Loughborough on Saturday.
It might not seem the most important of games on paper…10th against 12th and with little but pride to play for, but in reality there’s so much more at stake.
On a run of 3 consecutive defeats and with morale pretty low, another defeat for Coventry would be a bitter blow. We haven’t lost to any of the 6 teams below us in the league as of now, so defeat to Loughborough would be serious.
If Coventry are to go into a run of very difficult games with any belief that they an come away with enough points to feel confident about the remainder of the season, then a win on Saturday is imperative.
Coventry will have had two weeks to try and address some of the problems that Scott Morgan outlined in the Coventry Telegraph article before Christmas, particularly the propensity to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory; something they did with alarming regularity in the weeks running up to the Christmas break. A different game plan? Or a different approach to team selection?
In two days time we’ll know just what the reaction from the players will be…and from the crowd, too.
The crowd has a huge part to play on Saturday and as the 16th man can make a real difference, lifting the team to produce a performance that will not only be good enough to earn them the four or five points, but will also set them up for the remainder of the season.
So just how do the teams stack up against each other…?
Coventry v Loughborough Students – the stats:
Coventry (10th – 35pts): WWLLWWLLLWWWLLL
Loughborough Students (12th – 29pts): LLLWWLLLLWWLLLW
There’s really very little to choose between the two teams on current form, with both teams winning 3 and losing 3 from their last 6 games, the only difference being that Loughborough Students ended the run up to Christmas with a win against Hull Ionians 28-24, so at least had the satisfaction of a win whereas Coventry, in losing to Ampthill as they did, start the new year on a run of three consecutive defeats.
Whilst Coventry might be 2 places above the Students, they are only 6 points in front of them and a defeat on Saturday will move them even closer to the relegation places. A win will ease a little of the pressure from a Coventry team that has underperformed all season and from the coaching staff who are starting to come under increasing pressure from a small but fairly vociferous group of supporters.
Home/away league tables
Coventry: 10th in the league based on home games only (21 pts – av. 2.63 pts pm) F208 A151 Diff +57
Loughborough Students: 11th in the league based on away games only (14 pts – av. 1.75 pts pm) F162 A186 Diff – 24
Neither teams’ records, Coventry’s at home and Loughborough’s away, are particularly impressive.
Loughborough Students have conceded an average of 23.25 points per game away from home, whilst Coventry have scored an average of 26 points per game at the Butts, so realistically if the conditions are favourable, if Coventry score even slightly above the average, then they should have the upper hand. Loughborough have only scored an average of 20.25 on their travels so that bodes well. Coventry haven’t lost heavily at home in the four games they’ve lost and should feel confident that they can beat a Loughborough side that have only won 2 out of their 8 away games.
However, the big worry for Cov supporters is the fact that in all three of the most recent defeats, Cov have got themselves into a decent position, a winning position at that, and then faded away in the final 20 minutes or so. Loughborough Students 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.
I’m not convinced Coventry have always used their bench as effectively as they could – fresh legs coming on with 20 minutes to go should make a big difference but it’s almost as if Scott Morgan doesn’t trust the players coming on to do just that.
Coventry (8th): 46 (24 home, 22 away, 24 first half, 22 second half)
Loughborough Students (13th): 39 (21 home, 18 away, 14 first half, 25 second half)
Having mentioned Coventry’s frailties in the final quarter, the above statistic is especially important.
Whilst Loughborough have only scored 39 tries in total and just 18 of those away from home, they have scored 25 of them in the second half and 16 of those in the final 20 minute period.
This has to be a real concern. If the game is close going into that last 20 minute period, then Coventry could find it very difficult to hold out. Presumably, the Students have youth and plenty more time available for fitness work outside of their studies, on their side.
This, compounded by the fact that Coventry score fewer tries in the second half anyway, must be something of a concern to the coaches. Hopefully, we will have enough points on the board by half time to make it less so, but this is Coventry we’re talking about here, so who knows…
The experienced players, the likes of Evans, Hodgson, Mieres, Poole, Price, Oliver and co must ensure that they don’t concede penalties and allow Loughborough any chance of getting a foot in the door should we have an advantage come the final quarter. It’s something that hasn’t really happened so far this season and we’ve seen far too many leads squandered through inexperience and a lack of leadership on and off the pitch.
Coventry: 45 – 9th (18 home, 27 away, 26 first half, 19 second half)
Loughborough Students : 37 – 8th (22 home, 25 away, 22 first half, 25 second half)
Another statistic that is slightly in our favour. We have conceded only 18 tries at home at an average of 2.25 tries per match whilst Loughborough have conceded 25 away from home at an average of 3.125. which is a fairly significant difference. However, with Coventry’s tendency to leak points during the second half, particularly through ill-discipline, that might not be enough. 26 tries scored in the first 40 minutes illustrates clearly how well we often start in games BUT we must go on to maintain that form during the second half, something we haven’t been able to do consistently up to now.
Tries by position – against
Coventry: backs 20, forwards 23 (wings 14, back row 14) 3PT
Loughborough Students : backs 19, forwards 26 (back row 16) 2PT
Coventry remain prone to tries out wide and with Loughborough scoring heavily through their backs, this must be something of a concern for the Coventry coaches. With the Student’s only scoring 7 tries though their forwards in total this season, the threat from the back row (another are that has been a problem for us) is going to be less noticeable.
However, Loughborough seem to struggle against strong sets of forwards and undoubtedly ours are just that. If we can put some early pressure onto the Loughborough set pieces, I do feel this could work very much in our favour. Their back s will only be effective if they get to see a fair amount of the ball and in our forwards, we have the players who can prevent that from happening.
Tries by position – for
Coventry: 24 in the backs, 19 in the forwards. 13 from the wings and 12 from the front row. 3PT
Loughborough Students : 31 in the backs, 7 in the forwards. 16 from the wingers. 1PT
Of all the set of statistics I’ve commented on so far this season, this has to be the most bizarre…and perhaps the most worrying.
Loughborough have scored a staggering 31 of their 39 tries this season through their backs – or 79%, with only 7 tries coming from their forwards, the lowest total in the league by a country mile. Clearly, Loughborough are a team who like to throw the ball around a bit and we saw how susceptible to pace Cov are when we went down to Esher.
Their forwards, though, perhaps aren’t as dominant as some that we have faced and the ‘catch and drive’ from a line-out doesn’t look to be such a feature of their game, which is something of a relief. However, if we do what we have sometimes have tended to do and kick the ball aimlessly into the Loughborough 22, we could find that the ball is being returned with considerable interest.
Retention of the ball is going to be crucial and if our forwards, who have played consistently well over the last few games despite the defeats, can get a stranglehold on the opposition and prevent the ball getting to their backs, then that should allow us to boss the game. In all likelihood, the conditions won’t be favourable for running which again might work in our favour, but if we can’t hold onto the ball ourselves, then we might find life extremely difficult.
Points given up
Coventry have conceded 4 tries 5 times this season, but only once at home
Loughborough Students have conceded 4 tries 6 times in all, 4 of those being away from home.
The fact that we have only conceded 4 tries once at the Butts indicates just how close most of the 4 losses have been. Whilst home isn’t the fortress it once was, we have defended well and should we do so again, the points will be ours. Loughborough have leaked tries away from home and this is something we must take advantage of. An attacking game, designed to put Loughborough under pressure early on is important, although there is no need to rush things unduly.
Coventry: 22 yellows/2 of which became red at an average of 1.38 cards a game (12 first half, 10 second half, 8 home, 14 away).
Loughborough Students : statistics not available
With no information available for Loughborough Students, I can only comment on Coventry. And the concerns remain.
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:
Also, to have 21 yellow cards – two of which became a red – in half a season is not acceptable. Some teams don’t get that in two seasons.
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 to 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.
Half time win/loss
Coventry have led at half time in 8 of their games, going on to win 7 of them.
Loughborough Students have led at half time in 6 of their games, going on to win only 3 of them.
Coventry have lost all 7 games in which they were trailing at the half way mark. In a losing position at half time in 4 of their games, Loughborough Students have gone on to lose 3 of them.
Coventry have a far better record of converting half time leads into full time wins than Loughborough, something that augers well if we can have a dominant first half performance. However, Coventry have yet to turn a half time loss into a full time win, something that Loughborough have done once.
I’m not sure why Coventry aren’t able to turn around a first half deficit, 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 7 games they’ve been down in prior to this Saturday. And that is a worry.
Kicking strike rate
Matt Jones – Coventry: 69.01% (49/71)
Thomas James – Loughborough Students: 65.57% (19/29)
William Edwards – Loughborough Students: 57.65% (15/26)
With Matt Jones presumably still unavailable though injury, Cliffie Hodgson will resume the kicking duties and whilst stats aren’t available for him as yet, his 72% strike rate last season is considerably better than anything either of the two Loughborough kickers can offer.
Hodgson’s class and experience could be a telling factor and it will be good to see him back at the Butts. A popular figure, he will instil confidence in the team where perhaps it has been lacking so far this season. In a tight game, I’d always fancy Cliffie to kick a penalty to win the game, whereas as we saw against Rosslyn Park, the same isn’t quite so true of Matt Jones, although he is arguably the better fly half.
Leading points scorers
Coventry: Matt Jones with 122 points (25C, 24P)
Loughborough Students: Thomas James with 63 points (3T, 9C, 10P)
Leading try scorers
Coventry: Ron Knox 7, Matt Price 7, Devlin Hope 5
Loughborough Students : George Eastwell 5
Rob Knox remains out in front on 7, but the two hookers aren’t far behind and if the scrum can dominate in the way it has over recent weeks, they are likely to add to their totals, whoever is given the nod to start the game. Presumably, it will be Matt Price as seems to be the norm so far this season.
Coventry average a rather disappointing 1129 at home so far this season (down nearly 400 on last year), a reflection of the poor results and inability of the club to ‘sell’ the game day package to local supporters.
Hopefully, a decent number of supporters will travel across from Loughborough and make their presence felt. However, with their average home gate being just 401, it is unlikely to make a great deal of difference to the overall attendance figure.
With home advantage, I’m going for a 5-0 Coventry win. The break will have done us some good and I’m sure that if we start off well, confidence will quickly grow and Cov will produce a whole team performance that will leave the crowd happy and hopeful come the final whistle.
Day 7 of the ‘Coventry’s Most Valuable Player’ poll results and this time it’s the 6th place that’s published.
And you voted for:
Sam Pailor. Well done, Sam
Sam has made 54 appearances for Coventry in National 1, scoring 15 tries in total. At his best, Sam is an automatic choice, one of the first names on the team sheet. Well for me, anyway.
He’s a strong runner and with ball in hand he’s a fantastic player to watch, running hard and direct at the opposition. Defensively, he is a rock, and as Scott Morgan would say, he ‘puts his body on the line’ time and time again. (The terrible injury he sustained to his nose a couple of seasons ago bears witness to that).
Supporters speak very highly of Sam, and he is always one of the first to acknowledge the crowd after a game, whether Cov have won or lost. More than most, Sam seems to understand what wearing the Coventry shirt really means and the crowds respect him for it, as is shown by the number of votes he received in the poll.
Whilst it probably hasn’t been the greatest of seasons so far for Sam, I have been troubled by his absence from the team for the last couple of games.
(This is where the club’s lack of communication is so poor – no news from the club leads supporters to believe Sam has been ‘rested’ rather than just injured. If this is the case, then given his loyalty to the club, someone should explain the situation…he’s owed that much at least).
Sixth position might be a fair reflection at the moment of his impact on the pitch but if the poll was about determining the respect supporters have for players, Sam would undoubtedly be in the top 3.
Tomorrow will see 5th place in the MVP poll announced.