…for the habitual voyeur
Of what is known as
Parklife – (Blur)
It didn’t make pleasant viewing, did it? And there was certainly little confidence on display in the Coventry side that lost to Rosslyn Park yesterday. We made life very easy for Park…
I’d hoped to see an improvement on last week but in truth I think it was probably an even poorer performance. Yes, we looked far stronger scrummaging where we were dominant until Tiploma Kivalu and Matt Price were replaced, after which we started going backwards. The commitment was there and there was definitely no lack of effort on the part of the players, but that apart it was no better.
Too often we returned to the aimless kicking downfield into Rosslyn Park territory with seemingly no thought as to what to do
once the ball left the boot. Most weren’t chased with the result that Park had all the time in the world to look up, see what the options were, have a chat amongst themselves, have a quick cup of tea and either run the ball back or return it whence it came.
In truth, Park weren’t much better and they squandered a lot of possession themselves. Has it been Fylde or Hartpury yesterday, we might well have been on the wrong end of a cricket score. Even the coaches in the back of the stand seemed exasperated by what was happening in the second half. The whole thing was more a ‘comedy of errors’ than an ‘as you like it’. Conditions weren’t great and you can excuse the handling errors to an extent, but not the tactics that just seemed so misplaced.
Scott Morgan’s decision to include himself in the team seemed to be paying off until his enforced exit, the result of an injury to his ankle, ironically suffered when we were awarded a penalty try less than half way through the first half. Now I’m sure Morgan is going to come in for a lot of criticism for playing, but it was a gamble and one that might have paid off had he stayed on for much of the game. He knew his own fitness levels and ankles go at any time. I’m not going to knock anyone who is prepared to put themselves on the line for the good of the team; his leadership was sorely missed once he’d gone. It didn’t work out on the day, but at least he was prepared to try something different. Fair play to the man.
Where I would be critical is that on the bench there was no obvious replacement for Scott. He must have known there could be a risk of him not lasting the distance and so there should have a been a second row in reserve. Tom Poole must have wondered what was going on from the touchline…was he injured, is he out of favour? Don’t get that one at all.
Matt Jones also went off injured with a knock to the head and Ryan took over the fly half duties. With no leader, or at least no one with the experience to make the right decisions at the right times on the pitch, (although Oliver certainly was doing his bit to rally the troops at times), we started to lose our way and during the second half it felt we’d moved to SW1 at times, with heads turning from one corner of the ground to the other as the teams kicked the ball aimlessly into space. Whilst it’s very unfair to assess Caolan as a potential Coventry fly half on the basis of just one game, he certainly didn’t lay down any sort of marker for the future. He seems much more suited to full back where’s he played well whilst in possession of the 15 shirt.
We did have a fair amount of possession, so I guess that is a positive, too. Certainly it would be if we’d used it effectively. However, if we weren’t kicking the ball away (wrapped in festive paper with a card that read, ‘Happy Christmas – sorry it’s so early) we were passing it out as far as Smith and MacBurnie who were then expected to run round, through or over the Park midfield who were well-organised and practically impenetrable. It just didn’t make sense.
I would have loved to have had Dom Lespierre and James Tincknell’s take on the game immediately after the whistle went – or Tom Poole and Chad Thorne for that matter. Dom, in particular, looked like he was getting frustrated at the lack of ball. This is the man who was our leading try scorer last season together with Hurrell and Rundle and yet he’s not being used at all really this season. Cov don’t have any width to their attack at all, preferring a more direct approach through the middle of the park.
Even when we have managed to retain the ball, we still tended to go across the pitch making little territorial gain rather than use the wings to make ground out wide. Dom and James are living off scraps at the moment and tend to see most of the ball from opposition kicks rather than passes by hand from the centres. It’s just so disappointing given we played so much more free-flowing, entertaining rugby last season. I’d rather be 9th and run the ball than 9th and play the way we are at the moment. We’re losing spectators all too quickly at the moment and it’s not difficult to see why.
I do think Tiploma Kivalu is a sound acquisition despite some of the misgivings elsewhere. He, Price and Parkins put the Park scrum under immense pressure, pressure that led directly to our only try of the game. I didn’t notice his lack of fitness particularly, but as someone else has said, maybe he’ll need to get used to the ‘pace’ (!) of this league coming as he has from a junior club where maybe he can get away with slightly lower levels of endurance.
I’m not sure, though, about the signing of an additional two hookers this week, Farnworth and Marshall. When Kivalu and Price came off early on in the second half, to be replaced by Brown and Farnworth, our scrum immediately started to creak and looked a spent force. Both replacements suffered the ignominy of themselves being replaced by…Kivalu and Price. Where was Devlin Hope? I know he wasn’t injured, so it seems strange he wasn’t even on the bench. When he has come on to replace Price he has invariably made an impact and leads from the front. Devlin and Matt seemed to rotate well. Definitely another strange one to me.
For the final two minutes of the game we did what we should have been doing all game. Showing some urgency, attacking the Park line with phase after phase and adding a bit of width to the play. Not much, mind, but a bit. Tails were up, the crowd got involved and we looked as if we might get something from a game that in reality we’d lost 50 minutes ago. But it was too little, too late.
With two weeks until the Esher game, Coventry have some time now to identify what the root causes of this slump in form are and act on them. It’s going to take some tough talking and probably even tougher decisions to get to a place where everyone is singing to the same tune. At the moment there’s just a cacophony of noise. And as the conductor, Scott is the man with the baton. Rehearse for a couple of weeks and let’s see what he comes up with.
It’s not been a great couple of weeks for Coventry, has it?