If the tweets coming from some of the players are anything to go on, they are hurting and feel the frustrations of yesterday’s game just as much, if not more, than the supporters. If the coaches can use this as a motivating factor in the week ahead, then Richmond might be in for something of a shock on Saturday. One loss, and a close one at that, doesn’t make Coventry a poor side, or even an average side, and it certainly shouldn’t make us question the abilities of individual players.
However, that doesn’t stop us asking why things seemed to go so wrong against Hartpury and what the coaches could do to ensure plans are in place to deal with such a contingency in the future. We saw two completely different types of game plan in the first two league encounters. The win against Wharfedale was very much a 15 man affair, with the backs ripping holes in the opposition’s defence in the first half of what was champagne rugby at its best. Against Loughborough it was the forwards who were dominant, with the Students’ scrum unable to match the power and technique of the Coventry pack. In so doing, the team have shown they are not one dimensional and can play a number of ways; there’s not just a Plan A. What they haven’t shown, as yet, is that they can move from Plan A to Plan B within the 80 minutes of a game. It needed a change on Saturday and it just didn’t happen.
In the programme notes for the Hartpury game, both Jon Sharp and Phil Maynard reinforce what they been saying from the off. In ‘Welcome From The Boardroom‘ , Jon Sharp writes of the Loughborough game:
‘We played to a very different tactical plan, which is great because it means we can do so and can execute successfully.’
In other words, the team have several different styles of play to match the opposition.
In ‘Hear It Straight From The Rugby Director & General Manager‘, Phil Maynard writes:
‘The difference to twelve months ago is the overall strength and depth we now have in the current squad. Anyone doubting the number of signings we have made during the summer must surely now be already seeing the wisdom of the strategy. ‘
Both are points that have already been reinforced time and time again but it was hard to notice the impact of either during yesterday’s game and as such I imagine both will be particularly disappointed in the way events unfolded. I’m sure they’ll be working hard to analyse how Hartpury were able to nullify our scrum to such an extent and thereby put us on the back foot as much as they did. As I mentioned in the previous post (That morning after feelin’), Hartpury had done their homework and our own attacking options were often limited to Jones kicking balls over the top resulting in, more often than not, a loss of possession. Margins of error are always tight and Coventry scored one and nearly had another as a result of Jones’ vision (corrected: Evans’), but on too many other occasions kicks were inaccurate and failed to put Hartpury under any serious pressure.
There were passages of play where we had several phases of possession, but we were unable to break through their defences and they clearly knew of the dangers of the likes of Knox and Pailor running at pace through the middle and snuffed out any threat time and time again. When opportunities came, they took them and their full-back, Thompson, kicked the points with the consistency of a metronome. How we could have done with that.
With a smaller attendance, only 1050ish, the atmosphere was noticeably quieter than might have been expected. It will take a while to build up the numbers to those of last season whilst the World Cup is on and Coventry’s performances at home are as frustrating. I hope that one loss doesn’t a winter make, so-to-speak and that supporters get right behind the squad over the next couple of weeks. In the age of social media, the players will be only too aware of what is being said about the performance yesterday but when your tagline is, ‘Your city, your club’ you’re inviting supporters to express their feelings. I guess it’s part and parcel of being a semi-professional player these days, but it can’t be easy. However, the over-riding emotion in the comments that I’ve read on the board and on Twitter express disappointment rather than displeasure, which is entirely understandable and is probably a reflection of what those in the club are experiencing, too.
It must be just as frustrating for the players when they have no recourse to reply except on the pitch and that means they have to wait a week. It will be a test of temperament for everyone concerned with the club.
Next weekend’s game should be a corker.