Drawing positives from the Richmond game…
Sometimes you just have to face up to the fact and admit that you were wrong and apologise.
I’m sorry, Scott. I was wrong.
There you go. And the reason for the apology…?
Well, yesterday I questioned Scott’s selection for the Richmond game in that I felt experience was going to be key against the league leaders:
I guess it’s a case of ‘Ours not to reason why’, the only difference is that it’s the players out on the pitch that have to do the ‘do and die’ bit and given Richmond are the league leaders, you’d have thought you want to put out the very strongest team available…and admirable as it is to play the youngsters, we’ll have to see if they are up to the 80 minute challenge of a Richmond side that is something of a juggernaut on a down slope with failing beaks at the moment.
But up to the challenge they were and, for me, this was the best team performance of the season, and probably since February of last year to be honest.
It was a massive performance from everyone and at last we saw the potential this squad has. For much of the game, the two sides were very evenly matched and as a neutral observer, you wouldn’t have know there was a difference of 8 places between the two sides.
And make no mistake, Richmond are a good side. A very good side.
In truth, I don’t think they are as strong as the last two or three teams promoted out of our league in recent years, Ealing, Doncaster and Jersey for instance, but they have scored heavily this season and are top of the table on merit. Remember, they beat us comprehensively at the Athletic Ground 31-7 and we looked a shadow then of the team that so nearly pulled off the win yesterday. Indeed, the first encounter lead John Butler to write in the official Cov report of the game:
Richmond bossed this encounter right from the outset & little that happened subsequently changed that scenario.
My apology, though, is somewhat tempered by Scott’s comment in the The Rugby Paper this morning that;
…with the injuries we’ve had I was concerned about the balance but the forwards gave us some good go-forward and there were lots of positives we can take for the rest of the season
suggesting even he was a little worried, but he deserves huge credit for sticking to his guns and making some big calls.
All the those players who were drafted into the side, seemingly from nowhere in the case of Courtney Roberts and Tom Preece (although Tom had had some games for ‘Street of late), performed exactly as Scott would have hoped, even dreamed, and there is now real pressure on places in the back row, even without everyone fit.
It can only be good for the team when there is such healthy competition.
So what are the positives coming out of the Richmond game?
Well, the front row held up extremely well for the 80 minutes. Early on, Richmond won a penalty having driven us back in our own 22 and the signs were ominous, but other than that Foreman and Kivalu did exceptionally well. They clearly had Richmond in trouble at times and earned Coventry a number of penalties and the scrum withstood Richmond pressure several times close to our own line. There were a couple of ‘free kicks’ awarded against Cov (I’m not sure what for – delaying the put in?), but generally they competed extremely well.
I was also very impressed with their defence, with both Kivalu and Foreman working extremely hard in the rucks and mauls. Foreman, in particular, made some important tackles and looks to be a real all-rounder. Scott’s decision to stick with him after the Hartpury game was entirely justified and I’m sure we’ll see more of him before over the remainder of the season.
In the second row, Courtney Roberts added some steel and his partnership with Tom Poole (who I thought had another very good game despite being an injury doubt during the week and having to come off half way through the second half) is something that bodes well for the future. The line outs were a real plus (I can only remember losing the one?) and Courtney was immense defensively. I know he might be away for a few weeks now, but there was more than enough there to suggest Courtney should already be pencilled in on the 2016/17 squad list.
The back row was a revelation.
Jacques had another stormer until he had to go off injured, and it’s always a worry when he does so because he has had such wretched luck on that front. Jacques deservedly got a good great round of applause when leaving the pitch which he duly acknowledged (I always like to see players express thanks when they are applauded off – I guess it creates a bit of a bond that might not otherwise be there).
Tom Preece also looked extremely comfortable wearing the no 7 shirt. He was everywhere in defence and put in some massive hits, making his presence felt from the whistle. I’m a great fan of George Oliver, but the there is some real competition for him in the guise of Tom Preece now. The young pretenders, messrs Preece and Woodburn, are going to add options in the back row for Scott that he hasn’t really had all season.
Carpo had a very solid game. He’s one of those players that , when you don’t see a great deal of during the course of the game, you know he’s doing well. He worked hard defensively and although wasn’t an attacking force yesterday, it wasn’t really his role to be one. He certainly earned his corn…
At scrum half, George Tresidder is starting to turn a few heads. Loanees don’t often catch the eye to the extent young George is at the moment, but he looked a class act yesterday and one run from the opposition 22m line in which he jinked and swerved his way in the heavy conditions, leaving a couple of Richmond defenders completely flat footed, was special. He reads the game well and it was a blow when he suffered a shoulder injury minutes into the second half…which says a great deal when his replacement is a former Gwent Dragons stalwart and the club captain…
It was a day where conditions very much favoured the forwards, or should have done. But surprisingly, Coventry’s backs played a big part in the game. Mieres had his best game in a Coventry shirt, and his try showed just what an attacking threat he can be…some hard, dry pitches come March and April and he’ll be in his element. He was good under the high ball and nothing got past him, although his kicking out of hand perhaps wasn’t as accurate as it needed to be at times. I’d like to think we’d be able to keep him beyond April but I guess this is very much a stop-gap move for Gaston.
A word for Dom too. He must be the unluckiest player in the club at the moment. With very few chances this season to use the ball in space, he must have thought it was his lucky day in the first half when Mieres created space and passed the ball out wide to the right…with a clear run to the line. But who should pop up on the wing by his side…none other than Matt Price (who had a very good game, btw) who galloped to the line for his 8th score of the season. Life is just so unfair at times.
Dom did have a couple of decent runs but his part in this game will be best remembered for preventing what was, to all intents and purposes, a Richmond 5 pointer. How he did it I’ll never know, but from nowhere he seemed to take the ball from the hands of the opposing player when all the guy had to do was to put the ball down. No interception can have been as important all season. Astonishing.
And quite possibly a game changer.
Peter Weightman didn’t see much ball again, but he had a bulldozing run in front of the main stand that drew some gasps of admiration from the crowd. When we start to play a little more expansively, he’ll be a real threat.
In reality, the conditions suited us better than they did Richmond. The pitch (which, as Mick Carter mentioned on the messageboard, stood up to the game exceptionally well) was very heavy and it was something of a leveler. The Richmond back row were obviously very pacey and, in a more open game, would have been a real handful.
We played the conditions intelligently and until Richmond scored their second try and got their tails up, we looked good value for the win.
In the end, the draw was a fair result. I do think, though, that everyone who witnessed this Coventry performance probably saw for the first time the real potential in the side. It was a rousing performance, the sort that draws the crowd into the game and leaves you exhilarated, but shattered, come the end of the 9th minute of injury time.
And a quick word too on the team’s discipline on the pitch which continues to improve. Again, no yellow cards but to for Richmond, such was the pressure Coventry put them under (together with a penalty try). Scott said this would be a focus for improvement and so it is proving to be…I’d love to know what the threatened sanctions are because they are clearly working.
With so many of the more seasoned and regular players out but returning soon, team selection will be a tough call. Getting the combination right in the front and back rows won’t be easy, but having seen what the potential that is there, then at least Scott Morgan knows he has plenty in reserve. The success of Preece and Roberts is another indication that the pre-season recruitment wasn’t quite the disaster than it has been made out to be, especially from within the club.
It might have taken longer for the summer recruits to prove their worth than Jon Sharp and others might have wanted, but I do think they were written off far too quickly and publicly in the club e-letter, particularly when those who had been here from the season before were also underachieving. Preece, Roberts, Hope, Tincknell, Weightman were all part of yesterday’s game, as was Ryan on the bench….a game that represents Coventry’s best performance for a long time (we only won 4 of the last 10 games in the 2014/15 season).
Yesterday’s result was fantastic and as a spectator it has given me some renewed optimism at a time when that was in very short supply. I’m delighted for the players and for Scott Morgan, too. It can’t have been the easiest of times for them and perhaps this is a hint of what could be around the corner if Coventry are able to take the positives from this game and develop them further.
Well done to all involved.