Saturday takes on rather more significance for me than the Newcastle clash the week after. Lose on Saturday and 6th place looks the more likely finish.

Knights last home game was an impressive, by all accounts, 38-10 win against Jersey but since then they have lost 2 away games against Nottingham and Bedford, scoring just 5 points in 160 minutes of rugby, so perhaps there’s reason for some cautious optimism there..?

Fly half Sam Olver, speaking on the Knights website, underlines just how important it is for his side to start strongly, something I’m sure the Cov coaches will also be stressing is vital for the visitors in the training sessions this week:

‘Any game you want to get a good start, it puts us on the front foot from the word go. It is really important for us and is something we have struggled with this season, we are working on it and hopefully we will get that on Saturday.

We have done well at home recently, it is important we get off to a good start. As fans saw against Jersey, once we do that we are a hard team to beat once we get going. We need to take confidence from that game and put the Bedford one behind us.’

Speaking about the Knights’ last game, a loss away to Bedford, Olver added:

‘At the end of the day we weren’t good enough, they won all the 50/50 battles and we have to have a look at ourselves and get better from that performance.’

…something that might have well been said by

The Supporters Club is taking pretty much a full coach up to the game on Saturday (for those making their own way, it’s worth remembering its a 2.30 kick off), probably benefiting from the cancellation of the England game whilst alos showing just how hardy Cov supporters are.

We cough in the face of Coronavirus…

They’ll certainly be an audible presence on the day.


James Scaysbrook during his time at Exeter

I see Cov have just announced the appointment of James Scaysbrook as the defence coach from September, with Anthony Allen switching roles ‘to become Attack and Backs Coach and Louis Deacon continuing at Forwards Coach, with the coaching team supported by Academy Manager Ross Stewart‘. Formerly a flanker at Exeter, in 2012 he was nominated for the Aviva Player of the Season Award.

A big Cov welcome to James, I’m sure he’ll enjoy his time at Cov. Clearly the attraction of being a part of what will hopefully be a successful coaching team at Cov in the Championship is enough to lure him a way from his role of Head Coach at National One Plymouth – I guess it’s a step up and presumably a chance to further his own coaching career.

Maybe, also, it’s an indication that Plymouth aren’t going to pushing for promotion any time soon, although with 7 wins from their last 9 wins it looks like JC has had a major impact since arriving their in mid December – Plymouth are currently lying 6th.

One thing I’m not quite sure about is Cov’s current coaching structure. When Nick Walshe left he was Head Coach, so does that mean there is still another appointment to come or is that role now surplus to requirements…you’d imagine there would be a need for a senior coach of sorts????


We might not quite be a thousand strong and in place of swords we will use our voices to spur Cov on, but nevertheless;

When the knights come along at the end of the day
Some were half-alive and some had run away
But Hear our triumph, hear our shout
We’ll probably drink a barrel of ale and much, much more
Hooray, hooray, hooray, yeah
Over the hill went the swords of a thousand men

I saw Tenpole Tudor a couple of times – once on the Son of Stiff Tour (with the brilliant Any Trouble et al) and once in their own right (and of course in The Great Rock and Roll Swindle). They also had hits with Wunderbar and 3 Bells in A Row, amongst others and was very much a student favourite.

Absolutely bonkers on stage though…







2 thoughts on “Doncaster on Saturday – when the knights come along at the end of the day, some were half-alive and some had run away

  1. Quite right Kevin – I should have emphasised that whilst rugby at this level is very much results driven, Cov continue to make progress elsewhere. Whilst there have been more memorable results – the Cardiff game was certainly one, as were a number of games against the Welsh sides in the early to mid 70s – I’d still put that performance against Falcons as the best I’ve seen simply because Newcastle were much the better side that season, stronger in most every position BUT Cov put in such a shift. Cov and Cardiff were fairly evenly matched sides back then, so whilst it was a hell of a win, it not quite so impressive

  2. Yet again some very thoughtful and useful analysis Tim. Thank you. I agree with your views on the Doncaster game. If we don’t win a couple more away games this season, on a results basis there will not be much of an improvement on last season, although I still feel the club are making steady progress. The coach appointment sounds encouraging and your words tell us more than the club website.

    One comment on past matches that stand out. Yes that Newcastle cup match was wonderful and memorable, but at the Div 2 level. Going back further I recall around 1970, could be a year or two either way, Cardiff came to Coundon road. This was when both clubs were arguably the best in Wales and England. A large crowd was attracted by I recall, Barry John at fly half, and possibly Gareth Edwards at scrum half. (Perhaps John Butler could clarify details…? ) Anyway Cov won 14-11, if I recall correctly, with Cardiff attacking strongly at the end. With the big names on show that day, many internationals on both sides, between arguably the best two club sides in the British Isles, this is my Cov highlight, notwithstanding the 2 JP Cup wins.

Any thoughts:

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