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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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…