We have conceded far too many penalties so far this season.
And every time Coventry are penalised anywhere in our own half, it seems as if it is almost de rigueur these days for the opposition to kick to the corner and then use the ensuing possession from the lineout to drive for the line.
And with great success.
More often than not opposing teams will opt for this, rather than taking the three points. Whether it’s because they’ve done their homework on us, or simply because it’s now part of the modern game, I’m not sure.
But it definitely appears to be standard practice against Cov. You can imagine Blackheath’s initial training session this week starting off something like this:
We’ve got Cov on Saturday lads. Good team, but always susceptible to the ol’ one, two.
You know…catch and drive…Front row, you collapse the scrum anywhere in their half, fool the ref into believing it’s Cov and let’s go for the 5 point option.
How many of the Darlington’s tries resulted from penalties followed by kicks into the corner? Was it two or three? And, of course, in trying to defend the rolling maul Coventry commit themselves to stopping it at all costs.
Result..yellow card…or even cards, plural.
Once the maul starts to roll, it’s extremely difficult to stop as Coventry have found out time and time again. Especially when the opposition centres join in and well, quite literally, push comes to shove…
And of course we then have 10 minutes when we’re down to 14, or even 13, players. And that means…well it’s all been said before, so I won’t repeat it here.
I don’t attach blame to those being carded for pulling the man down or preventing release of the ball, or whatever else the infringements might be. Players do what they have to do to prevent the try.
No, for me, the real problem stems not from the lineout, or the catch and drive, but from the penalty that led to the kick to the 5m line in the first place.
If we didn’t concede so many penalties, then the opposition wouldn’t be able to put the pressure on us from the line-outs so close to our try line.
Whilst 40 -50 m out seems reasonably safe, with the likes of Darlington’s Gary Law able to kick the ball within 15m of our line from any where outside of his own 40m mark, then there isn’t any where that’s safe from within 60m of our line.
Sam Pailor has had 4 yellows this season, but I think all have been for technical transgressions that have come after the referee has warned the captain about repeated offences and what will happen if they infringe again. It just happens that Sam been the first person after the warning who’s deemed to be the transgressor.
He’s the one with the cards to his name, but he’s taken the hits for the team.
It could have been anyone in the pack…
Yellow cards for physical violations such as those of Wayne Evans and Chad Thorne, well they are far less forgivable. They are examples of poor self-discipline and could easily be prevented by showing a little more responsibility and a lot less volatility.
However, the players who are yellow carded for technical reasons shouldn’t be tarred with the same brush. It is the whole team that should take responsibility for their carding; the players and the coaches, too.
Too often we seem to fall foul of the referees, more so than the opposing teams. It’s happening all too often to blame the poor quality of refereeing at this level. And worse still, we seem to be incapable of addressing those areas of our game that are incurring the wrath of the men in black.
Presumably, the coaches look at the tape of the last game prior to the weekly Tuesday and Thursday training sessions, included in which would be the referee’s on-the-field comments, so they would be well aware of what he is awarding penalties for.
And surely, irrespective of whether the coaches feel the referees are correct in their decisions or not, they will be preparing the players to cater for a referees’ differing interpretations of the laws.
If the referee is saying this, then you have to do this…the one thing you don’t do is continue doing the same thing.
And presuming the coaches are doing this, then the leaders on the pitch need to be making their presence felt…ensuring that the players understand what they are being penalised for and changing the plan from A to B to accommodate this, as practised in the training sessions.
So rather than blame individual players for being yellowed as a result of persistent technical infringements, perhaps the real fault lies in our inability to adjust to a referee’s particular interpretation of the laws.
I know the club do their homework on the referees, but somewhere Cov aren’t able to adjust on the pitch once decisions start to go against them.
Against Darlington, we had phases where we played some really fluid rugby, with the backs making good yards and the forwards dominant in the scrum…but too often the good work was undone by the referee’s whistle.
Saturday’s game against Darlington is the only game this season where I’ve commented on the apparent inconsistency of the referee’s decisions. But that is something you have to prepare for – good teams cope with poor decisions because they have alternative game plans.
Maybe we do, but we don’t appear to be able to bring them into play.
We would have beaten Darlington without such a high penalty count on Saturday. At least two, and probably three, of their tries came as a result of Coventry infringements initially some distance from our line. If Cov can eradicate a good percentage of the penalties conceded for technical offences, then we will be in a much stronger position in a couple of months time.
When we go though the phases, we often make good ground and put the opposition under real pressure, something which is made much harder when possession is lost as a result of yet another penalty awarded against us.
The yellow cards are symptomatic not of a lack of discipline at an individual level, but of an inability at team, or even club, level to react to the ways referees are interpreting the laws of the game.
At the moment it’s a case of the tail wagging the dog…
Apparently, David Beckham prefers watching rugby to football.
Or so the article in ‘The Times’ yesterday would have us believe:
I love watching it and I love the whole thing…people sitting together with no nastiness.
There’s something about the enthusiasm for the game in a rugby crowd that beats football, where the spectators can turn sour if things are going wrong.
Fair play though, Beckham has been to a lot of games of late, including watching many of the recent World Cup fixtures.
His experience of the sponsors’ boxes and VIP areas of Twickenham and The Millennium Stadium have given him a clear understanding of what it means to be a typical rugby supporter up and down the country.
So glad he’s fast becoming an ambassador for rugby as well.
The same article did make the point that rugby is expanding exponentially at the moment and is now played in 119 countries (and this blog has been read in 49 of them so far in just four months!), with almost 100 nations involved in the qualifying stages of this year’s World Cup.
Rugby is said to be the fastest growing sport in the USA.
Although the World Cup was hugely successful with the British public, with 11.6m watching the final on television, the highest figure since the 2007 final, as yet it sadly doesn’t seem to have impacted positively on attendances at the Butts.
However, Coventry do some fantastic work through their community outreach programme and they are involved with lots of local schools in the area. And it’s through the schools that Coventry will attract its next generation of supporters, and maybe even some players.
It’s something that goes under the radar for much of the time, but it is vital if the game is to develop within the city, with or without our premiership neighbours. It’s through the work of players like Matt Price that Coventry will attract the support, both in the present and in the future.
Matt does a fantastic job overseeing all the various community projects and having been contacted by parents and teachers of pupils who have benefited from the club’s involvement, perhaps it’s appropriate here to mention here the Christmas Camp on the 21st and 22nd December where members of the Coventry squad will be in attendance.
Hopefully, with the World Cup still fresh in the memories of so many youngsters, the two days will be very well attended.
And perhaps one day, one or two of them might don the famous blue and white hoops themselves…
Now wouldn’t that be something?