Ampthill: ‘Tis the season to be jolly…
If you haven’t already voted in the Coventry’s MVP poll, please click on the link below and scroll down. It’s very tight at the top, so the more votes the better! I’ll countdown the top 12 players from Christmas Day onwards.
The poll will have to close next Monday as they only stay ‘live’ for a week…
With no talk now of promotion, at the moment Scott Morgan is free to experiment with both the team and his game plan(s) in order to find a combination of the two that is going to give Cov the best chance of developing the nucleus of a side that will be best placed to make a real impact at the top of the league next season.
He is in a difficult position for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that whilst the pressure is off him to a certain extent given the club have accepted their hopes for this season are already scattered to the four corners of the Butts and every other ground in National 1, he must win matches in order to retain the confidence the supporters presently have in him.
And for many of the Cov faithful, that is already greatly reduced from the level is was back in September.
His promotion last week to Head Of Rugby would seem to make Scott’s position less vulnerable but, as with any team, no coach is immune from a run of losses. So in wanting to tinker around with things, he cannot afford to lose matches, too.
In one sense, Scott has received the dreaded chairman’s ‘vote of confidence’…and having lost the first game since the announcement, Scott will be keen for the team to produce not only a win, but also plenty of hope for the second half of the season.
Another loss and Cov fans will begin to wonder how the remainder of the season will pan out. Given we’re closer to the relegation places in terms of points than we are to promotion, a couple of losses for us and a few strange results at the wrong end of the table and we could be yet be dragged into a relegation battle.
Unlikely, but not beyond the realms of possibility, particularlygiven the topsy-turvy way results have gone so far this season.
So Coventry’s game against Ampthill is by no means a dead rubber…so a very important game for Coventry.
Let’s hope this really is the season to be jolly, after all.
Here’s how the teams look on paper…
Ampthill v Coventry – the stats:
Ampthill (7th – 38pts): WWWDWLLWWLLLW
Coventry (8th – 35pts): WWLLWWLLLWWWLL
Whilst there are only 3 points and one league place between the two teams, Ampthill have a game in hand following the postponement of last weekend’s fixture against Fylde which fell victim to the heavy rains of the previous few days that left standing water on the pitch.
Neither team goes into the game with much in the way of form, although Ampthill did manage a narrow win against Hull Ionians in their last game, 22-21.
Having had such a great start to the season, Ampthill have lost 5 of their last 8 games which is exactly the same as Coventry. However, with home advantage and Coventry having lost two consecutive games, Ampthill must fancy their chances against an underperforming Cov side that have, on occasions, shown some signs of improvement. However, as yet Coventry don’t seem to be able to maintain their best levels for a full 80 minutes.
Home/away league tables
Ampthill: 10th in the league based on home games only (21 pts – av. 3.00 pts pm) F150 A147 Diff 3
Coventry: 9th in the league based on away games only (15 pts – av. 2.5 pts pm) F141 A147 Diff 6
Neither teams’ records, Ampthill’s at home and Coventry’s away, are particularly impressive.
Ampthill have conceded an average of 21 points per game at home, whilst Coventry have conceded over 23 points per game on their travels, so realistically if the conditions are favourable, both defences could find themselves stretched. Heavy defeats for Coventry by Esher, and to a lesser extent Richmond, skew their results slightly, but Coventry will need to ensure that they remain focused from the very first whistle.
The last two games have seen us start well, get into winning positions and then fade away in the final 20 minutes or so. Ampthill will clearly be aware of this and will look to take advantage of any signs of Cov loosening their grip late on in the game.
Coventry weren’t helped at Darlington when the team bus didn’t arrive until 4.00 am that Saturday morning. Hopefully, a more relaxed journey will ensure Coventry are that much more relaxed come kick off.
Ampthill (11th): 37 (21 home, 16 away, 18 first half, 19 second half)
Coventry (8th): 42 (24 home, 19 away, 24 first half, 19 second half)
Given Ampthill have played a game less than Coventry, there is very little difference between the two sides, although Coventry have tended to score fewer tries away from home.
Coventry seem to score less tries in the second half which confirms Cov’s tendency of late to have a strong first half, but then tending to tail off in the final quarter.
With Ampthill showing no apparent signs of doing something similar, Coventry simply cannot afford to take their foot off the gas and allow Ampthill back into the game should they take the lead early on.
Tactically we’ve been a bit naïve of late, especially when having the advantage in numbers, as against Blackheath last week. Given it’s unlikely that Jones will be fit enough to play following the injury to his knee, whoever plays fly half will need to make some important decisions as to when to kick or pass the ball out wide, depending on the balance of the game.
If Cliffie is fit enough to return, it might well be that he gets the no 10 shirt. Failing that, Caolan Ryan would be the other obvious choice.
Ampthill : 37 – 11th (21 home, 16 away, 18 first half, 19 second half)
Coventry: 43 – 10th (18 home, 22 away, 23 first half, 17 second half)
Again, another fairly close set of stats given Cov have played a game more. Perhaps what is slightly surprising is the fact that Cov have conceded overall less tries in the second half than the first. Coventry’s tendency to fade in the second half is relatively recent with the first half overall being the time when Coventry are most likely to concede tries.
With Coventry conceding 12 tries in the final quarter and Ampthill 11, it would seem that both teams could be susceptible to sustained pressure in the final quarter.
One of the worrying things for me last week was that the replacements didn’t have the impact that we might have hoped for. With oppositions tiring in the final 20 minutes, fresh legs coming on should make a difference. Hopefully, by replacing the right players at the right time, this is something we will be able to use to our advantage given we usually have a strong bench.
Tries by position – for
Ampthill : backs 19, forwards 17 (wing 11, back row 13) 1PT
Coventry: backs 22, forwards 18 (front row 11, centres 12) 3PT
Ampthill don’t seem to favour either their backs or forwards when it comes to the scoring of their tries. However, they clearly get the ball out wide with their wingers sharing 11 tries between them, and we know how vulnerable Cov can be to width and pace. They also they have a back row capable of causing damage close in.
Coventry, however, tend to score through the centres and not the wings these days, a sign perhaps they haven’t yet managed to make up for the loss of Dan Rundle and Will Hurrell. In the forwards it is the front row, and more specifically the hookers, who tend to get their names on the score sheets.
The real plus in perhaps all of the last 5 games has been the dominance of the pack. Chad Thorne’s return to the front row seems to have coincided with this and despite his poor disciplinary record, he has definitely made a big difference up front. If Cov can do the same to the Ampthill pack as they did to Darlington and Blackheath’s, then I am sure we will come away with the points, provided we use our replacements sensibly.
When Kivalu came on last week, we seemed to lose the dominance up front, so perhaps there’s a lesson to be learned there.
Tries by position – against
Ampthill : 20 in the backs, 14 in the forwards. 12 from the wingers. 3PT
Coventry: 17 in the backs, 21 in the forwards. 14 from the wings and 12 from the back row. 2PT
It would appear that if Ampthill are vulnerable it is our backs who might do most damage, with Ampthill conceding 20 tries, 12 of which have been scored by wingers. Could be try time for Rob Knox this week.
Coventry have only scored 5 tries in total from the wings which is the 14th lowest total in the league (behind Henley and Blaydon) a fact that highlights just how much we have had to change our game plan this season. Dom hasn’t really had much ball to work with and when he has had some, he’s been closed down quickly by the opposition, presumably aware of his record last season.
If Ampthill might be vulnerable from out wide, Coventry most definitely are and this is an area we just don’t seem able to defend against. However, opposition wingers aren’t causing quite the damage they did earlier in the season and, post Esher, we do look more solid when teams are running at us, but maybe that’s more about the quality of the opposition than it is about our improved defences.
Points given up
Ampthill have conceded 4 tries twice in all, 1 of those being away at home.
Coventry have conceded 4 tries 4 times this season, three times away from
Slightly worrying this one in that when Cov have lost away from home, on three occasions, they tend to lose big! If the game remains tight, then it would seem the odds are better on a Cov win. With Ampthill not particularly prolific either at home or away, I’d use this as a pointer to perhaps a closer game than some of the previous stats have suggested.
Until we come to …
Ampthill : statistics not available
Coventry: 19 yellows/1 red – worst in the league. This doesn’t include Evans’ second yellow against Fylde that was converted into the red – average of 1.26 cards a game (11 first half, 8 second half, 7 home, 12 away).
With no information available for Ampthill, I can only comment on Coventry. And the concerns remain.
Another yellow for Coventry last week, this time for Kivalu.
I can only keep reiterating what I’ve said previously, together with every other person whose commented on Cov’s discipline, or lack thereof…it’s just not possible to play against good teams with only 13 or 14 players, even if it’s for just 8 or 9 minutes. It’s a struggle with 14…in the time we had less than 15 players on the pitch we conceded more than the 8 points we lost by. Scott Morgan is certainly well aware of how serious our record is:
…it’s the single biggest problem we have and it is happening far too often.
The majority of the offences are for technical fouls, so it probably unfair to blame the final offender when often it’s a culmination of penalties committed by several offenders that results in his dismissal. Coventry have got to learn how to respond to a referee when he is clearly unhappy about an aspect or aspects of their play and do so in a way that prevents the number of penalties conceded impacting on the result of the game.
Other clubs don’t have the same problems and it is not correct to say we are being targeted be referees. Provided there is consistency, then we can have no complaints and for the most part, the yellows we have received haven’t been challenged by the crowd. Often it’s come about because we have been under intense pressure from line-outs or scrums in our own 22, usually the result of previous offences that have lead to a kick to the corner.
Once players understand what it is they are doing wrong, then they can address the problem – so the coaches must have a big part to play if we are to reduce our number of yellows for the season to an acceptable level.
Sam Pailor (4Y), Chad Thorne (Y) and Tom Poole (2Y) are the principal offenders, with Wayne Evans having received the only red.
Half time win/loss
Ampthill have led at half time in 7 of their games, going on to win 6 of them.
Coventry have led at half time in 8 of their games, going on to win 7 of them.
In a losing position at half time in 6 of their games, Ampthill have gone on to lose 5 of them. Coventry have lost all 6 games in which they were trailing at the half way mark.
Coventry last week lost their 100% record of winning every game where they’ve gone into half time in the lead. Ampthill have been able to do what Coventry haven’t and that’s turn around a half time loss into a full time win, but only on one occasion. Despite this though, whoever is winning at half time is likely to come out on top after 80 minutes.
I’m not sure why Coventry aren’t able to turn around a half time loss into a win, especially as some of the games have been closely contested after 40 minutes. But the fact remains, if Coventry aren’t winning at the break, they are going to have to do something they haven’t been able to do in any of the 6 games they’ve been down in prior to this Saturday.
Kicking strike rate
Elliot Clemens-Hill – Ampthill : 60.71% (34/56)
Matt Jones – Coventry: 69.01% (49/71)
Until last week, this is where Coventry would definitely have had the upper hand, with Matt Jones being far more reliable a place kicker than Clemens-Hill. If he is fit enough to play, then that advantage stays but if, as seems likely, Matt is not able to play, then the situation is unclear. Caolan Ryan only has a 50% success rate with 3/6 attempts, but this isn’t statistically viable given the paucity of attempts.
The coaches must be concerned though that Ryan is a risk in this area of his game, although he does have strengths elsewhere, especially in his pace and his desire to run with the ball in hand, particularly from full back.
It might be that the coaches opt for a different player which could mean a swift return for Cliffie Hodgson, but he would need to be 100% certain that he is back to full fitness. He is too important a player to take any sort of risk with and better to play safe and use perhaps Hutchinson at 10 if the feeling is that Ryan is not reliable enough as a kicker (or even switch Mieres to 10)…
In a tight game, a penalty or conversion could be the deciding points, so it is imperative that Coventry go with the player they feel is going to cope best with the pressure.
Leading points scorers
Ampthill: Elliot Clemens-Hill with 118 points (8T, 24C, 10P)
Coventry: Matt Jones with 122 points (25C, 24P)
Elliot Clemens-Hill is an obvious dangerous at fly half, not only kicking goals but scoring tries as well. What is interesting is that he has only 10 penalties (out of 19 attempts) to his name which might suggest that as a team Ampthill either tend not to trust his kicking so opt for touch, prefer to run the ball back at the opposition (a la Fylde), or just aren’t awarded penalties to the same extent that other teams are.
Compare this to 32 penalty attempts by Matt Jones!
Leading try scorers
Ampthill : Eliot Clemens-Hill 8
Coventry: Ron Knox 6, Matt Price 5, Devlin Hope 5
None of Coventry’s top try scorers were able to add to their totals last Saturday, so the same comment applies as for last week, namely the two hookers, Matt Price and Devlin Hope, continue to trade tries with Devlin scoring the last of their tries against Darlington. Scott Morgan seems likely to stick with Matt Price this week, although in terms of purely tries scored to time on pitch, Devlin’s strike rate is the best in the club.
I always enjoy watching a fly half who is prepared to run with the ball, as would appear to be the case with Elliot Clemens-Hill. Hopefully, though, the Cov back row will be able to prevent quick ball getting to him, or the defences can be up early (but not illegally) to stifle any threat he might present.
Hopefully, a decent number of supporters travel up to Ampthill and will make their presence felt. A coach is going, which by the sound of it will be fully booked, and many supporters make their way by car or public transport as well.
Figures for Ampthill average attendance are not available this week, but their last home crowd, v Hull Ionians, was a meagre 215 so anything like the usual number of away support could really help lift the Cov team.
Despite Ampthill’s home advantage, I’m going for a 1-4 Coventry win.
As my dad used to say, ‘I can feel it in my water..’.
A seasonal joke (works with any club)…
Q. What’s the difference between Ampthill* and a turkey?
A. Both get stuffed at Christmas…
I’m here all week.
Thank you and goodnight…
Apologies to Ampthill – feel free to use it about Coventry…(it’s probably nearer the mark, anyway!)