A cut above the rest
Even after reflecting on Saturday’s game for another 24 hours, I still think it was a decent win, with far more positives than negatives. The second half was disappointing, mainly because of the manner in which we lost our discipline in those opening 5 minutes. Had we not done so, I’m sure we wouldn’t have been on the back foot during the final 35 minutes quite as much as we were.
Loosing two players as we did meant unnecessary pressure was placed on those 13 left on the pitch for the ten minute period they were ‘sinbinned’ and I’m sure it is physically far more demanding to defend with 13 than it is with 15. And in turn, that must have had some impact in the final 20.
It also gave Henley renewed belief that they could get something from the game…in short, the two yellows changed the whole course of the second half and must have really angered the coaches, given team discipline had been so much better in the previous two games.
Perhaps Messrs Thomas and Thorne should have read the programme notes prior to kick off. Jon Sharp, no less, wrote in his weekly ‘Welcome to the Boardroom’ section:
…we will have to eradicate those sloppy aspects of our play if we are to succeed against the best teams
I’m sure, then, that he won’t have been impressed watching those first 5 minutes of the second half as Coventry appeared to go into self-destruct mode. However, despite conceding the try immediately after Thorne’s departure, the Cov’s defences held relatively firm and for me this was one of the positives to come out of the remaining 35 minutes, even though we handed Henley the impetus they appeared to lack when we were so dominant in the first half.
As if the threat of relegation wasn’t incentive enough…?
I had hoped that the attendance for the Henley game might be a season’s best, given the recent improvements in results. But it wasn’t to be. A crowd of 1012 was 93 down on the season’s average and this must be something of a concern to the club given that reduced numbers will impact negatively on match day revenue.
I guess this puts even more pressure on those responsible for organising the club’s commercial activities in order to bring in additional monies lost through the lower than expected attendances. In the present climate it can’t be easy to entice sponsors to the club, especially when results on the pitch aren’t going the club’s way either. Whilst the website doesn’t provide a great deal of information for the individual supporter, there is much there for local businesses and sponsors, so hopefully any shortfall is being recouped through commercial revenues.
Certainly, Coventry’s business activities are seen as an area of strength as mentioned by Jon Sharp at the Supporters’ Meeting back in August.
However, it would appear that we were not alone in having lower than average attendances last weekend. Plymouth attracted a crowd of just 927, down 145 on their season’s average whilst Hartpury College, presently at the top of the National 1 table, only attracted a paltry 276 through the turnstiles.
276 and against Loughborough Students as well!
Hartpury usually average 311 at home, so that must have been disappointing to them. With Hartpury’s close links to Gloucester and with their additional funding through the college itself, perhaps this is not such a problem (although it should be…). But, as was mentioned by Paul I a week ago, if they are promoted will they have the facilities required to become a Championship side?
As far as Coventry are concerned, the best way of attracting ‘lost’ supporters back to the Butts (remember last season we averaged 1500+ with a highest attendance of well over 2000) is by winning our games. Who knows, if we can get the win at Darlington (I know, it’s going to be a tough one…), then maybe Blackheath the week after, the final home game before Christmas, might well pull in a few of those we’ve been missing so far this season?
And with Blackheath, the final game of the first round of matches will be concluded. Rollercoasters spring to mind…if the next round of games provides as much excitement and entertainment (I use that term loosely) then it’s going to be one heck of a ride.
Over the last few weeks a lot of supporters, coaches and pundits have referred to the unpredictable nature of National 1 this season. The strangest of results have been occurring…teams expected to do well, or who have hit a bit of form, are beaten by teams at or near the bottom of the league. It’s something I’ve made reference to in this blog as well..
And I think we’ve kept stressing this because in some way it gives us hope that teams above us can be caught. If, on any given Saturday, one or two of the top teams lose, then it means Coventry can make up valuable ground provided they can show the consistency others above us can’t.
In a way, it’s our own comfort blanket.
However, on reflection this unpredictability isn’t quite as it seems. It’s the teams that most of us had expected to be in the leading group come Christmas that are experiencing the most erratic of results…us, Rosslyn Park, Esher and Fylde in particular.
Look at the teams that are presently holding onto the top three places in National 1 and their results are pretty consistent – all have won ten and lost two.
So, irrespective of which teams they might have lost to, their results are pretty steady which doesn’t bode well for Coventry, given that we need to rely on them to drop points in order for us to reach the magic third place regarded as being our initial target since the Esher game. However, there are some interesting fixtures in the run up to Christmas:
Hartpury College Richmond Blackheath Coventry
Rosslyn Park A Loughborough A Fylde H Darlington A
Richmond A Hartpury College H Coventry A Blackheath H
Plymouth H Rosslyn Park A Esher H Ampthill A
The important game for us, other than our own, would appear to be Richmond v Hartpury on the 12th, the same day we play Blackheath. Two big, big games for all four of the teams involved. Depending on the results, the table could look quite different come 4.45 pm.
I appreciate that a lot of supporters don’t like to think too far ahead and just take one game at a time, as Scott Morgan said Cov would be doing in ‘The Rugby Paper’. But given that he also said that he’d like to be ‘top three by Christmas’ , then I think it’s reasonable to see how the fixtures pan out up until the 19th December, just to look at some of the possible scenarios.
So, it will be an interesting three games for Coventry. It is always a risk planning too far ahead but it could also be a motivational factor. 10 points off third, despite what I wrote yesterday (!!!!), might not be as great as it seems.
However, Darlington are a very much a side on the up and although they’ve lost 7 games so far, they’ve won their last three, beating the likes of Plymouth (A), Hull (H) and Fylde (A) and losing by a single point to Richmond in the game prior to their win at Plymouth. It’s going to be a real test of the progress made since Esher and I’m sure the team are relishing the prospect of going up there and proving that they are starting to put together the sort of form that will have Scott Morgan smiling by Christmas…
As supporters, we sometimes forget just what the players have to endure during the course of a game and the extent to which they put their bodies on the line for the sake of the club, and indirectly its supporters.
This was brought home to me yesterday when Matt Price ‘tweeted’ a photo of the injury he sustained some 15 minutes into the second half against Henley, a photo he’s kindly let me use in today’s post. It shows just how physical the sport can be and what a ‘typical’ cut received in a game might look like. At the time the photo was taken, Matt thought it might need 12 stitches. And you can almost hear the conversation Matt will be having with the physio and coaches come Tuesday’s training session – ‘I’m fine, no problem. Put me down to start on Saturday!’.
And a word about Matt…whilst I have been fulsome in my praise of Devlin, Coventry is blessed with two hookers who share much in common. Both never shirk from the hard graft expected of them, both never give any quarter and expect none back in return. If knocked down, they bounce back up again and will carry on doing so all game long.
Whilst Hope is very much the new kid on the block, Pricey made his 100th appearance for Coventry in Sept 2014 against Loughborough and at 32 is in his sixth season at the club. Given his lengthy injury due to major surgery on his neck, Matt has done remarkably well not just to return to Coventry, but return fitter and sharper than before.
He is combative and pugnacious, just the sort of guy you want in your front row, and if trouble breaks out, well, you know where Matt is going to be, smack in the middle of it!
Matt is the number 1 hooker at the moment and rightly so. Devlin Hope will learn a great deal from him and as he gets more game time, I’m sure his own game will be better for it. Both are fantastic players – I’d argue that Devlin is probably the more exciting and charismatic to watch with ball in hand, but Matt does the basics as well as anyone. The fact that Matt has had Devlin keeping the bench warm for much of the season so far speaks volumes about the importance Dave Addleton and Scott Morgan attach to his presence on the pitch.
Add to this the fantastic job he seems to do as Head of Community Rugby and it’s clear just how valuable Matt is to the club.
Well done, Matt. You’re a cut above the rest.
Hope the injury doesn’t prevent you from playing on Saturday – but also that Devlin has a part to play at some point too!