But the majority of the crowd of nearly 12oo will have left the Butts yesterday feeling that in a season of broken dreams, Coventry had a least restored some pride in themselves as a team and in the faithful who have remained, well….just that. Faithful.
The 12-13 defeat proved a point…and a valuable one at that with the teams below them all being involved in some close games. Even Cinderford won…
Perhaps, though, despite the improving performance of the team on the pitch over the last couple of games, and I don’t think anyone could argue that there hasn’t be a significant improvement, the most pleasing news of all for me surrounded Scott Morgan…
In his ‘Thoughts & Views of the Head of Rugby’ column, having talked about how difficult the past few weeks had been, Scott wrote:
Four years at this great club and my love and passion for all that is Coventry will never waiver, with the discussion around my position for next season ongoing
Whilst he might not have the greatest record as a Coventry Head Coach (DoR/Head of Rugby, call it what you will) for me Scott’s stature increases almost weekly. And he’s not written off a return next season…
This is a man who, to some of us, was shafted good and proper by the club (and before I get vilified by readers – he did hint at something similar in the Coventry Telegraph the week the news of the new DoR’s announcement). No arguments now about the need for a change…but the way it was done…well that needs some explanation. Excitement is definitely increasing over the appointment of Rowland Winter now the initial news has sunk in and Scott Morgan has given it his approval, but the way in which it was done still leaves a bad taste.
I’ve maintained from the onset that Morgan should be encouraged to stay provided his business interests allow. He is Coventry man, even if his passport says otherwise…his commitment to the team and his love for the club are something that sets him apart from some of the other Head Coaches we’ve had in the past, for whom the club perhaps has been a means to an end. Keep him…as a forwards’ coach, perhaps…
And yesterday showed why we must…despite all the difficulties that the club is facing off the pitch and despite all the injuries and poor run of form which would have broken most dressing rooms by now, the players produced a herculean performance and made a massive statement.
And the statement seemed to be saying, ‘this one’s for you, Scott’.
Remember, the squad that faced Esher yesterday was unrecognisable from the one that started the season against Wharfedale back in September. Smith, Ryan, Hough, Tresidder, Worth, Thomas, Hicks, Hope, Kivalu, Weightman and Carpo weren’t in the team then, over half the squad. Such is the impact of the injuries.
The team is down to the bare bones, and so great are the problems that players are having to play out of position, notably yesterday with Worth and Hodgson.
The situation is pretty grim.
Yet Scott has got a dressing room that seems more united than ever. The big names might not be there (before I forget, and I know I will because I’m in one at the moment…it was great to see Rob Knox out there before the game with the players) but there was no lack of commitment on display yesterday. It just shows what pride and increasing confidence can bring to the game…
And actually, did we get it wrong when we began to question the quality of the players recruited in the summer and indeed since then? We were encouraged to believe that by the club itself but Ryan, Thomas, Hough and Smith (who was part of the pre-season trials but wasn’t officially signed until after the season had started) all played their part and none of them looked out of place in a side that ran 5th placed Esher so close, a team that are only 8 points off second place. They were clearly ‘comfortable’ playing at this level as yesterday showed and maybe, just maybe, they are more than good enough. Perhaps it’s something else, then, that caused the season to go belly up from the Hartpury College game onwards?
Maybe it’s taken off-field ‘politics’ to produce such a reaction? I know it’s all speculative, but something has caused players, many of whom would have been seen as fringe players and probably unlikely to get much of a run in the side during the season, to produce such an immense performance, as they did towards the end of the Park game the week before.
I’d love to know what is different now…but I do think that Scott Morgan must take some credit for this, even though it’s the efforts of his players that got them so close in the end.
The intensity, the tempo, the willingness to leave everything out there on the pitch rather than in the dressing room was so noticeable. Bitterly disappointing as the result was, the performance was a real crowd pleaser.
The team didn’t deserve to lose. And to lose in the way they did was just plain cruel. I couldn’t watch Chisholm’s final kick of the game, I was too wound up because it was almost as if fate had decided the outcome before boot hit leather. First the try and then the conversion out wide and then, after Coventry had all but run down the clock, then the penalty. No, I just couldn’t watch…
…so instead, I focused on the Cov players who were grouped centrally around the posts. As the ball sailed through them, they sank to their knees almost as one. Their utter desolation was palpable…it hurt.
You could tell.
The whoops and yelps coming from the Esher players were such a stark contrast to the silence in the crowd…there was a moment of quiet and then…well, reality kicked in. The Cov players hauled themselves back up to their feet and did what they had to do…walk over to the opposition and shake hands.
Fair play to Esher and to Ali Chisholm…two moments of absolute quality won them the game. I’m not sure what a neutral would have made of it, and that’s certainly not me, but I felt Coventry had done enough to win the game, despite the first 10 minutes when Esher looked like they might just be too strong. No, we began to control the game and despite not making the best use the elements in the first half, we started to dominate up front and Esher had to rely on some very, very solid defence for long periods of the second half.
But the rugby gods certainly know how to stick in the boot…
Unlike Matt Price, who prefers the fist.
And I will mention Matt’s rush of blood to the head because whatever the provocation, there’s no place on the rugby pitch for that. Yes, there had been a couple of niggles prior to Matt’s yellow card and I’m sure Matt was evening things out and had he hit back in retaliation, well I could accept that, but play had moved on and in front of the main stand Matt threw a right at one of the Esher players (the no 8?) who didn’t see it coming, wasn’t even looking at him.
Fortunately, it did little damage, but it was sneaky and given Matt was captain for the day, it wasn’t the greatest of examples to set. He was lucky not to receive a red…and remember what happened to Courtney Roberts. Had that punch landed fully, we could have been looking at a similar scenario.
It was a shame, because otherwise Matt did what he does best…chest pumped out, bristling with pride, he was full of the Cov dog yesterday…as were so many of the other players.
There was lots of pre-match rumour and speculation…had Rowland Winter been spotted in the ground, had Cliffie turned down the offer of the captaincy on Thursday, were some coaches leaving for ‘Street come the end of the season…? It’s going to get worse before it gets better, but it all made for some entertaining conversations in the bars and stand prior to kick off.
The game itself will be commented on elsewhere and by people far better qualified to do so than I am, but in short we struggled for the first 10-15 minutes, with Esher playing against the wind and opting to run everything, even out of defence. They got the ball wide and Sutherland again looked sharp.
Gradually we clawed our way back into it and although we picked up 3 penalties by the end of the half, the 6 point gap just didnt’ look enough, and I guess in the end it wasn’t. Two yellows again blighted our performance, but the 14 who remained stepped up another gear, if that was possible, and Esher were unable to benefit from the additional player.
Second half the wind dropped and the rain stopped…but Coventry’s tempo didn’t. Cov ran themselves into the ground with some great defensive work and in attack the ball was given width and we started to play with confidence. I thought the back row were immense, and Oliver was prominent the more the game went on, as was Sam Pailor when he came on for Carpo (who had a very solid game along with Danny Wright).
George Tresidder looked class again and deservedly won the MoM award…his sniping runs, clever box kicks and awareness of the game were a feature of the match and it was notable that even when it got so tense towards the end of the game, Cov didn’t turn to the vast experience of Wayne Evans who was on the bench. Tresidder is definitely one for the future and someone who will be playing at a higher level before long – if we could just get him on loan for another season…?!
Cov dominated the first 30 minutes of the second half and with Kivalu coming on for Brown the scrum began to feature and Esher conceded penalties. But once again a lack of discipline meant we were penalised and Esher went for the corner and from the ensuing drive…well, you know the rest. In Cov’s defence, they had defended several such drives prior to the Esher try and indeed won lots of turnover ball, much to the delight of a crowd that increasingly warmed to Cov’s efforts.
There will be plenty of bruised and battered bodies this morning. It was an intense and sometimes ill-tempered affair. The tackle rate from both teams was high and although there were a fair few handling errors, that’s hardly surprising given the poor conditions, especially in the first half.
The result will show a Coventry loss.
But every player out there wore the shirt with pride and the team went some way to making up for the woeful performance down in Hersham back in November. Players who had been almost written off, not least by the Board in their e-letter to members, showed that perhaps we had all been a bit too hasty. Certainly, I think this year’s recruits in particular did themselves proud and for the second week running we saw what Coventry can produce when they play as a team.
Quite how you reintroduce the players presently injured when they regain their fitness is anyone’s guess…me, I stick with the core of players who played yesterday…with perhaps Weightman and Hope getting some game time (maybe starting with Weightman though)…
I was gutted when that final whistle blew and I’m gutted now…but at least Cov played with an intensity and passion that few could fault…
They certainly proved a point…and earned it.