The charge of the blue and white brigade
It ‘s strange how a draw can seem as good as a win, but 48 hours on and that’s how it still feels.
2 points instead of 4, but in every other way this was a victory…for the players, the coaches and supporters.
There’s not been a lot to cheer about and what there has been, has really revolved around performances against teams below us with the exception of Plymouth and that wasn’t the most convincing of wins. So to draw against the league leaders comes as a significant milestone in the season, one in which other results over the next few weeks, like it or not, are going to be compared.
And with Plymouth coincidentally the next game, Coventry are facing another stern test. Brickfields is never an easy place to play and with a passionate crowd and a decent run of form behind them, losing only 1 of their last 7 games, well, it’s going to be a challenge.
However, I’d tentatively suggest that the last thing now that Coventry need is a game against one of the bottom 3 teams in the league. A win against Cinderford or Henley would present a false prognosis of any future recovery and wouldn’t really give us any true indication as to whether Saturday’s performance against Richmond was a one-off, or the start of a sustained period of progress (which I believe it to be).
Another solid performance against Plymouth and hopefully the win as well, and we can start to believe in the winds of change.
Another Esher and we’re back to the drawing board again.
So it’s a pivotal match really…but at least it means in a season which otherwise would be well and truly over by now, there’s still a lot riding on the next few games – if not for this season, then for the rebuilding process that will hopefully ensure a more sustained challenge in 2016/17.
The more I think about it, the more extraordinary the last 10 minutes of Saturday’s game was. It was on the 40 minute mark that we had the opportunity for 3 points (and it came about from a huge defensive play from Devlin Hope who not only tackled the man but stayed on his feet forcing the player on the ground to hold on to the ball).
Whilst I understand the reason to kick for goal and take the 3 points, there was part of me that was inwardly shouting out to kick for the corner and retain possession, as there was obviously going to be a fair amount of time added on and there’s always the chance of coming away with 5 points. The attempt was from a long way out and with a wet ball…it would have been difficult even for a fully fit Cliffie Hodgson.
…I think it was Cliff Bennett on the messageboard who alluded to the number of phases that Richmond went through in those closing stages of the game. He reckoned 20-25 and that might be a conservative estimate. The remarkable thing was that despite all the tackles that Cov made and all the rucks and mauls that they had to defend against, they managed to avoid infringing (at least in sight of the referee!).
The Coventry of pre-Christmas would have been penalised and probably yellow carded and the resultant penalty in front of the posts would have been duly converted to give Richmond the 4 points which, in all fairness, they wouldn’t have deserved. Wave after wave of Richmond players came at us and wave after wave were repelled by a Coventry team that had defended heroically throughout the second half.
Huge credit must go to the players who in such heavy conditions must have really been feeling the strain. And huge credit, too, to the coaches for drilling into them the need to keep their discipline.
I did suggest in a previous post that if Coventry could be close at half time, then Richmond’s discipline could be a problem for them and another two yellow cards against us means that their record over the season isn’t a great deal better than ours now. Our ability to no longer concede penalties under pressure has made a significant difference in the last few games.
It was the Cov of old in this respect.
The dog is back.
Not yet snapping at the oppositions’ heels, but definitely barking. There is some momentum gathering…
…let’s hope it turns it into the ‘charge of the blue and white brigade’.
But without the sacrificial slaughter.
Once concern though – it appears that Jacques Le Roux’s injury is potentially serious with the suggestion from the club (not a player I hasten to add) on social media that it’s damaged knee ligaments. Not the news we wanted to hear – best wishes to Jacques for a speedy recovery, whatever the damage.
I do worry about the attendances, though.
Saturday’s attendance of 1229 was down 149 from the previous home game against Loughborough, which was the season high. The announcer on the PA mentioned it was more than enough to ensure we remained the best attended team in the league. And so it does.
But that there isn’t huge competition, with only Plymouth and Darlington anywhere near us and they are significantly behind and would need large increases in their gates over the rest of the season to overtake us. And actually, to talk about attendance as a competition between the teams in the league is to miss the point.
The only team we are competing against as far as attendance is concerned is ourselves.
And we’re coming second…or possibly even third at the moment.
The figures aren’t available, but if we were averaging 1500+ last season and Coventry were confident that we would be making a real push for promotion this year, then I would hazard a guess that at a conservative estimate, the club would have budgeted on gates at, or above, the current average of 1164.
Cov in Somerset made the point that the club has been running a loss on the playing side in previous years and doubtless will be doing so again this year, particularly when we have subsequently taken on the likes of Daniel Carpo and Gaston Mieres (who is starting to look a really good acquisition) who won’t have come cheap.
Now I’m sure any losses on the playing side of the club are more than made up for through the many corporate events regularly held at the Butts; I have no worries on that front. But I do have concerns that gates aren’t increasing even for the teams that are seen as bigger attractions, such as Richmond.
Okay, much of this is down to Cov’s poor run of form and the perception of those who don’t regularly attend that Coventry aren’t an attractive team to watch at the moment for what is a relatively expensive entrance fee of £15 (the same price as the cheapest tickets to watch premiership rugby just across the city).
Coventry desperately need to entice the large group of supporters who only come to Coventry when things are going well. For instance, the opening game last season (2014/15) attracted 1391 supporters with the highest gate being approximately 2200 (from memory), a variation of nearly 800 spectators. This season we had an opening gate of 1259 (the World Cup might have played a part in this) with a high of just 1378, a difference of under 120. Hardly statistically accurate, but there is a clear message…if the team is successful it makes a huge impact on the gate and as a result the club’s income.
The secret has to be to put a package of some sort together than will bring in a fair percentage of those missing 800, even when the club isn’t on the sort of winning run it achieved last season. Wasps will be a factor certainly, but their presence can’t account for such a wide discrepancy, can it?
Indeed, and again from memory, last season we have several gates of 1700-1800+ after Wasps much heralded arrival in December 2014.
There is clearly a significant number of supporters who will come to games as and when…but ‘as and when’ what? We’re winning, there is a promo on, the band after the game is to their liking…?
Did the club make enough of the 2015 close season to promote itself and keep everyone thinking about the coming season? Were the new signings heralded with a fanfare of media coverage, were there open training sessions for people to come and watch…were one or two of the home friendlies free, acting as loss leaders…?
There has to be a bigger buzz for that first National 1 game come September of this year than there was last.
Me, I’d have a coupon in the match day programme, or just an inserted slip of paper, on which everyone could write an email address so the club could send them directly all the club news during the summer break – signings, changes to the ground, messages from Scott Morgan and Jon Sharp, news about the Fans’ Forum…anything and everything to try and build up the attendance for the opening home game.
Admittedly, you have to then hope Cov put on a great display and everyone leaves happy and looking forward to the next game, but somethings are just out of your hands. But even then, if the match day experience is a particularly enjoyable one, the punters will keep returning even when results aren’t going the club’s way.
And of course you make sure the bar is well staffed, waiting time for drinks are kept to a minimum and ‘happy hour’ for an hour before and an hour after the game is available to keep supporters on the ground for as long as possible. Bar food needs to be plentiful and again instantly available.
I’m sure the club are busy working on increasing the numbers through the turnstiles. Without the additional income from larger crowds, Coventry will have a reduced budget with which to recruit the quality players they are going to need next season to attempt another promotion winning campaign, especially if players move on this season.
I’m convinced there is a large group of supporters who would come regularly if only the club can persuade them to buy into what Coventry RFC is all about…and that is where the improving communication between the club and the local community is going to become increasingly important.