Tue. Apr 13th, 2021

A catalyst is something that modifies and increases the rate of a reaction without itself changing.

A prediction – the Esher game is going to be a catalyst for change within Coventry RFC. It has to be.

The result itself can’t be changed. Nor does it deserve to be. Esher did us over good and proper…no excuses. We were awful; they were good. Not exceptional, but very good indeed.

But that loss is going to increase that rate of reaction amongst the Cov faithful dramatically. They won’t be prepared to put up with what is now a run of consistently poor performances. And nor should they. It was woeful. After the frustration of  the last couple of weeks, there’s now a veritable mutiny afoot on the Messageboard with calls for Phil Maynard’s dismissal. And they’re not going to go away with a possible, but by no means probable, win against Blaydon next Saturday. The reaction to defeat at Esher will be exponential this week. And Coventry have no one to blame but themselves. When a club ignores the concerns of its supporters as has been the case these past few weeks, then there will be little sympathy for those whose positions are most vulnerable.

How can a situation where we’ve no lost more games than we’ve won, are leaking tries, where confidence is shot to pieces and  players seem ‘restless’, be allowed to continue? Supporters are angry and confused and beginning to vote with their feet. Today has to mark a sea change in Coventry’s fortunes.

And I’m not going to blame the players especially who on the day were simply outclassed – outthought and outplayed in every area of the game, except maybe how to infringe and give away excessive penalties leading to yellow cards. We did pretty well there. 2-0 in fact.

Nor am I going to criticise them for any lack of effort; the effort was there alright. No one gave up but head’s didn’t particularly drop because they were never held high enough in the first place. There was little pride evident today, or passion. Just individuals trying their best but unable to halt a juggernaut of a team that was so much quicker in thought and action – it really was a case of men against boys. Cov seemed slow in everything they did. It was that bad.

The Esher backrow in particular were so much faster to the breakdown and won several turnovers. If there was a 50:50 ball, invariably Esher won it.

In boxing parlance, the game would have been stopped after the fifth try on 40 minutes; it was a technical knockout that left Coventry holding on to the ropes for the remainder of the game. Punch drunk I think they call it. Punch drunk.

If the National One board who oversee playing affairs watch a video of the game, Cov’s fixtures will be postponed for three weeks as the result of the club’s concussion incurred this afternoon. Cov took a real beating. It was awful to watch.

Scott Morgan and the 'fluey Devlin Hope watch Cov warm up. It all looked so good then
Scott Morgan and the ‘fluey Devlin Hope watch Cov warm up. It all looked so promising prior to kick off

Okay, Cov had a bit more possession in the second half, for 7-8 minutes either side of a Dom Lespierre try, but in truth Esher had taken the foot off the pedal by then and despite a fair amount of ball, Coventry struggled to do anything with it. They were pretty clueless. No kicking the ball aimlessly into the opposition’s half today, but equally no ability to break through a strong Esher defence, other than the one try.

Spencer Sutherland’s third try – the ex-Coventry winger scored four in all, how he rubbed salt into our wounds today – typified Cov’s demise this season. Weightman, who came on for Sam Baker, makes some decent yards well into the Esher half, the ball is spilled, Esher kick into our 22 and chase. Ryan gets to the ball first, is isolated but gets the ball away. Woodburn receives the ball 7-8 metres out in front of our posts and passes it to…well, no one in particular…and Esher score.

Laughable…and Esher supporters did laugh, in that embarrassing sort of way you do when you know you shouldn’t because you might upset those around you, but you just can’t help yourself. And the most upsetting thing of all…one Esher supporter to another, ‘At least they’re still trying…’.

Jon Sharp is under growing pressure to take decisive action to halt Coventry rapid decline in form
Jon Sharp is under growing pressure to take decisive action to halt Coventry rapid decline in form

Jon Sharpe was there to watch the debacle, as was Peter Rossborough. So  were a fair few supporters who had travelled down from Cov with expectations of at least a better performance than in recent weeks. They were to be hugely disappointed. If the two week break was supposed to be a time to regroup, a time to sort out some of the frustrations within the camp and bond a little more, then it clearly wasn’t a great success.

None of the players introduced in the last few weeks have made a significant impact, or so it appears to me. Has Carpo made a noticeable difference – would a backrow of Oliver, Woodburn/Pailor and Le Roux have fared any worse. I don’t think so. (I thought Sam Pailor had a decent game today when he came on; he acquitted himself well).

Does Hutchinson look like he’s going to keep out Smith, MacBurnie or Tincknell? Probably not. Farnworth started as Hope was unable to train on Tuesday having had the ‘flu, but Price had replaced him by half time. Tom Hicks has yet to make an appearance. Injuries aside, are dual registration players really

Matt's face says it all...shock and pain at the nature of Coventry's defeat. Matt put in a decent shift when he came on for Farnworth
Matt’s face says it all…shock and pain at the nature of Coventry’s defeat. Matt put in a decent shift when he came on for Farnworth

going to be the short/medium term answer to Coventy’s woes?

We were told in August at the Supporters’ Meeting that we would only take on DR players if they were at least as good as those they were potentially replacing…so far that doesn’t appear to be the case. Carpo should have been, but has flattered to deceive, really. The others, talented as they are don’t have the experience of this league, or of the situation Cov find themselves in, to make a real difference. And it can’t do much for the morale of some of those whose have lost their places as a result.

Cov seemed rudderless again today, without a plan B, presuming they were actually playing to plan A which wasn’t entirely obvious. Jon Sharp must have been horrified as he watched what the game unfurl as it did in front of his eyes.

Everything in this post I’ve written leads me to question what was said less than four days ago in that infamous e-letter sent out by the club.

I quote:

The Board are totally committed to leaving no stone unturned to find the causes of the drop in performance. Players who don’t perform when they play will not be part of the playing squad and other squad members will get their chance to prove themselves.

Players who haven’t performed appear to have been moved to one side and others have been given a chance, with even worse results. The stones are mostly turned now, I’m afraid. Except those that are attached to the coaching and management side of things. If players aren’t motivated, if there are some divisions between them and the coaches, then that has to be dealt with, at both levels, coaching staff and players. So turn the remaining few and see what’s revealed.

Are we coming to an end of the Maynard/Addleton/Glackin/Hamilton/Morgan era? Have they taken the club as far as they can with the resources available, resources which are a great deal better than most teams in the league?

An honest answer? Yes, I think we probably are.

Confidence is as low as its been for a long, long time and I’m not sure the coaches have the answers at the moment. There are some pretty tough games coming up before Christmas, games that we have to do well in, but it’s really difficult to see where the next win is going to come from if we play like this again.

I expect us to beat Blaydon next week, but Cinderford, Blackheath, DMP and Ampthill? No way on today’s performance. So a change is needed. If you lose five out of your first nine games and started the season as promotion favourites with Park, then it’s a fair question to ask.

But how does that work…you bring someone in now, but presumably the better candidates are those already with clubs, unless you tempt another Eves, who wants a player/coach’s role?

Do you risk getting your second or even third choice coach(es) mid-way through the season by the time they are appointed and at a time when the club is beginning to show relegation form, rather than hanging on and getting your first choice? Maybe there are the coaches of sufficient calibre and experience to come in asap, I don’t know.

But the question has already been asked elsewhere, so it’s on the table for all to see. Is it time for a change at the top? Or do you give the coaches to the end of the season but in doing so tell them that contracts might not/will not be renewed?

I’m not sure how this all works, but I guess I’d be worried now if Morgan in particular were to leave…less so any of the others. But I accept that it could have a positive impact on the players who don’t seem to be able to perform under the present regime.

So will today’s game be a turning point?

Yes, definitely, one way or another.

The loss at Esher is indeed the catalyst for change, or at least it should be. And we all know the consequences of not acting on poor results from catalytic converters…

…ask VW.

By Tim

8 thought on “A catalytic converter…”
  1. It was funny…I had a little chuckle! I wish there were a few more comments in that vein, especially at the moment. I’ll see if I can come up with some analogy relating to the Hadron Collider in due course…

  2. Haha..no, you’re fine! I was just trying to be funny by being pedantic and trying to extend the analogy! I enjoyed the fact that you used science in this post! 🙂

  3. Lol…I know it wasn’t scientifically accurate but I was using a bit of ‘poetic’ license in the misplaced, as it now turns out, that no one would query it!!
    I’ll do some background reading beforehand next time!

  4. To be precise, a catalyst is a chemical which lowers the activation energy of a reaction, and so increases the rate of the reaction. Perhaps the activation energy in this case could be the Coventry score, or maybe the number of our tries? Whatever way you wish to interpret it, nice analogy! 🙂

  5. I never had a bad afternoon watching rugby when I spend it with Sam; he’s such great company and in some respects the game is secondary to my time with him. BUt the 80 minutes of rugby was excruciating in the extreme, but maybe it will lead to some sort of positive change…things just can’t continue as they are.

  6. Hi Cliff…Like you, I can’t believe that Jon Sharp, a man who has invested so heavily in the club, won’t be looking at all the options open to him this week with regard to both the running and coaching of the club.
    Another analogy, not too dissimilar from yours, comes from teaching. You measure the ability of the pupil on entry into a school and produce an expected target for that pupil at the end of a given period of time and then track progress against that target.
    Anything achieved over and above that target is your valued added, what you as a school have added to what one might have expected that pupil to attain….I’m going to stop here…there’s tomorrow’s post!!!
    I do agree with you totally though – as the chairman of Cov, Jon has been let down, either through circumstance or poor management. Will he risk further investment with the same team in place…I know I wouldn’t.

  7. Absolutely fair comment, Tim.
    I wondered at first whether I had misread your heading, and that you had used the word “cataclysmic” rather than “catalytic”. To be honest, I think the former would have been equally, if not more, appropriate.

    This morning my thoughts have turned to Jon Sharp, in consideration of the position he must be in after yesterday’s performance and the feelings he has this morning. I don’t know the extent of his commitment to CRFC in terms of finance, but it must be fairly substantial. Certainly his commitment in terms of time, effort, securing financial stability, etc, cannot be denigrated. I wasn’t at the pre-season meeting but I believe he was party to the assertion that this season was to be a major charge by the club for promotion. As a business manager he must be feeling that his departmental managers have seriously let him down. The delivery on the pitch has been woefully short of expectations and of even a respectable standard.
    I spent the bulk of my career in the business of industrial mechanical handling systems. The sale, and subsequent installation and commissioning of the system into a customer’s premises, was based on its ability to deliver what I, the salesman, had promised. In the event (fortunately it never happened to me) that the system did not meet those expectations, which I had been responsible for setting, in any respect of its performance, efficiency, achievements against targeted performances, etc, I would have been first in the line of fire from a very (justifiably) irate customer. Complaints amounting to “not fit for purpose” would have been made and it would have been my duty and obligation to address the issue and to have been instrumental in taking whatever steps were necessary and appropriate to meet the targeted expectations and achievements.
    I see a similar situation this morning with Jon. He has taken over at the club with the intention of restoring stability behind the scenes, and credibility and belief on the playing side. To do this, he has been obliged to call upon the services of people he has appointed into positions of authority, and has not only relied on them, but has charged them with the responsibility based on their skills and experience, to achieve against those goals and targets.
    I would suggest that, this morning, he feels that his management team have significantly failed in these areas. There is an argument that the club is imploding. Certainly the standards of last season are now a distant, and shrouded, memory. And yet Scott Morgan is quoted as asking why, given that these are largely the same players we had last season, things are going wrong? I’m afraid his question does not instil a great deal of confidence. If he genuinely has no idea and is bereft of any understanding of the root causes of the current demise of Cov Rugby, I’m afraid my faith and belief in him is more than somewhat shattered.
    Because I’m not an insider, and because I’m not privileged to have anything other than a season ticket holder’s view of proceedings, I can’t pretend to understand the machinations of the club. This means I don’t have any answers to our current plight and therefore feel hopelessly inadequate, but I hope and pray that Jon does and that he will take swift and pre-emptive action, in whatever form that needs to be.

  8. Tim. knowing you I realise how hard and hurtful this post is for you.. I could post a great deal about yesterday. But being loyal I keep quite. But an old Bedworth (home town) saying * I have had better afternoons with the toothache* sums up yesterday.

    Michael Carter

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