Match talk

Ionians – Bruce Banner or the Incredible Hull(k)?

With Rolling-maul still buzzing from a couple of Fylde supporter’s embittered comments concerning the manner of Hull Ionians hard-earned victory against them on Saturday, thoughts turn to our own visit to Brantingham Park this weekend. I’ve covered this in a previous blog (Dreaming of cups but drinking from mugs), but I’ll make one final comment; Hull clearly identified a weakness in Fylde’s defences, played to their own strengths and came out on top. That Fylde supporters (and not the club, I hasten to add) should be so ungracious in their defeat is both sad and unsportsmanlike. Over the years Fylde have played a very attacking brand of rugby, one that is exciting to watch at times, but also one that makes them susceptible to any team that can cut off the supply of ball to their super-charged backs. If they haven’t come up with a Plan B to counter this, then that says more about their inability to adapt to different styles of play, and therefore be credible promotion candidates. than it does about Hull’s one-dimensional approach in that particular game. Good on you, Hull…
I’m sure the Flyde v Hull debate has not passed Scott Morgan and the rest of the Coventry coaches by either. Already this season we have struggled to counter both the rolling maul and the catch and drive from line-outs close to our 5m line, as was the case last season. The message seems clear, avoid giving away ‘soft’ penalties anywhere in our half and thus prevent Hull from kicking to the corner. Although better against Plymouth last weekend, the penalty count was still high. Fortunately, we defended well on the occasions that Plymouth opted to kick to the corner (and thus, as it happens, squander several opportunities to kick for goal and which might well have change the outcome of the game) but the Hull pack is most likely going to cause us more problems than Plymouth’s did, so error free rugby in our half is a priority. Tuesday and Thursday’s training sessions might well involve some work at defending against the rolling-maul…and without conceding yellow cards!
Hopefully, Devlin Hope will be fit for Saturday's trip to Hull

Hopefully, Devlin Hope will be fit for Saturday’s trip to Hull

Selection for the game will again be interesting. At the time of writing this, I’m on my way to Newcastle to watch the All Blacks on Friday and Somoa on Saturday, so I haven’t access to any team news. With injuries to Evans, Woodburn and Hope last weekend, once again a change to the side might be required. Devlin’s injury didn’t seem too serious so I imagine he’ll be in the squad, and hopefully in the starting line-up, with Matt Price to come on in the final quarter. The back-row wlll probably be Pailor and Oliver, with either Jacques Le Roux, Loti Molitika or Danny Wright. Although there’s a lot of beef in that triumvirate, it lacks a little pace for me, but I think, if fit enough for a full 80 minutes, I’d start with Jacques given his contribution during the Plymouth game. His experience could be invaluable. With Daniel Carpo waiting in the wings, we should have considerable strength in-depth at 6, 7 and 8.

If Evans is unavailable through injury, then Everton would be the only real choice at scrum half…I’m not sure who would replace him were he to have to come off during the game. Do any of the backs have experience at no 9, and if not, do we have anyone at Broadstreet to come in if, required?

I imagine the only other change in the backs would be Tincknell for Smith should he have recovered from his training injury last

Is JLR fit enough to play a full 80 minutes?

Is JLR fit enough to play a full 80 minutes?

Thursday. If Koxy is given the all-clear then MacBurnie would stand down, but if Knox suffered any sort of concussion, it could be a further two weeks on the sidelines for him. I’m presuming that Cliffie is still a game or two short of a return, in which case Ryan has done enough to keep the 15 shirt, unless it’s felt that Hamilton’s experience might be need against Hull.

It was interesting to read Sam Smith’s comments in the CET (Sam Smith – CET) earlier in the week. He’s clearly relishing his time at Coventry and is still coming to terms with his rapid rise from junior rugby. He seems to have settled in well and produced a very confident and competent debut on Saturday. He looked comfortable at centre and formed a solid partnership with Callum MacB. Whilst Tincknell and Knox would be my first choice, the club is very lucky to have four quality centres and I would have no qualms whoever plays. In the same CET article, Sam recognised the ability of Rob Knox, believing him to be the best no 12 in the league – and few could argue with that.
Are Coventry going to be able to negate the Ionian’s physical presence? If so, I fancy it could a question of us facing Bruce Banner, rather than the Incredible Hull(k)…
Unlike Fylde, I believe we have the all-round game to beat Hull, even away from home, but it’s certainly going to be no push-over (or maybe it will, but hopefully not in the dying minutes to win the game). The couple of defeats we’ve suffered might well have dampened any over-confidence the team had following a run of good results and encouraging performances pre-season and into the first couple of games in September. Any team that has serious aspirations to be promotion contenders needs to win games like this…a defeat wouldn’t be the end of our challenge, but it would put increasing pressure on the team to win its remaining games. And that would be a big, big ask…
Update: Having now seen the teamsheet for Saturday, there are no real surprises.
Scott Hamilton’s inclusion makes sense given his vast experience at the very highest level and his coolness under pressure might well be needed, especially given captain Wayne’s Evans’ absence from the starting XV – Lee Everton deserves his opportunity and his presence protects Wayne a little longer, giving him more time to recover from last week’s injury if it’s needed.
Caolan Ryan is unlucky in some respects given he has been one of the most consistent performers this season, doubly so to have an All Black competing for the same position. With James Tincknell fit again, Callum misses out and with only 5 places on the bench, he will probably have to settle for a place on the bus as one of travelling reserves. Sam Smith retains his place, but only as long as Rob Knox remains unfit, but he is a great prospect.
I’m pleased Devlin Hope is starting again, he adds a lot to the team both in attack and defence, but Matt Price will surely get on for at least the last quarter and if  Cov get decent possession, he’ll cause the opposition problems. Again, two fine players vying for the same spot – how good is that?
Ben Thomas should become even more of a presence on the pitch as he gains match fitness and his partnership with Tom Poole will be as good as second row combination in the league.
Loti Molitika at No 8 is the sensible option if Jacques Le Roux isn’t yet thought to be fully match fit; I have yet to see him have anything less than a solid game. JLR will also get on at some stage and if he has a chance to run with the ball, well we all know the damage he can cause.
A tight game in prospect…if both teams are at their best, I’d fancy Cov to win, but if Cov have one of their off days as they are want to do, then Hull are more than good enough to take advantage.

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