Club talk

In the bleak mid-winter…

In the bleak mid-winter, frosty wind may moan…

But nowhere near as bitterly now John Wilkinson  is back.

With no information coming directly from the club itself and a degree of silence that would suggest that the Board have perhaps taken up residence with the Order of Saint Benedict, it’s a relief to have some news , albeit via the Coventry Telegraph.

Scott Morgan faith in last season’s squad is starting to pay dividends – but I’m not sure the ‘Christ the Redeemer’ impression is entirely necessary…

In yesterday’s article, ‘Coventry RFC’s Scott Morgan says his side still have a long way to go after Cinderford victory ‘ Scott Morgan sensibly states that at the moment all Coventry can do is take things one game at a time. He acknowledges that the two wins against Cinderford and Blaydon must be taken in context; two teams well below Coventry and although it’s never stated, the inference is that we should expect to be beating teams below us so we should be getting carried away with the most recent performances, despite the obvious improvements .

No mention of promotion, just of catching up with those teams in front of us. The unpredictability of League 1 this year is such that you can’t look much beyond the next game. And of course he’s absolutely correct to say that…Scott seems to me to be a very pragmatic sort of guy, as shown by the above, but underneath he is passionate about his rugby and about Coventry and occasionally his emotions get the better of him, as in his post-matches comments at Esher.

And I’m sure most supporters would forgive him for that…

…we all want to see some fire in the belly, not only in the players but also in the coaches, too. Me, I want to know the coaches feel a similar ‘pain’ after a lost game to that of the players and supporters. It means they care, something that is patently true of Scott, and I’m sure the other coaches as well.

And he’s not going to get carried away with the upturn in Cov’s fortunes, being quick to point out that there is still much to work on, especially stressing :

…the need for patience after watching a disjoined 15-minute patch midway through the second half at Cinderford after Cov had opened up a 31-13 lead.

We gave away some silly penalties which I think came from us chasing it a bit too much when we didn’t need to…

(Coventry Telegraph 24/11/2015 – Scott Morgan Interview)

In short then –  a good performance against a weaker opposition, still some work to be done but a much improved performance. However, if we lose concentration against the top teams we could get caught out.

Exactly what we’d want to hear.

No tub-thumping attempt to prove all is now well the Butts.

…cautious optimism, perhaps?

The best sort, really.

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The team is beginning to have a settled look about it now and I can’t help but feel that the current line-up looks all the better for having far more of last season’s squad in it. There are still some options open to Scott Morgan ( I say Scott as I presume he has the final say in the picking of the team, or at least I hope he does…), particularly at centre and maybe second row, although Thomas seems to be settling in there now.

matt

Matt Jones – an automatic selection for me, but is it right to be concerned about his kicking?

But there is still one area that is a concern, other than the perennial problem of the line-out that is.

And that’s Matt Jones’ place kicking.

I should add at this point  that Matt has always been, and will continue to be, one of the first names I’d pencil onto the team sheet each and every week. BUT I just don’t see him as being one the most reliable of place kickers.

And my worry is that there might well be games this season where the difference between a ‘W’ and an ‘L’ could simply be a penalty missed or a conversion squandered. Remember Hartpury back in September, outplayed for much of the game but in the end three missed penalties in the final few minutes meant we ended up losing 21-23?

A season’s can be won or lost on such close margins.

Matt has had to take over kicking duties this season because of injury to Cliffie Hodgson, but at the moment he isn’t able to produce the kind of accuracy you’d want from your main kicker…he’s currently 9th in National 1 with an average of 68.25%, well behind the most reliable kicker, Darlington’s Gary Law, on a stonking 80%. Statistically speaking, Law would have kicked two of those three penalties against Hartpury, we’d have won by 4 points and now be above Ampthill and it would be Richmond that would be topping the table.

Ok, it’s a spurious example, but it is one that reinforces the need to have a kicker whom you know will win you the tightest of games.

So here’s a hypothetical situation – were Cliffie Hodgson to be match fit, would he be an automatic selection for Saturday’s game against Henley? Given I understand it won’t be too long before he’s back, it’s not altogether such a daft question.

For me, the answer is a definite ‘yes’, even if it means changing a winning team. But there would be a fairly obvious problem to his inclusion…his two main positions, fly half and full back, are filled by two players who arguable offer slightly more once you remove Cliffie’s kicking  from the equation. Mieres looks the real deal at full back and Matt, well he’s played at the very highest level and is capable of controlling a game when it is most needed.

But here’s the thing – Cliffie’s contribution to a game always seems bigger than the sum of it’s parts.

He changes games and is one of the few real match winners in the side…he’s Coventry’s leading points scorer in National 1 for a reason (933, if anyone’s interested). He’s got nerves of steel, strong in defence and actually deceptively quick and scores more tries than he’s given credit for. He’s a popular player within the team and well respected.

IMG_1545 - Copy - Copy

For me, if fit, Cliffie H (centre) would come straight back into the team. But in what positon?There’s long been a debate as to where his best position is, and if Gaston Mieres is offered, and if he accepts, a contract with Cov then this will become even more widely discussed.

And for me, he has to play.

I can’t conceive of a situation where we’d ever lose a game because he is playing and someone else isn’t, but I can readily think of ones where his inclusion would win us some.

If we accept that Jones and Mieres should remain in the team, although Jones has had his doubters in certain quarters, then Cliffie has to play  either out on the wing or at centre.

From what I’ve seen of Peter Weightman, he should keep the No 11 shirt now until Dan is fit and ready to return to duties. I feel awkward saying that because no one should

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With Dan Rundle looking to return early next year,  Weightman (top) has the chance until then to show Dom he’ll have some competition for the no 14 shirt

walk (or in Dan’s case, sprint) back into the side, but Dan is such a special talent. It might well be that if Weightman continues to score tries and improve as he is, he could be challenging Dom on the opposite wing – heresy, perhaps, but we’ll see.

So, if it’s not to be on the wing, the only other position that he could play is alongside Rob Knox at 13. Rory Hutchinson is having an impact, but he is a dual register player so might well be called back later in the season. Callum MacBurnie has had a good understanding with Rob in the past, but using Cliffie here is certainly a possibility. Like Cliffie, Callum hasn’t got blistering pace, although he is very strong in defence.

All very academic at the moment, given his absence, but he’ll be in the reckoning at some stage this season.

And he’d be in my side, for sure. But I’d swop Pricey and Hope over, have Courtney Roberts getting more game time and have Haloti Malitika on the bench instead of Daniel Carpo. So what do I know.

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I’m excited about Saturday already. Having had to miss the Cinderford game, it’s good to have a run of games to look forward to. If we play to our potential, then Henley could have a long, hard afternoon at the Butts.

But it is a big if, given our inconsistency so far this season…

However, in the bleak mid-winter, the frosty wind will indeed moan…on some Saturdays more than others, I expect.

…but there’s a warmth beginning to glow from the smouldering embers of what seemed a season lost just a couple of weeks ago…

….and who’s to say those embers won’t burst into flame sometime this season…

…and who’s to say it won’t be on Saturday?

Not me, that’s for sure.

 

 

 

 

Update scores on website…

Categories:Club talk

8 replies »

  1. Just came across your site Tim and would just like to congratulate you on a fantastic and refreshing view of Coventry Rugby! Great read and loads of relevant information – whoever manages Cov RFC’s own website has a lot to learn! Can’t you takeover their site???

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    • Thanks, Simon – that’s really kind of you. It’s a labour of love as much as anything; something I enjoy doing and hopefully a few others do too.
      Please do comment as and when…the more discussion the better!
      And as for the Coventry website…if you read back you’ll see I’m not altogether enthused by it!!!
      Kind regards,
      Tim

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  2. At the start of the season unlike others who where saying this is our year. I did not want to jump on that bandwagon. But I very much do agree that we have the strongest squad since entering his division. Given that injuries and illness have disrupted the selection process, But being a person who thinks that sooner or later we are due that run of luck to turn our way. It has been hard for the coaching staff to find some quality of play throughout this period. Like many put yourself in their shoes, with few changes and most forced on you. Would you not have done the same ? This coming Saturday we face Henley Hawks are we not all expecting another victory ? I hope so but nothing in any given weekend is on the cards. So lets all get behind the team whoever is selected this Saturday.

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    • Quite right, Mick…as always you are the voice of reason. We are due a change of luck – hopefully injuries will lessen and the likes of Wolfenden, Preece and of course Rundle will add more quality and choice. I do think there were some odd decisions regarding selections, but as you quite rightly say, the coaches hands were somewhat tied.
      But your final comment…the need for us all to get behind the team…is the most important.
      Keeping the faith…
      Tim

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  3. My theory on Matt (and I have weird theories) is he has the brain of a super athlete but wasn’t quite blessed with the physicality to match!

    His rugby brain saw him capped by Wales and become our lynch pin. Had he have been built like Sonny Bill he’d have 50+ caps. He sometimes gets criticised for kicking the ball away, but I’m convinced in his mind he’s always about to deliver the prefect positional punt. His body doesn’t always work in perfect tandem with his brain!

    Watching his goal kicking on Saturday, I think the same is true. He is very relaxed about placement of the ball and his run up expecting it to sale through every time… Against Hartpury I was stood directly behind a couple of his missed kicks. The ball went exactly where he’d pointed it which was unfortunately 10 yards left of the posts! My mate and I called it before it had left the kicking tee. A little more precision and attention to detail and I think the success rate would soar.

    All said and done, he’s undroppable at number 10 for me (favouring the talented footballer over the super athlete as I do)!!

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    • Lol…I certainly like theory!
      He’s also an undroppable for me, too. His kicking from hand can be exceptionable, particularly the chip through for the wingers or centres to run on to…Dan benefited from that several times last season. Sometimes, I think he’s kicking to instructions rather than kicking poorly…
      Normally, he wouldn’t be called upon to take the place kicks so I do have some sympathy for him…I’d rather see him not have to have that added responsibility…if Gaston is a competent kicker then perhaps he could take over the duties…
      Love watching Matt though…he exudes class and his partnership with Wayne has been one of the strengths of the team for the last season or so.

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  4. And the additional item to put into the mix is the question as to whether Gaston Mieres is going to stay. If he does (and let’s hope so) maybe he could be given the responsibility of taking the place kicks. Tom Little mentioned him on the message board the other day as having the ability to kick, so should he be given the opportunity?

    Like

    • Yep, Cliff…that’s a very fair point and one that perhaps should be explored further.
      I’m a great Cliffie fan though and think there is a place in the side for him if it’s felt his overall game will add another dimension to the team.
      There is a place in the centres up for grabs alongside Rob Knox and at the moment no one is really make claim on it…

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