With Esher riding high in National 1 in third place on 30 points, and a run of 4 consecutive wins behind them, Coventry’s visit to Molesey Road is going to be a particularly difficult one. They are 6 places and 10 points clear of Cov and given that Cov’s recent e-letter to all members made it clear that a priority was getting back into the top 3, Esher will provide a stiff test as to whether we are ready to meet that target quite yet..
Esher are a side full of confidence at the moment and with home advantage against a Coventry team that hasn’t performed as it should over a number of weeks, the odds are probably against an away win. However, the enforced break last weekend will have given Scott Morgan time to regroup, air any differences that might have been festering for a while and get back to the business of developing a game plan that will enable Coventry to play to its strengths. And if they do, Esher might well have their toughest game to date.
In Tuesday’s Coventry Telegraph, Scott was upbeat:
We sat down with the squad and talked everything through, they had their views on things, and as a result I think we’ve got the right environment back again
and the report states that:
After two successive home defeats, Morgan is confident that Cov have used last weekend’s break to good advantage and will travel to Esher on Saturday in good heart.
“This season is far from done and dusted – it’s a very open league,” he said.
He talked openly about the frustrations caused by a team not playing at its best and this had resulted in players underperforming, or ‘going into their shells’. He ended by saying he didn’t feel the team were far off Hartpury who currently top the league, that there’s still all to play for and that ‘we’ve got a good set of boys’.
In short, everything that you’d hope to hear from your Head Coach and a very different tone from that of the recent e-letter. Good, work, Scott.
In addition, I think that the lack of a game last weekend could work against Esher. On a roll and in great form, they would have wanted to play to keep their momentum going. If they don’t manage to capture their pre-break form, I’m sure Coventry will capitalise. Almost sure…
So, how do the two teams shape up? Having done something similar for the Fylde and Rosslyn Park games, I thought I’d make some comparisons between the Coventry and Esher’s seasons thus far. It might not be to everyone’s interest, but I have certainly found it gives an insight into what to expect from the opposition. And it’s means it’s a chance to focus on the rugby, rather than the politics of rugby…
So, here we go…again.
Home/away league tables
Esher 4th in the league based on home games only (av. 3.75 pts pg)
Coventry 8th in the league based on away games only (av. 3.0 pts pg)
Verdict: Esher’s home form is marginally better than Coventry’s away form. With home advantage, setting aside all the other factors, Esher have the edge here.
Esher: 35 (17 home, 18 away, 20 first half, 15 second half) 13 – 21-40
Coventry: 25 (14 home, 11 away, 15 first half, 10 second half)
Esher have been far more prolific in terms of tries scored, although oddly they have scored more away from home. Coventry have scored 15 tries away from the Butts, but have played a game less (having played 5 games at home this season and 3 away). Esher have scored a staggering 13 tries in the second quarter of the first half, whilst in comparison Coventry have managed only 3 in the same period.
Verdict: Coventry are going to have to ensure they retain as much possession as possible as Esher are the second highest try scorers in the league. Kicking for territorial gain doesn’t appear to be a sensible option. Cov just can’t afford to switch off in the few minutes before half time as this seems to be the most profitable period for Esher
Esher: 23 (11 home, 12 away, 11 first half, 12 second half).
Coventry: 23 (14 home, 9 away, 14 first half, 9 second half).
Coventry have conceded less tries away from home but have played fewer games. Two useful statistics – Esher have conceded 9 of their tries in the final quarter, whilst Coventry have conceded 9 in the first quarter and 8 in the final one.
Verdict: Esher have conceded more tries at home which is something to give Coventry supporters a bit of heart and they also seem to be more vulnerable in the final quarter, so is fitness an issue for them? Coventry conceded most tries in the first and final 20 minute periods of the game, so they have to be fired-up immediately from kick off. Is the mind-set of the players focused enough during the warm-up…?
Tries by position – for
Esher: backs 25, forwards 8 (wings 14). 2PT
Coventry: backs 11, forwards 13 (front row 8, centres 8). 2PT
Verdict: This looks like a Fylde scenario all over again. a staggering 76% of Esher’s tries have come from the backs (and remember, they are the league’s second highest try scorers). Even more impressive is the wings count for 40% of all the tries scored. They obviously play with plenty of width, something we just haven’t been doing this season. Kicking away possession is clearly going to be dangerous against a side prepared to run the ball as Esher are. Have we learned from the mistakes we made against Fylde – if we haven’t it could be a difficult afternoon.
Tries by position – against
Esher: 12 in the backs, 9 in the forwards. 2PT
Coventry: 11 in the backs, 10 in the forwards and 2 penalty tries.
Verdict: Both teams have conceded the same number of tries at 23 apiece. Interestingly, opposition wings have benefited the most, each team letting in 9 tries from out wide. A willingness to play a more expansive game (hopefully, Gastón Mieres will start on Saturday) could reap its rewards. If we stick with trying to break through the midfield, the stats suggest we won’t be any more successful than we were against Fylde or Rosslyn Park.
Points given up
Esher have conceded 4 tries away at home twice so far this season. Coventry have conceded 4 tries once away from home. No real advantage to either side here. Certainly, there is some vulnerability in the Esher defences that could be exploited if Coventry are more attack-minded.
Verdict: A close game in prospect…?
Esher: 7 yellows – 4th worst in the league – average of 0.88 a game (1 first half, 6 second half, 0 home, 7 away).
Coventry: 11 yellows/1 red – worst in the league. This doesn’t include Evans’ second yellow last week that was converted into a red – average of 1.38 cards a game (7 first half, 4 second half, 4 home, 7 away).
Esher’s discipline record isn’t great. but they tend to become more ragged when away from home by the look of it. Given their tendency to concede far more tries in the second half, maybe this is an area on which Coventry could focus. Pressurising their ‘red area’ in the last quarter could reap its rewards.
Verdict: Coventry have to show far more self-discipline and allow the opposition to give away the penalties.
Half time win table
Esher have led at half time in 5 of their games, winning all of them. Coventry have led at half time in 4 of their 8 games, going on to win all of them, so both teams tend not to lose a winning position.
In a losing position at half time in 3 games, Park went on to lose two of them. Coventry have lost all 4 games in which they were trailing at the half way mark.
Verdict: Coventry have yet to overturn a losing position at half time. Again, this suggests that they must have the advantage after 40 minutes, otherwise they’re going to have to do something they haven’t been able to do in half of their games so far this season, win when behind.
Kicking strike rate
Paul Roberts- Rosslyn Park: 68.63% (25/35C, 110P).
Matt Jones – Coventry: 66.6% (14/22C, 12/17P).
Both kickers have similar kicking success rates. Neither standout in the league at the moment, so it just depends who gets it right on the day – hopefully, Matt has had time to recover from the knock he received against Park
Verdict: Nothing in it….
Leading points scorers
Rosslyn Park: Tom Whiteley with 80 points (25C, 10P).
Coventry: Matt Jones with 64 points (14C, 12P).
Leading try scorer
Esher : Andy Wright with 7
Coventry: Matt Price/Rob Knox 4 each
Verdict: Wright and Spencer Sutherland (ex-Cov) on 5 could expect to score if the Esher backs are given the space to run at us. ROb Knox was back in light training a couple of weeks ago, so hopefully he could return on Saturday
Esher average 342 at home games, the 10th highest in the league.
Verdict: Esher are likely to beat their highest home gate of 455 with Cov’s travelling support.
There’s a lot there to digest, but the main point to come out of it for me is the fact that Esher’s backs, and particularly the wings, are scoring so freely at the moment. Coventry surely must have done their homework and have realised that by kicking deep they are going to give Esher far too much space to run it back and we’ll face another defensive nightmare as we did against Fylde. Up front I think we’ll have the edge, particularly in the set pieces, but it really remains to be seen what we do with the possession we have. Play-it-clever and actually I think we can come away with 4 points…play it anything less and it will be damage limitation, I’m afraid.
Overall verdict: Esher 1 Coventry 4
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