Club talk

Hide not your talents…

Nine games gone.

A third of the season, give or take…

…and just 7 points off the relegation places and a worrying 14 points off a top three spot. And the significance of that isn’t something we’re now likely to forget:

we need changes to up the performance level and get us back in the top 3 of the table

(Coventry RFC e-Letter to members – 4th November 2015)

In effect, three wins (two with bonus points) behind the team in third place, Hartpury College. Not an insurmountable gap, but one that is going to take some doing.

So just how poor a start to the season has this been?

Given that both the 2014/15 and 2015/16 seasons started with two defeats in the opening four games, I thought I’d compare them after nine.

2014/15          P    W    D     L          F          A        Diff      BP    Pts      Adj

Coventry        9      7    0      2          283      204    79         5       33       0

2015/16          P    W    D      L         F          A        Diff      BP    Pts      Adj

Coventry        9      4    0       5         206     217     -11         4       20       0

It’s doesn’t make pleasant viewing, does it?

In 2014/15 from games 5-9 Coventry won all 5 fixtures and in the corresponding games this season we’ve contrived to lose 4 of the 5. In 2014, we were in an encouraging 4th place (still not hitting the target set for this season, despite such a promising start) whereas we are presently 9th.

Last season we averaged a healthy 31 points per game, with Lespierre scoring regularly prior to having his jaw broken in the Blaydon game in January. Rundle was struggling to get a game such was the form of the two wingers, with Hurrell breaking huge holes in opposition defences to create the off-loads that we miss so much this season.

In comparison, Coventry have only managed an average 24 points a game this season, but in the last seven games (taking away the two 40+ wins in the opening two games) this has dropped to an average of just over 18 points a game. This is a damning statistic, especially when the defensive records during this opening 9 games of the two seasons are almost identical  – an average of 24 points conceded this season against 23 last season.

A lot has been made, quite rightly, of our inability to defend, especially against teams that run at us, like Fylde and Esher. However, given that we have only conceded 13 more points this season over the nine games, or a little over 1 point per game, there’s an argument to say the biggest worry is our lack of penetration in attack. I haven’t got any information with regard to the number of tries scored over the equivalent period last season, but I would hazard a guess that it’s rather more than the 26 we’ve score so far this year, averaging less than 3 a game.

But the most staggering statistic of all, so much so that I had to check and recheck it, is that once you remove the 13 tries we scored in our opening two games, half our total for the season so far, we have only scored 13 in the remaining 7. An average of less than 2 tries a game is a huge worry for me. Henley Hawks have scored the least number of tries in the league at 17, but have a better average than us in their last 7 games.

Gaston Mieres and Devlin Hope, two players who could help change Coventry's fortunes on the pitch

Gaston Mieres and Devlin Hope, two players who could help change Coventry’s fortunes on the pitch

Never mind getting back into the top 3…that’s the kind of form that will draw us into a battle to stay out of the bottom 3. I was a bit sceptical about bringing in the Uruguayan fullback Gaston Mieres, but he is clearly an attack-minded player as the video Kimbo put onto the Messageboard demonstrates. Perhaps he can get the backs running at the angles needed to create spaces that the lateral movement we’re seeing at the moment just isn’t able to do.

With Knoxy back to something approaching full fitness after his enforced lay-off and with Tincknell, Smith, MacBurnie and Hutchinson as options for the no 12/13 shirt, perhaps it could be a really good signing. Although whether a month on trial is going to be enough to convince him to stay, let alone Coventry to take him on, is anyone’s guess. Who knows what he was thinking after the final whistle at Esher on Saturday. Wales, Australia, England, Fiji…. and then Blaydon. Probably not quite such an attractive prospect for Gaston..?

Another thing worth looking at is how the two Coventry line-ups have changed in the 12 months between the two Round 9 National 1 fixtures.

Coventry v Esher 2014 (won 33-31)    Esher v Coventry 2015 (lost 46-5)

2nd Nov                                                             7th Nov

15 Hodgson (inj)                                              Hamilton

14 Lespierre                                                      Lespierre

13 MacBurnie (inj)                                          Hutchinson

12 Knox                                                              Knox

11 Hurrell                                                           Baker

1o Jones (inj)                                                    Ryan

9 Evans (inj)                                                     Lee-Everton

1 Brown                                                              Kivalu

2 Price                                                                Farnworth (Price)

3 Thorne                                                            Parkins (Brown)

4 Poole                                                               Poole

5 Morgan (inj)                                                  Wright

6 Turner (inj)                                                    Le Roux

7 Oliver                                                              Woodburn

8 Joseph                                                            Carpo

(Red – indicates players still with Coventry this season).

Surprisingly, all but two of the team that played against Esher a year ago are still with the club, although the extent of the injury crisis becomes clear when 6 of the 13 would have been unavailable to play last weekend. There’s far more wrong with Coventry than just back luck with all the injuries that have jinxed us so far this season, but it is clearly a factor in the run of poor performances since the Loughborough game. It prevents any form of consistency over selection and must impact on tactics, given the individual strengths of the players missing through injury.

That doesn’t negate any of the criticism that has been directed towards the apparent problems over on-field game-plans, or the lack thereof, that have been a constant source of discussion amongst supporters on the Messageboard and elsewhere. But it does explain help to explain the difficulties Scott Morgan has in selecting his teams.

Adam Parkins' injury will be a massive blow for Cov...

Adam Parkins’ injury will be a massive blow for Cov…

Players are coming in and out of the side with alarming regularity… the latest injury is to Adam Parkins, a player whom I rate very highly. He looked to have sustained a pretty serious injury to his ankle at the weekend. He’s not one to show pain, but he was clearly in huge discomfort when he was helped off the pitch and was unable to put any weight on the injured ankle at all. Perhaps that means an opportunity opens for Chad Thorne, who was at Molesey Road on Saturday. There’s been no news from the club to explain his absence from the team at all which is a little strange given he played a huge part in Coventry’s successes last season.

Leaving injuries aside, it seems pretty obvious that we are in our worst run for several years, probably since the 2011-12 season when we finished 13th and at one point it looked as if the impossible could happen and we’d be facing relegation into National 2. Phil Maynard was the Head Coach then and he knows as well as anyone what is needed when the wheels start to drop off, as they appear to be at the moment.

Phil Maynard - his experience of turning round struggling clubs whilst at Bees, Stourbridge, Worcester and Cov might yet be invaluable???

Phil Maynard – his experience of turning round struggling clubs whilst at Bees, Stourbridge, Worcester and Cov might yet be invaluable???

So here’s a conundrum for the club. Should Phil be asked to get even more involved in playing affairs given his experience in similar situations with Coventry,  Worcester, Birmingham and Solihull and Stourbridge?

In yesterday’s post I maintained that Scott Morgan should have complete autonomy over playing affairs, especially selection and I stand by that.

But as Coventry’s situation becomes more and more of a concern, will Jon Sharpe look to Maynard’s vast experience of bottom-of-the-table dog-fights over the years. Could the one person who seems to bear the brunt of much of the supporters’ frustrations at the moment yet be the saviour of the club this season? Jon Sharp obviously has huge respect for him. It’s certainly a possibility.

It’s not hard to see why confidence is so low within the squad at the moment. There are some very talented players who came here with the dream of Championship rugby. Yet in just ten weeks the team has been decimated by injures, is producing a string of poor performances that are dropping the club ever further down the National 1 table and is seemingly unable to stem the tide of mediocrity. Or so it might appear.

But this isn’t a mediocre squad. Far from it. True, it’s in a poor run, but it is a side capable of beating any other team in this league. There just needs to be one spark of brilliance, one incident that gets the crowd on Saturday roaring  its support, one moment of luck even, with an interception or a pass that’s forward that’s not spotted. Whatever it may be, it will be a turning point. Things will suddenly click, confidence will soar and suddenly the self-belief will return, for that is all that is missing. We have a talented squad and talent is permanent, even if form is temporary.

All the coaching manuals  ever written won’t have any effect when there’s self-doubt. Cov supporters are a resilient breed, we’ve had to be over the years. And they also have know that players are committed to the cause, and they desperately want something to cheer about on the pitch. But there’s not a lot to shout about at the moment, hence the frustrations on the Messageboard (and on here at times – sorry!).

We are due a win and it will come on Saturday. Blaydon will be confident after Saturday’s fine win against Fylde, but I expect Coventry to be fired up for this one. A home crowd looking to cheer on an improved Coventry performance and a home team wanting to prove a point, or five.

Should be a cracker.

              ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Hide not your talents, they for use were made,
What’s a sundial in the shade?

Benjamin Franklin

Categories:Club talk

5 replies »

  1. I fear again for Saturday, Blaydon will be on a definite high and if we are slow out of the blocks and chasing the game early on, it could well be another miserable outcome. We need a lot of the jigsaw pieces to fall into place come 3pm
    However i will still be there cheering Cov on.

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    • Saturday will be a tense affair for supporters, coaches and players alike. I do think though that if just a couple of things come together for the team on the pitch, then players’ confidence will quickly return and they’ll come good. All ‘ifs and buts’, I know. The team are desperately lacking in confidence at the moment…I honestly believe though they’ll come away with the points against Blaydon.

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  2. If the next two or three weeks are going to define Cov’s season, at the rate we’re going we’ll be embedded in a slump of disastrous relegation proportions and any changes at that point will surely be a case of bolting the stable door after the horse has fled and has disappeared over the horizon?
    This Saturday’s game against Blaydon now takes on a hugely significant importance and represents the most awful potential banana skin. I bet it never occurred to anyone from Fylde, be they players, coaches, managers, directors, that Blaydon would beat them. The thought of Blaydon coming to Cov and securing a win is frightening and must be making Jon, PM and Scott quake in their boots.
    As you say, who’d be in Scott’s shoes?

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  3. Fascinating statistics, Tim, and your analysis is spot on.
    I only wish I could be so much more knowledgeable and aware than I am, in order to have a clue as to where the problems lie and then where the answers lie.
    As you say, talent is permanent but form is temporary, so the recent dreadful performances have to be viewed against last year’s achievements by the (essentially) same squad. If they could achieve an extended run of 18 games unbeaten, why are they playing so badly this season? I regret to say that I accept the injury excuse only up to a point. If we have equivalent players for such scenarios it would be reasonable to assume that a consistent level of play could be achieved. And I’m not aware of players playing out of position in order to have a full 15 on the field. So it comes down to the game plan, to motivation and to determination. Or is that me being horribly simplistic?
    I very much hope that something will come out of BPA this week, whether by Jon, or by PM or by Scott, which addresses the current situation and thereby acknowledges the respect which the supporters deserve.

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    • We can only hope the coaches are able to address the problems on the pitch and Jon Sharp do the same if there are concerns off it. I suppose if halting the slide was a straightforward thing, a case of addressing one or two technical issues, then it would have been sorted long ago.
      I’m not sure there will be any statement this week, but we’ll see. My guess is that they’re expecting a win on Saturday which will relieve some of the pressure on the club, albeit temporarily unless they can turn one win into some sort of winning run.
      It must be a real worry for Scott and the coaches; but if he intends to go further up the coaching ladder, tests like this will come fairly regularly…although this is becoming a particularly tough challenge.
      The next two or three weeks could define Cov’s season and, to a certain extent, Scott’s short/medium term progression as a top class coach. Who’d be in his shoes, eh?

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