Following last weekend’s home defeat to Hartpury College, this week’s visit to the Athletic Ground to play hosts Richmond takes on additional significance for Coventry supporters. The manner in which Cov bounce back from the bitter disappointment of such a lacklustre performance could yet determine how successful our season will be. There is no doubt that the players, coaches and supporters were all hurting after the weekend, but now everyone’s focus should be the next game and ensuring a third league win of the season. Time to move on.
Richmond are one of the oldest rugby football clubs in existence, founded some 13 years before Coventry. They were involved in the first rugby match ever, versus Blackheath no less, and like Coventry they can boast an illustrious past. I can well remember their capture of Ben Clarke, the England no 8, from Bath (and Craig (?) Quinnell from Llanelli) in the mid to late 90’s and travelling down to the Athletic Park to see us well beaten by what was then pretty much a premiership squad. A move to the Madejski Stadium followed, but administration was to come soon after and in 2000 Richmond RFC was forced to rejoin the league structure at the very bottom of the pyramid system, eventually gaining promotion back to National One in 2011. They still ground share with London Scottish.
On the two occasions we met last season, we won the first convincingly 48-27 at home, but the return fixture was a much, much closer encounter that ended up with honours even, 20 all. Richmond finished the season in 7th place, with a record of won 14, drawn 2, lost 14, points 80, points for 837, points against 866 (against our record of won 22, drawn 1, lost 7, points 112, points for 1011, points against 694). Currently, they are in 8th place with 8 points, 5 places and only 3 points behind us. Last Saturday, Richmond were away to Fylde who have struggled in their opening three games. They game away with a win secured in the dying minutes, although by all accounts they were much the better side. I’ve include The Rugby Paper report of the game – see below.
I’m sure that Coventry will be working hard this week to sort out the problems they encountered in both the scrum and line-out last Saturday. With a number of players beginning to come back from injury it will be interesting the see the team when it is announced, presumably on Thursday. Both Scott Hamilton and James Tincknell were putting in some light work with the trainer prior to the Hartpury game, although it might be one game too early for both and Ben Thomas has been out a while now and should be back soon. I would guess Cliffie won’t be available for selection given he seemed to have a re-occurrence of his shoulder injury, and if this is the case it will mean another reshuffle in the backs with either Caolan Ryan or Scott Hamilton at full back, I’m guessing Peter Weightman still isn’t available either …here’s a reminder of the damage Weightman caused us last year! However, Sam Baker did enough on his debut to suggest he should keep his place until Weightman’s return. The only other change could involve Matt Jones…with Cliffie probably out, and Matt having such a poor day with the boot, maybe either Adam Canning or Ryan could get a run out at fly half.
In the forwards, there’s no news either about early returns for Thomas or Preece and with Wolfsenden still unavailable the second row looks like it will remain unchanged. The back row will probably also stay the same, with the only change perhaps being Woodburn replacing Loti (who didn’t have a bad game by any means). The front row is anybody’s guess. It would be good news all round if Adam Parkins is available for selection.
Whatever team is selected, I’m sure that they will play with pride and passion. Saturday’s result clearly hurt and there will be players out there who will want to repay the coaches for their faith and the supporters for their patience. The only team talk they will need is a 10 minute video of the highlights (or lowlights?) of the Hartpury game shown just before they leave for Richmond, no other motivation would be needed. They will want to make amends and that I’m sure that starts with this evening’s training session (Tuesday) – I wouldn’t mind betting it’s a hard 90 minutes or so! Taking nothing away from Richmond, but I expect Cov to bounce back and return with a win. The manner of victory is unimportant this week; it’s all about the team having the character and commitment to deal with disappointments of the previous game.
Finally a word for Scott Morgan – he appears to wear his heart on his sleeve and by all accounts was extremely disappointed by what he witnessed against Hartpury. In the CET on Monday, (‘We let our fans down‘), Scott’s first thoughts were for the fans and there was no attempt at making excuses or playing the blame game. As he stated, perhaps it might be the result of a little bit of over-confidence following the series of excellent performances in the previous four games. As a supporter, he says everything I would want to hear and doubtless he will focus this week’s training around ensuring the player play to their strengths, believe in themselves and that the set pieces function effectively!. As he says in the CET:
We’’ll go away, look at it, and we’ll work harder to put it right.
That’ll do for me….