I think I’m more excited about this game than I have been all season.
The league leaders, on a fantastic run of form at the moment and a team that will come here full of confidence and a belief that they’ll win.
It’s just made for an upset.
And Coventry have always been a team for the big occasion.
Their players won’t have played in front of such a large, loud and passionate crowd all season and it will be a good test of them as promotion favourites. How they cope with the atmosphere could well determine the final result and although some of the stats don’t look promising from a Cov perspective at first glance, there’s plenty in them to suggest that Cov have a good chance of taking the points.
With a number of injuries on the rise again, it isn’t immediately clear what the make up of the team will be, especially in the front row and at centre but, whoever plays, the incentive of beating the top team is all that is need to motivate the players into what will hopefully be the best performance of the season so far.
Also, the coaches will want to lay down a marker for the rest of the season by beating one of the top six teams, something Cov have yet to do.
It’s going to be a hard encounter.
And here’s why:
Coventry v Richmond – the stats:
Coventry (9th – 41pts: LLWWWLLLWL
Richmond (1st – 67pts): WWWWWWLWWW
One look at the results of the two teams over the last 10 games is enough to demonstrate the enormity of the task facing Coventry this weekend. Whilst Coventry have lost six games in that period, Richmond have lost just one, illustrating the current gulf in form between the 1st and 9th placed teams in National 1.
Coincidentally, the only team Richmond have lost to during those 10 games is to Hartpury College at home, Coventry’s opponents last week. The score wasn’t dissimilar either, with Richmond losing 27-21.
This season has already thrown up some very strange results, with all of the top teams losing unexpectedly at various times over the last four months.
We have yet to see Coventry produce one of those exceptional performances of which they are sometimes capable, where against all the odds the team produce a herculean effort as underdogs to defeat an opposition that on paper is far stronger.
Could it be Saturday, at home to Richmond?
Well, nothing would surprise at the moment and although most of the statistics do suggest a Richmond victory is on the cards, I’m not sure that even on paper, player for player, Richmond are necessarily the better team. It might well be a lack of confidence and a season blighted by injury that has meant Coventry aren’t yet producing the kinds of performances that we’d hoped for back in September.
A big crowd, a bit of luck and who knows…
…when the Butts rocks, the dog barks…
The Coventry dog that is.
Home/away league tables
Coventry: 7th in the league based on home games only (26 pts – av. 2.88 pts pm) F245 A163 Diff +82
Richmond: 1st in the league based on away games only (35 pts – av. 3.89 pts pm) F295 A206 Diff -89
With Richmond having the best away record in the league, this looks set to be the toughest home game of the season.
Richmond have only lost two games in total away from home, against Plymouth and Esher and they’ve won their last six consecutive away fixtures. Clearly confidence will be high for a Richmond team that have scored more tries than any other team in the league and can boast 3 of the 4 top try scorers to boot.
All very impressive.
But there are some chinks of light in the Richmond armour. For instance, Richmond have conceded an average of 23 points away from home, whilst Coventry have only conceded an average of just 18 at the Butts, which suggests it could yet be a much tighter game than the neutral might expect.
As always though, the worry with Coventry this season is that whilst we have been close in almost every game we’ve lost this season (excepting Esher and Richmond away from home) we have always managed to end up losing a games which are closely contested for the first 60 minutes or so. Provided we don’t give away early points and remain focused and self-disciplined, I believe we have a good chance of coming away with a win.
Although on the losing end 4 times at home all of them have been pretty close and there’s no reason to believe this won’t be a closely fought contest as well.
If Coventry get the PR right and the pre-match publicity is better than it was before Christmas (and it certainly looks to be getting a lot better), then a big crowd, buoyed up by a good first hour, could make a huge difference in the closing minutes of the game. Fresh legs coming off the bench and used wisely could also impact very positively.
Anyway, that’s how I’ve written the script…
Coventry (7th): 53 (29 home, 24 away, 31 first half, 22 second half) – 17 tries: 21-40 minutes
Richmond (Ist): 74 (35 home, 39 away, 40 first half, 34 second half) – 27 tries: 21-40 minutes
As previously mentioned, Richmond are the league’s leading try scorers with an impressive 74 tries so far. Coventry’s defence is going to have to be the best it’s been all season. However, Coventry have far better defensively at home, so maybe there’s another plus to take away from this.
Both teams seem to score a greater percentage of their tries before half time, with the second quarter being the most profitable, especially for Richmond. If the teams are close to level after 40 minutes, the game will be there for the taking provided Cov don’t switch off in the final quarter as they have sometimes been prone to do.
Coventry: 49 – 9th (20 home, 29 away, 29 first half, 20 second half)
Richmond : 41 – 13th (15 home, 26 away, 21 first half, 20 second half)
Another statistic that is slightly in our favour – and one that is something of a surprise, given we so far below them in the table.
Richmond concede an average of 2.88 tries per away game, whilst Coventry concede an average of 2.22 tries at home, something that clearly gives us an advantage going into the game. So, although their scoring record is good, they can also be prone to conceding tries as well. If we manage to avoid giving away needless penalties and thus giving Richmond the option of either kicking the points or going for the corner (something of an Achilles’ heel this season), then we must have an decent chance.
The more I look at the stats, the more I feel Cov are capable of an upset…
Tries by position – against
Coventry: backs 22, forwards 25 (wings 14, back row 14) 2PT
Richmond : backs 27, forwards 12 (wings 11) 2PT
Coventry have only conceded 8 more tries this season which doesn’t seem a lot considering we are 8 places below them in the table. Whilst we seem to be equally prone to forwards and backs scoring against us, Richmond seem more vulnerable from the opposition backs who account for 71% of the tries scored against them.
Now last year, when Dom, Will and Dan were scoring tries for fun, this would be a statistic that would have warmed the very cockles of my Coventry heart. But with a lack of width and few chances falling to the wings, it isn’t quite as hopeful as it might have been. Still, there might be something in it and perhaps at some stage our backs will get the opportunity to test their defences on Saturday. Here’s hoping, anyway.
Tries by position – for
Coventry: 27 in the backs, 23 in the forwards. 13 from the centres and 14 from the front row. 3PT
Richmond : 27 in the backs, 44 in the forwards. 15 from the wings and 36 (yes, thirty six!) from the back row. 3PT
If any single statistic leaps out from the sreen, then its the number of tries Richmond have scored through their back row forwards. It’s extraordinary.
To put it into context, Richmond have scored more tries via their back row than Blaydon, Henley or Cinderford have, in total, so far this season.
Coventry have somehow got to negate the impact of their backrowers. Good ball retention is going to be imperative and if we kick for territory, we press quickly and don’t allow any space for the Richmond to move the ball back at us. With only half the tries coming from the 12 other positions, if Coventry can lessen their impact, Richmond won’t have the same attacking options.
Their backs have scored the same number of tries as our own, which would seem to add some weight to the theory.
Points given up
Coventry have conceded 4 tries 5 times this season, but only once at home
Richmond have conceded 4 tries twice this season, 1 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 could well be ours. Richmond have only conceded 4 tries away from home once, so on paper it has all the makings of a tight game.
However, I should add that Richmond have scored 4 tries away from home 6 times, but Coventry have only scored 4 tries at home 4 times.
It all comes down to the tries conceded statistic. If both teams play to their averages…well, thank you very much.
|17||19||1||–||1.12||11 (58%)||8 (42%)||7 (37%)||12 (63%)||8||–||9|
|17||14||–||–||0.82||8 (57%)||6 (43%)||5 (36%)||9 (64%)||14||–||3|
With Coventry’s discipline improving over the last three games, the gap between ourselves and some of the other worst offenders is narrowing, and Fylde, Henley or Esher could well take over the top spot (the one no-one wants!) by next weekend.
Richmond aren’t too far behind either.
If Coventry can put Richmond under some pressure, then here’s another area of the game that could work in our favour. Richmond are clearly one of the strong favourites for promotion and as each game goes by, so the pressure on them will grow. If Coventry can create chances and be in the lead, or close to it, at the half way stage, who knows how Richmond will react? Their game against Fylde last week (which they won 22-21) was described as ‘fractious’ in the club’s own report on their website, so perhaps there are signs of the pressure starting to tell. There were 3 yellow cards in the game, with Richmond receiving one of them.
Coventry have got to ensure they don’t get involved in any shenanigans, but by forcing Richmond to make mistakes, they could find themselves with a man advantage at some stage in the game…(I’m on a roll now…)
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. The newly imposed sanctions might be the answer to the problems we had before Christmas.
Fingers crossed on that one, then.
Half time win/loss
Coventry have led at half time in 9 of their games, going on to win 8 of them.
Richmond have led at half time in 13 of their games, going on to win only 12 of them.
Coventry have lost all 8 games in which they were trailing at the half way mark.
In a losing position at half time in 4 of their games, Richmond have gone on to win 2 of them.
Not a great statistic for Coventry, this one.
Basically, if we’re losing at half time and we’re true to form, we’re stuffed.
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 8 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)
Cliffie Hodgson – Coventry: 73.68 (14/19)
Robert Kirby – Richmond: 73.42% (58/79)
Cliffie Hodgson will resume the kicking duties and his success rate is remarkably similar to that of Richmond’s kicker, Robert Kirby.
If the game is a close one, as it might well be, points scored from the boot are going to be decisive and it could all be down to who feels the pressure the most.
As always, my money is on Cliffie – remember the last minute penalty to win the game down at the Athletic ground a couple of seasons ago…?
Leading points scorers
Coventry: Matt Jones with 122 points (25C, 24P)
Richmond: Robert Kirby with 142 points (1T, 37C, 21P)
Had Matt remained injury free this season, there’s every chance he would now be National 1’s leading points scorer….
Leading try scorers
Coventry: Ron Knox 7, Matt Price 7, Devlin Hope 6
Richmond : Chris Davies (BR) 14, Charles Broughton (W) 12, Jack Allcock (BR) 11
I’ve already mentioned the threat of the Richmond back row, something that is borne out in the above.
For Coventry, Rob Knox remains out in front on 7, but is now joined there by Matt Price, with Devlin Hope on 6. With Matt sustaining an injury on Saturday, it might be Devlin gets a chance to add to his tally with a rare start at the weekend.
Coventry remain the best supported club in the league. with an average attendance of 1157 this season, 101 above Plymouth. Richmond average just 478 and are the 6th best attended side in the league.
Hopefully, a decent number of supporters will travel across from Richmond and make their presence felt.
I have referred to the potential difference the Coventry crowd can make to the team…a big push by the club in the last couple of days to advertise the game in the media and the previous season’s best of 1378 against Loughborough could be bettered. Still a long way to go to get even close to the 200o plus attendances we saw at times last season, but anything above 1400 would represent a great response from the Coventry faithful.
With home advantage, I’m going for a 4-1 Coventry win.
Cov are due a big performance and if the crowd get behind them and the players produce a performance that reflects their true abilities, then I certainly fancy our chances.
Actually, make that 5-0.