There have been a couple of comments this week on the Messageboard concerning a perceived lack of team spirit and unity within the team. Players hadn’t been seen together as much in and around Coventry, that the coach on Saturday returned home half empty with players making their own way back to places other than Cov and that maybe the emphasis on pre-season home games might have resulted in some lost ‘bonding’ opportunities between players whilst they were out on their travels. All entirely reasonable observations to make, but probably a little wide of the mark.
Having spoken to a couple of players on Saturday, it is clear that they do get on well and, as the photo here suggests, they do spend time together other than during sessions or gym work. I have said more than once that I think their confidence has taken a huge knock after the early successes against Cardiff, Ealing, Wharfedale and Loughborough, but confidence is very different to camaraderie and I do believe the players have more than just a mutual trust and respect for each other.
From the photo at least, it certainly looks like they are enjoying some quiet time – good to see Dan Rundle there, and Gaston Mieres, too. (Great photo – and I did check to see if they minded if I filched it, too!).
Whether that stems to the coaches as well I have no idea, but I thought I would add a different point of view…
It’s been 5 days now since the Esher result and hopefully we’ve all moved on from the initial shock felt by all those who witnessed such a disappointing display – supporters, players and coaches alike.
I am actually remarkably upbeat and do feel that Coventry will beat Blaydon on Saturday and take the first tentative steps towards rediscovering their pre-season form, form that made us all believe this season might be something a bit special. When Scott spoke to The Rugby Paper immediately after the game, expressing his own disbelief, without knowing it he was speaking for all of us:
This is the same group of players that we had last year. What’s going wrong?…It’s the worst we’ve been for the four years I’ve been here.
I’ve got to look at myself and the other coaches. Is it us or the players?”
We will find out on Saturday whether he and his team of coaches have been able to work out some answers to that question. I have no doubt that however much disappointment we felt at the time, it’s nothing compared to what those directly involved with the club must have been going through this week. His comments seem to suggest that there’s some soul-searching going on…
As with a few of the most recent games, I’ve looked at some comparisons between the performances of Coventry and Blaydon so far this season to see what conclusions we can draw about the relative strengths and weaknesses of the two sides. Whilst Blaydon look to have a decent set of forwards who clearly had the better of Fylde last weekend, there is nothing to suggest we can’t overcome them, particularly with home advantage.
It’s by no means comprehensive, but interesting…at least it is to me…
So here goes:
Home/away league tables
Coventry 11th in the league based on home games only (av. 2.2 pts pg)
Blaydon 16th in the league based on away games only (av. 0.0 pts pg)
Verdict: This is where statistics can be so misleading. Although Coventry’s home record isn’t great (winning 2/5), Blaydon have lost all four of their away games, so it looks pretty odds-on that Coventry should take the points. However, if you’re ‘only as good as your last game’, then Blaydon must be full of confidence and relishing the prospect of playing a Cov team that will be weakened by injury and somewhat shell-shocked after the Esher game.
Coventry: 26 – (14 home, 12 away, 16 first half, 10 second half)
Blaydon: 21 (17 home, 4 away, 11 first half, 10 second half)
Another statistic where Coventry appear to have a big advantage. With only four tries scored away from home all season (average 1.25 tries pg), Blaydon look as if they might struggle to get the 5 pointers at the Butts. Coventry have scored a respectable 14 tries (average 2.8 tries pg) at home, but that includes 5 games, whereas most teams will have played just four. In addition, 7 of those were scored in the first game of the season, so in the last four home games Cov have scored just 7 tries (average 1.75 tries pg) – so they aren’t exactly prolific themselves.
Verdict: Hardly looks like it’s going to be a try-fest on this evidence, does it? With both teams being a little ‘try shy’ of late, much will depend on the opposition’s defences. So let’s have a look…
Coventry: 31 (14 home, 17 away, 19 first half, 12 second half).
Blaydon: 34 (18 home, 16 away, 19 first half, 15 second half).
Both teams have conceded a similar number of tries, nothing in it there. However, breaking it down a bit further, both sides would appear be more susceptible in the opening 40 minutes, with Cov shipping 11 of theirs in the 21-40 minute period and Blaydon 11 of theirs in the opening 0-20 minute period. In addition, Blaydon have conceded 10 tries in the final quarter.
Verdict: From the kick off Cov need to be focused and look to press the Blaydon defence. Often we get a lot of ball, but play across the pitch rather than from one end to the other. The backrow need to bully the opposition in a way they haven’t managed to do for several games now…be first to the breakdown and win the 50-50 balls. With decent amounts of possession, Coventry could get their backs into play and we all know what the likes of Rob and Dom can do, given some space.
Tries by position – for
Coventry: backs 12, forwards 13 (front row 8, centres 8). 2PT
Blaydon: backs 5, forwards 13 (backrow 10 14). 3PT
Verdict: In previous posts to this, this is the statistic that has always proved the most telling. As I surmised in yesterday’s post having read the review of the Fylde game on the Blaydon website, Blaydon’s strength seem to be in their forwards. Only 5 tries in 9 games from their backs would suggest that they don’t present the same sort of danger as perhaps Fylde or Esher. However, their backrow, with 10 tries between them, indicates that perhaps Blaydon play a tight, forwards-led game…plenty of rolling mauls and strong rucking. 3 penalty tries might also suggest that when they are on the move, the pack is pretty difficult to stop.
All the more reason, perhaps, for Coventry to spread it wide and force their backrow to defend, rather than attack.
Tries by position – against
Coventry: 16 in the backs, 13 in the forwards and 2 penalty tries.
Blaydon: 26 in the backs, 8 in the forwards. 0PT
Verdict: Another revealing stat. So far this season, Blaydon appear to have been undone by opposition backs – a staggering 76% of the tries they have conceded have been scored by opposition three-quarters. Whilst we haven’t as yet used our backs to great effect, they can be a really potent force and open up the best defences on their day. Maybe that day is Saturday…
With only 8 tries conceded through opposition forwards, this gives more credence to the comment earlier, namely that the strength of the Blaydon team lies in its pack.
Points given up
Coventry have conceded 4 tries only once away at home. Blaydon have conceded 4 tries away from home three times so far this season.
Verdict: Coventry have the edge here, with Blaydon’s away record being so poor, this is an opportunity for Coventry to do what 3 other teams have done on Blaydon’s travels, and earn themselves a valuable bonus point.
Coventry: 13 yellows/1 red – worst in the league. This doesn’t include Evans’ second yellow against Fylde that was converted into the red – average of 1.44 cards a game (9 first half, 4 second half, 4 home, 9 away).
Blaydon: 3 yellows – equal best in the league with Cinderford – average of 0.33 a game (1 first half, 2 second half, 2 home, 1 away).
Verdict: Coventry’s discipline record this season has been astonishingly poor and further yellow cards against Blaydon could negate any advantages we might have, especially if it’s a low-scoring game. In Carpo’s 10 minute absence on Saturday, Esher scored twice and it was effectively game over before he returned. Coventry have to learn that ill-discipline of this magnitude cost us points, if not games.
Half time win table
Coventry have led at half time in 4 of their 9 games, going on to win all of them. Blaydon have led at half time in just one of their games, but they went on to lose that one.
Coventry have lost all 5 games in which they were trailing at the half way mark. In a losing position at half time in 7 games, Blaydon have gone on to lose all but one of them.
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. Hopefully, on Saturday Cov will have a half time advantage, but if they don’t then they need to break this hoodoo.
Kicking strike rate
Matt Jones – Coventry: 66.6% (26/39)
Caolan Ryan – Coventry: 50% (3/6)
Brett Cannon – Blaydon: 80% (16/20)
Andrew Baggett – Blaydon: 62.29% (9/14)
Brett Cannon has the second highest conversion rate (no pun intended) in the league, but it appears he hasn’t played every game. Jones’ kicking is pretty much in line with the National 1 averages. Ryan’s % success rate is low but isn’t statistically reliable given the relatively few opportunities that he’s had.
Verdict: If Brett Cannon plays. Coventry just can’t afford to give away penalties inside our half.
Leading points scorers
Coventry: Matt Jones with 64 points (14C, 12P)
Blaydon: Brett Connon with 37 points (11C, 5P).
Leading try scorer
Blaydon : Jason Smithson with 5
Coventry: Matt Price/Rob Knox 4 each
Verdict: Smithson plays in the backrow and clearly has benefited from what appears to be a strong set of forwards.
Coventry average 1135 at home games, the highest in the league. By comparison, Blaydon’s average home gate is just 188, so I doubt whether there will be too many travelling supporters to boost the Butts’ attendance this week. With Plymouth Albion starting to put together some decent results, it might well be that they knock us off the top spot, especially if results continue as they are.
Overall verdict: Blaydon 1 Coventry 5