Club talk

Cov v Fylde – Cov need to play it smart

Fylde_RC_logoComments made by Scott Morgan in the Coventry Evening Telegraph earlier in the week seem to hint at some of the frustrations he has been feeling over the last few weeks (CET – Scott Morgan). Whilst Coventry have won four of their six games and sit 5th in the league, they have struggled to get into top gear in most of their games, rarely playing the open, free-flowing rugby of which we know they are capable.

Scott M expressed concern that Coventry have tended to have the majority of possession in all the games they’ve played but have made poor use of it, especially in their own half:

Again, we played a lot of rugby in our own half at Hull when we were winning, and I don’t really understand why. We have to recognise that at times we have got to be in the right areas to do certain things.

It’s not hard to see what he means. Retaining possession phase after phase is all well and good; your opponents aren’t going to score without the ball. Common sense. BUT…if you play a lot of the game in your own half, one error and suddenly it’s you who’s under pressure and on the back foot. Far better to play the ball in the opponent’s half.

However, Scott then went on to say something that will not endear him to some of the more vocal of Coventry supporters:

It’s okay to be without the ball and put the pressure on to someone else – sometimes you have just got to put the ball in behind the opposition, put the pressure on them and let them make mistakes.

In theory this should work perfectly. Confine the opposition to their half, press them into mistakes and the scoring opportunities will come. But

Scott Morgan believes Coventry need to play 'smarter' rugby

Scott Morgan believes Coventry need to play ‘smarter’ rugby

here’s the rub. If, and I appreciate it’s all in the interpretation, if Scott means kick into space behind the opposition, presumably into their 22, then fine, but there are two potential pitfalls here. One, the kicker, usually Matt Jones, has to be spot on with the kick which hasn’t always been the case. If the kick  isn’t chased down and the opposition have time to regroup, then teams like Fylde have the backs to return the ball with interest. And Matt hasn’t always been as accurate  when kicking with ball in hand; possession is immediately given away, the opposition run it back at us and suddenly Coventry are having to defend in territory behind where the kick was originally made.

And two, we have to ensure that when defending in the opponents half, we don’t ourselves make errors. There have been far too many penalties conceded in the last 3 or 4 games, penalties that have enabled the opposition not only to kick for territory, but also retain possession through the resulting line-out. A double whammy.  To be fair, there have also been occasions when our defence has been immense and done exactly what has been asked of them, with the back row, led by George Oliver always prominent.  But it hasn’t always consistently enough.

It seems that Scott is happy allowing the opposition to have more ball, provided we are controlling what they do with it. It’s what the best teams do. Are we good enough to do that and not make errors that could prove costly? We shall see. For Scott, it’s about being more patient:

Instead of putting ourselves under pressure we need to be able to release that valve and put the pressure back on others – that’s what the good teams do, and it’s what we’ve got to learn to do quite quickly. Let’s not force it and try to create something out of nothing all the time – it’s all right to play the percentages, be dominant in certain areas and play to those strengths.

It will be interesting to see to what extent this is a change in the game plan, or if it’s more about doing what we are already doing, but doing it better. Scott talks much sense and has clearly identified what he expects from the team – it’s now up to them to deliver.

And so to the team for Saturday.

In the backs, it’s pretty much as you’d expect. Rob Knox must still be into the final week now of his enforced absence as a result of his head injury, so Sam Smith retains the no 12 position and deservedly so. He’s fitted in really well and must be pleased with the way his first few weeks at the club have progressed. Ryan returns to the full back position replacing Scott Hamilton. His pace could be invaluable against Fylde, but the absence of both Hamilton and Evans does mean that Jones will need to marshal the backline given the relative lack of experience elsewhere.

Lee-Everton also retains the scrum half jersey. Again, he has done more than enough to justify his starting place. With this probably being Evans’ last season at Cov, Lee-Everton at the moment is the scrum-half elect and the more experience he gets early on in the season, the better it is for Coventry.

Price and Hope swap roles again. And whilst I am a big Devlin fan, as I am Pricey, it’s right that they should share the duties as both play with huge intensity. Hopefully, by using them this way, they can both last the season without any serious injury. The front row and second rows remain the same otherwise. Ben Thomas should be getting fitter by the week and I was so impressed with him against Plymouth. He’s a real powerhouse and surprisingly quick around the pitch, too. He and Tom Poole are an awesome pairing.

In the backrow, no Sam Pailor. A strange one for me. Strange in the sense there’s no place on the bench for him and no mention of injury. Has

Daniel Carpo should make his first appearance from the bench against Fylde

Daniel Carpo should make his first appearance from the bench against Fylde

he been dropped or rested? It’s a similar situation to that of George Oliver three weeks ago. In truth, Sam hasn’t been quite as effective as he was last year so maybe he needs a break for a week. He’s too good not to return soon. Great to see Loti retain his place; those who have read the posts from the start know he was in my original side for Wharfedale in the absence of Jacques. And, talking of Jacques…he’s back! He starts tomorrow…it’s been a long time a-coming, but I always feel reassured when I see Jacques taking to the pitch. And this year there is real competition for the No 8 spot, with Daniel Carpo, fresh from his WC exploits taking a place on the bench, although he’s pretty certainly of  getting a decent run out during the afternoon. I can’t see Coventry signing someone of his experience without the expectation that he’ll have a regular starting place in the team – and I can’t see Carpo signing for us if he didn’t think that would be the case?

A strong team then. Still some absences, but the forwards, in particular, are beginning to have a more settled look about them. With players of the calibre of Preece, Roberts, Pailor, Knox and Hodgson still to return, things are looking up.

I’ll finish with another Scott Morgan comment:

We have put a good group of players together, and we just need to start playing smarter than we have been.

Just how smart will Cov be on Saturday…? I hope a lot of Cov supporters will be there to find out.

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