Gnr Senitiki Nayalo (7 Para RHA) is looking forward to taking on Ealing Trailfinders with his Coventry team mates in Saturday’s Championship Cup Final.
This is Coventry’s first final in 48 years, and while Gnr Nayalo and co will be heading to West London as firm underdogs against the Championship league champions, he says that the group’s mentality is in the good place.
“The feeling is really positive and happy,” he commented. “We have had some great results to get to the final and that has put this group in a great place.
“Everyone is buzzing to be part of a final. Ealing are a great team, and it will be a huge challenge, but it’s a challenge that we are all up for. This final is massive for the club, as it’s the first final Cov have been in since 1974.”
Coventry’s league campaign could best be described as indifferent, especially in comparison to the seasons which immediately followed the club’s return to the second tier.
However this form guide has been thrown away in the Cup, in which Coventry achieved away wins at Ampthill, Doncaster and Jersey en route to the Final, three clubs who were all ahead of the blue and whites in the league table.
Gnr Nayalo has been an important figure in this turnaround, scoring against both Doncaster at home and then Jersey away last Friday, which added to his tries in Army colours against the Navy and Northampton Saints. The big back rower is downplaying his knack of finding the whitewash, however.
“It’s always nice to score, but really I’ve just been in the right place at the right time for a couple of weeks,” he adds. “It’s important to contribute, but it’s about the team and not my personal try scoring tally.”
Gnr Nayalo missed the away win at Doncaster due to his red shirt commitments at Twickenham, and he says that the Inter-Services Championship successes gave him a big fillip when he got back to Butts Park.
“I really enjoyed playing in the Army Navy game at Twickenham, as well the other Inter-Services matches,” he says. “They gave me the confidence to come back here to Coventry and play well.”
Saturday’s game at Trailfinders Sports Ground kicks off at 1500hrs, and Gnr Nayalo will no doubt be grateful for any support he could receive from his fellow service personnel.
Images © Army v RAF Match and Army v Navy Match
Also at 1500hrs on Saturday is Bath’s home Premiership game against London Irish, which will be an emotional occasion for LCpl Semesa Rokoduguni (Scots DG).
This is because Bath has announced that the experienced winger will be leaving the club at the end of the season, meaning that tomorrow’s clash will be his last in blue, black and white at the Recreation Ground.
The 34-year-old has scored 73 tries in his 190-plus appearances, and says that he will always look back fondly on his time in the West Country.
“I feel extremely proud and honoured to have represented Bath for the past 10 years,” he said.
“I’m also grateful to the British Army for their support and the opportunity to fulfil my dream of playing professional rugby in the Premiership. I have experienced and learned so much throughout my career here, and I’ve been fortunate to work with so many amazing coaches, players and people.
“I have memories and experiences I will cherish for the rest of my life. Thank you to everyone for all the support I have received and to everyone who has played a part in my journey at Bath Rugby.”
Bath Head Coach Neal Hatley added: “Rocco is one of the most exciting players I have had the pleasure of working with at Bath.
“Since he joined us and over the last decade, we have seen him consistently turn matches on their head with moments of instinctive brilliance and you can hear the supporters’ excitement when he gets the ball.
“Added to this he is one of the most humble and selfless people in our squad. Rocco will be sorely missed by everyone associated with our club. We wish him, Annie and Elijah all the very best for the future.”
Bath host a London Irish outfit which will be reeling from their Premiership Rugby Cup Final disappointment in midweek, a game which saw them lose out to Worcester after extra time on tries scored.
However the Exiles have lost only one of their last four away Premiership games, while Bath are looking to snap a three-game losing streak.
There is also the added incentive of potentially moving off the bottom of the table for the first time this season, while London Irish need a win to maintain their push for a Champions Cup spot.
Saturday’s game is being live streamed on PRTV.
Words © New Dogs, Old Tricks. Header and Featured Images © Army v RAF Match