I know I am fickle. But in may ways if you support Coventry it goes with the territory. Let me explain…
By mid-September, I’d petty much decided we were to be promoted. Third last season, recruitment close season strong ‘from top to bottom’, the club ready to make a ‘sustained challenge’ and two fairly convincing wins in our opening two games. It couldn’t have started much better. Everything was rosy in the Coventry garden and I was planning the routes to Bristol and Leeds in readiness for next season.Two games later and reality hits – two losses and maybe promotion is going to be a little tougher than expected, but hey, this is Coventry, it’s our time.
By the end of October, I’m beginning to pay more attention to the results of clubs like Wharfedale and Blaydon than I am to Hartpury and Blackheath. Up or down and nothing in between, that’s me. It’s not a good thing to be, especially when you support Coventry, a club capable of such extremes.
And just to compound things, what do Cov go and do? They have a decent win against a team way down in the league, playing some exciting rugby and start to look as if they believe in themselves again. Suddenly, in my head, we’re about to embark on a run that will take us flying up the table. There’s only 15 points between us and promotion…it’s looking good again.
And I just can’t help it…if I wasn’t so leveled headed otherwise, I’d begin to worry. It’s clearly some sort of emotional immaturity and I’m sure a psychoanalyst would link it to previous attachment issues somewhere in the dim and distant past. Me, I just accept it’s what you get when you support Coventry RFC. And it’s what makes it so interesting. That annual roller-coaster ride so full of highs and lows, that often makes you feel sick and nauseous but always leaves you wanting to come back for more the following August. Pleasure and pain – Freud would have something to say on that, too.
More a case of ’28 Shades of Blue and White’ than 50 of Grey.
And that’s the problem this weekend. Everything about Cinderford sets off alarm bells in my head. They’ve only won 2 games all season, are presently in a run of 3 consecutive defeats, have a poor record at home – it all points to a Coventry win, but we’ve been undone by Cinderford before, on more than one occasion.
If we go expecting that Cinderford will have read the script, then we’ll get found out, and deservedly so. Play as we played against Blaydon and we should be fine; do the hard graft in the first half to set up the more expansive game plan in the second.
Cinderford haven’t had the best of starts to the season and after 10 games they are currently 15th…
Time to compare how Cinderford and Coventry have fared thus far in a bit more detail:
Cinderford (15th): LWLLLLWLLL
Coventry (9th): WWLLWWLLLW
Home/away league tables
Cinderford 15th in the league based on home games only (av. 1.6 pts pg) F110 A142 Diff -32
Coventry 9th in the league based on away games only (av. 2.25 pts pg) F81 A105 Diff -24
Verdict: Whilst Coventry’s away record is less than convincing, Cinderford’s home record is even worse, with only 1 win in 5 attempts. With Cinderford also on a run of 3 consecutive defeats and Coventry very much buoyed by their impressive win at home to Blaydon, this would seem to be a good time to be visiting Dockham Road. Coventry have only scored 81 points away from the Butts, they have played 1 game less.
Cinderford (14th): 24 (13 home, 11 away, 8 first half, 16 second half)
Coventry (10th): 30 (19 home, 11 away, 15 first half, 15 second half)
Coventry appear to have a slight advantage here, having scored 6 tries more, although they have had an extra home game. Cinderford don’t seem that much more prolific at home than they are away, although Coventry certainly have found it harder to cross the opponents’ line away from home, scoring 8 fewer tries on their travels but with one less away game played. Despite some poorer performances away from the Butts, Coventry still average 2.75 tries per game whilst Cinderford average only 2.6 tries per game at home.
Cinderford have scored twice as many tries in the second half, maybe an indication that lack of fitness is not going to be decisive.
Verdict: Much will depend on the relative defences of the two teams…so let’s have a look.
Cinderford: 44 (18 home, 26 away, 19 first half, 25 second half) – 17 in the final quarter
Coventry: 31 (14 home, 17 away, 19 first half, 12 second half).
Coventry have conceded 17 tries away from home, so that suggests there is a frailty there, but with Cinderford having conceded 44 tries so far this season in total and 18 of them at home, Coventry definitely have the firepower to cause damage to the Cinderford defences and, having ‘nilled’ Blaydon last week, they must fancy their chances.
Interestingly, although Cinderford have scored the greatest percentage of their tries in the final quarter, so they have conceded the highest proportion too – 39% of all tries. There could be several reasons for this, but given that in many of the games they will have been behind, perhaps they’ve been exposed whilst chasing the game.
Verdict: Coventry can afford to play a waiting game against Cinderford, similar to the one against Blaydon. Patience was the key then and once the forwards had gained dominance, the backs were able to express themselves with fast, running rugby that opened up the opposition defences in the final quarter, the same period that Cinderford have been at their most vulnerable this season. With Rob Knox and Dom Lespierre in good form and Gaston Mieres oozing class, it could be a difficult second half for Cinderford if they allow Coventry any width.
Tries by position – for
Cinderford: backs 9, forwards 14. 1PT
Coventry: backs 15, forwards 14 (front row 9, centres 8). 2PT
Verdict: This particular statistic continues to be the most telling of all. In both the games where Coventry were totally outplayed, notably Fylde and Esher, it was the backs that caused us the most problems, with both teams prepared to give the ball width and at pace against which we had little or no defence. Cinderford, have scored most of their tries, some 58% in fact, though their forwards – a fact that reassures me somewhat. Blaydon, too, had a reputation for stronger forward play but were unable to dominate our front 5 enough to cause problems. Let’s hope it’s the same scenario on Saturday.
If they can achieve a similar supremacy among the forwards, then Coventry should be able to ride the early storm and come out on top. The backs will be desperate to get some decent possession but much will again depend on the back row. Oliver, Le Roux and Pailor were superb last week and tackled everything that moved, as did Jones and Evans and often by winning the battle at the breakdown, Coventry were able to get turnover ball. If that happens again, we could see some explosive counter attacking from Coventry.
Tries by position – against
Cinderford: 28 in the backs, 14 in the forwards. 12 from the wings. 2 PT
Coventry: 16 in the backs, 13 in the forwards. 13 from the wings. 1PT
Verdict: Cinderford have conceded nearly 2/3rds of their tries from opposition backs. With Coventry’s backs hitting some sort of form last week, this is a statistic that is worth remembering. If we do get the ball we need to allow the backs the opportunity to run at Cinderford and expose any weaknesses in their defences that might open up.
However, both teams seem susceptible to pace and width (remember the damage Spencer Sutherland inflicted on us for Esher two games ago?). But equally, Lespierre and Weightman are quick and whilst Dom is more elusive, Peter is strong and direct, so each complements the other.
The Cinderford pack doesn’t have quite the same reputation as Blaydon’s, but they have scored more tries from their forwards than Coventry and they ignore them at their peril.
Points given up
Cinderford have conceded 4 tries seven times in all, 3 of those being at home. Coventry have conceded 4 tries twice away from home.
Verdict: Coventry have the edge here, with Cinderford’s home record being so poor, this is an opportunity for Coventry to do what 4 other teams have done on their visits to Cinderford, and earn themselves a valuable bonus point.
Cinderford: 3 yellows – equal best in the league with Cinderford – average of 0.30 a game (1 first half, 2 second half, 2 home, 1 away).
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 1.30 cards a game (9 first half, 4 second half, 4 home, 9 away).
Verdict: Coventry’s discipline record this season remains a massive concern and whilst it remains the worst in the league, Coventry did manage to go a whole 80 minutes against Blaydon without receiving a card of any colour. However, we have seen the damage a player off the pitch can cause several times this season already and further yellow cards against Cinderford could negate any advantages we might have, especially if it’s a low-scoring game. I’m sure that it is something that has been worked on over the couple of weeks and Coventry will be well aware of the problems a yellow card can cause. Sam Pailor (3) and Tom Poole (2) are the principal offenders.
Half time win/loss
Cinderford have led at half time in just 3 of their games, going on to win two of them. Coventry have led at half time in 5 of their 9 games, going on to win all of them.
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, Cinderford have gone on to lose all of them.
Verdict: It’s the same as for the last few weeks – 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. Equally, with Cinderford having lost all 7 of the games they have been losing at half time, then if Coventry do find themselves in front after 40 minutes, then psychologically it will be very much to Cov’s advantage.
Kicking strike rate
Callum Sheedy – Cinderford: 71% (20/28)
Matt Jones – Coventry: 70% (33/47)
Matt Jones’ kicking strike rate is now above 70% for the season and is pretty much in line with the National 1 averages. Sheedy’s is remarkably similar but he has taken far fewer kicks at goal.
Verdict: Nothing in it between them, although Jones’ accuracy is improving all the time after a shaky start.
Leading points scorers
Cinderford: Callum Sheedy with 59 points (1T, 9C, 11C, 1 DG).
Coventry: Matt Jones with 82 points (17C, 16P)
Leading try scorer
Coventry: Devlin Hope/Matt Price/Rob Knox 4 tries each. Don Lespierre 3 tries
Cinderford : No player has scored 3 or more tries this season
Verdict: With Coventry scoring four tries last week for the first time in a while, confidence is going to be high and Knox and Lespierre in particular might well add to their tally if the forwards can provide the backs with decent ball
Cinderford’s average home gate is just 256. By comparison, Coventry average 1120 at home games, the highest in the league. With a coach (at the moment?) booked and the usual armada of travelling supporters, I’d expect Cinderford’s gate to be above their average. The players have commented on the effect support, both home and away, can have on their performance. Whilst a relatively small gate is expected, Cov supporters always make themselves heard which I’m sure will be a motivating factor, if one was ever needed.
Overall verdict: Cinderford 1 Coventry 5