Tue. May 11th, 2021

Coventry can hardly be accused of failing to offer their supporters value for money.

In most seasons, 10th position would have meant the season would be all but over and with little to play for other than pride and a contract or two. But with so much uncertainty on and off the field, interest will be maintained right up until the final game and beyond.

National League 1 is now pretty much split into 3 groups, with Coventry in 10th position and floundering, a little precariously, at the bottom of the second group made up of those clubs that aren’t in the fight for either relegation or promotion. The best these clubs can hope for is a few wins between now and the end of the season in order to ensure they retain their present position, as in Ampthill’s case, or move up to table to a slightly more respectable (or less disappointing) position, as in Coventry’s.

Even with 7 games left,  there isn’t a great deal to motivate most of the clubs involved in this group and the danger is the season peters out with attendances dropping and bar takings down. Hardly cause for supporters to dig deep into their pockets in readiness for the release of next year’s season tickets, especially for the more established clubs such as Rosslyn Park, Fylde and Esher.

4 Ampthill 23 15 7 15 77
5 Plymouth Albion 23 16 7 12 76
6 Esher 23 15 8 14 74
7 Darlington Mowden Park 23 15 8 12 72
8 Rosslyn Park 23 14 9 7 63
9 Fylde 23 9 13 17 55
10 Coventry 23 9 13 12 50

Coventry are going to struggle to narrow the gap on the teams above them, with perhaps Fylde the only team in danger of being caught by us in the remaining 7 games, unless there are some very strange results between now and April. Cov don’t have the most difficult of run-ins, but the gap between them and Rosslyn Park seems too great to close in on, let alone overtake, given Cov’s current form.

I remember having a cursory look at the fixtures at the start of the season and thinking that, were we to be there or thereabouts come the beginning of March, the remaining games actually worked in our favour, with maybe Blackheath away being the potential banana skin and that someone at the RFU has been particularly kind to us for a change.

How naïve was I?

6 months on and it’s a very different picture.

So how could we expect to fare in these remaining games?

A quick check amongst those of you are regulars on the messageboard and who take part in the Coventry  Prediction League will confirm that I am resting at the foot of the table and if there was a relegation zone, I’d be well and truly in it.

To be fair, my own exceptionally poor performance this season has been the result of my refusal ever to predict a Coventry loss and the onset of some form of clinical amnesia which has meant I’ve forgotten to predict three weeks of results

You might like to bear this in mind as you read on…

I’ve decided to bite the bullet and actually go with the head, rather than the heart. The heart says we’ll win all 7 games, earning bonus points in each one and sit in 6th place on 85 points come the end of the season.

Not so the head, unfortunately…

  • Blaydon (a) W
  • Cinderford (h) W
  • Henley (a) W
  • Doncaster Mowden Park (h) L
  • Blackheath (a) L
  • Ampthill (h) W
  • Wharfedale (a) L
I think we’ll get another 18 points, putting us on a woeful 68 for the season.
Just to put it into perspective, in the last 3 years the team lying 3rd from bottom was relegated with 61 points (Macclesfield – 2012), 61 points (Henley – 2014) and 58 points  (Old Albanian – 2015). We are currently on just 50.
Fortunately for us, the gap between Wharfedale and Cov is a very healthy (from our point of view) 15 points, so  2 wins should be enough, 3 would be, but the fact that we’re still having to keep a watchful eye on what is happening below us, rather than above, says it all.
Hull and Blaydon look to be safe at the moment but it wouldn’t take much to pull them back into the race to the bottom. Henley and Cinderford look doomed for National 2, with the final relegation spot being pretty much between Wharfedale and Loughborough.
11 Hull Ionians 23 6 17 16 40
12 Blaydon 22 7 15 11 39
13 Loughborough Students 22 6 16 12 36
14 Wharfedale 23 5 17 13 35
15 Henley 23 5 17 4 26
16 Cinderford 23 4 18 8 26
At the top, the title and a place in the Championship is there for the taking for Richmond, provided they don’t self-implode which seems unlikely given they have only lost three games all season.
1 Richmond 23 19 3 14 92
2 Hartpury College 23 17 6 14 82
3 Blackheath 23 17 5 10 80

However, with both Hartpury and Blackheath still to play (as well as Plymouth and Rosslyn Park), Richmond can’t afford to relax at all or else they could trip up at the final hurdle. Stranger things have happened.

Whilst I would be delighted if either Richmond or Blackheath were to be promoted, I’m afraid I’m less than fulsome in my support of Hartpury College. Like many followers of National 1 rugby, I do feel a certain indifference towards college or university teams that compete in the national leagues.
Their budgets, which are by and large publicly funded, mean they are pretty much self-financing and there is far less need to attract the additional revenues that the more traditional/community based clubs have to go searching for and which are normally so essential for a club’s survival.
Letter from this week’s edition of The Rugby Paper

Nor are they particularly community orientated in the way that Coventry is.  The outreach work that is such an important part of Coventry’s mission statement is lacking in the likes of Hartpury and Loughborough, although in fairness Loughborough run mini/junior rugby at the weekend as  well as a women’s rugby team.

In effect, many of the players become petty much full-time  given the paucity of lectures and timetabled study time so they can benefit from the very best training facilities all day, every day, supervised by full-time coaches.

It’s hardly a level playing field.
But at least it is an artificial one.
There is an increasing body of opinion that believes the present situation regarding such educational establishments competing in the national leagues is untenable…as a letter in this week’s The Rugby Post suggests (see above).
Anyway, that aside, Coventry’s season would be well and truly over were it not for the appointment of the new DoR and the uncertainty that inevitably brings with it. Whilst all the individual pieces will eventually come together and a true picture of just where we are and we are heading will emerge at the moment, rather like a giant jigsaw puzzle, all we can do is try and work out how they all fit together.
All this incertitude actually adds more interest to the end of the season and supporters, and bloggers, can have endless (?) hours of fun (?) speculating as to the changes that might or might not happen as a result of the team’s wretched season and the breaking up of the coaching staff. Sad as it is that people will undoubtedly have to move on, the club merely reflects what is happening in the world at large.
People come and people go.
It’s hard, though, when those people in some small way become a part your own personal world and, whilst you don’t know them, it sometimes feels as if you do.
Following on from previous discussions regarding an Extras side, I was intrigued to read that a Northern Pilot league has been established, something I only came across from reading a brief comment on it via rolling-maul.com. There isn’t much information about it  available but I did find this on Wharfedale’s website:
As you will already be aware, the Foresters started playing in a new league, known as the Northern Pilot League, on 2 January this year. The league consists of the top 2nd XVs in Yorkshire and the North East. The teams involved this season in addition to our Foresters are Blaydon, Darlington Mowden Park, Harrogate, Hull Ionians and Tynedale.
I really hope the pilot scheme takes off (bum bum) and it becomes policy next season. I did suggest that a Cov 2nd team would only work if it is involved in competitive matches and this certainly seems to meet that requirement. If we are to have a squad that is competitive at National 1 level and beyond, then it needs to be larger and all players playing regularly.
However, the Northern Pilot League is not without its problems and  it would appear that Darlington Mowden Park, the team that boasts the largest squad of any of the teams involved, were unable to fulfil a fixture recently, apparently because they couldn’t raise a team. This would always be a concern, but at least there are sanctions in place to penalise a team that fails to meet its obligations:
As you are already aware, Darlington Mowden Park did not fulfil (sic) their Northern Pilot League fixture against the Foresters at the Avenue on 29 January. As a result the match was awarded to the Foresters along with 5 league points. In addition, instead of the return match against Darlington Mowden Park on the 9 April being away, it will now be played at The Avenue.
This must be the way forward for teams like Coventry that at the moment have to rely on the goodwill of local  junior sides to provide places in their teams for Coventry players unable to gain a spot in the match day squad or who are returning from injury, sometimes at the inconvenience of the host club.
There are a number of teams in the North that play in National League 1, so the standards I expect would be pretty even across most sides. This wouldn’t be the case were a Midland league to be established. I’m not sure whether it would attract the likes of Nottingham and Moseley, so you’d then have to look at  ‘Street, South Leicester, Stourbridge and then Stratford, Kenilworth and Newbold (and similar teams from Midlands 1). Would this provide the challenge players hoping to compete in the Championship might require? I’m not so sure it would.
Still, the Northern Pilot is very much in its infancy and hopefully it is being watched closely by clubs in other regions of the country to see just how successful it is.
I remember with great fondness the Extra’s games back in the day and there was often some great rugby to be seen and some talented players on show, some who stepped up to the 1st XV and some who didn’t. But it meant guaranteed rugby at Coundon Road pretty much all season.
Happy days.
A 2nd XV will never come about though until either the club manages to secure a pitch for the games to take place on or it invests in an artificial surface at the Butts.
Like so many of the current difficulties facing Coventry at the moment, it is very much a case of put up or shut up…
Which is exactly what I’ll now do.

By Tim

9 thought on “An academic point of view”
  1. Please feel free to use the link, and the more you look the more teams in NL1&2 have regular second XV games thro the season.

  2. Sadly, it’s a game too far for me…but I” be there in spirit! Will be rooting for Cov and like you I think we’ll come away with the points but it will be a tough, close fought contest

  3. Hi Warren…thanks for this…I’m putting a bit in tomorrow’s bog about the west midlands league which someone messaged me about…the more I hear of the opportunities, the more I realise we’re missing out…

  4. We will beat blaydon on Saturday and I’ll be there to witness the victory. Should be a good game but we will just nick it. Good luck cov see yards sat.

  5. Hi Tony – thank you for leaving a comment!

    Two might make it quite tight if the two teams fighting out the last relegation place go on run…! I reckon we’ll beat Ampthill in the last home game, and beat them convincingly, just to leave us thinking about what might have been!

  6. i’m predicting only two more wins this season, based on current form-henley and cinderford. hopefully with the odd additional bonus point that will be adequate to keep us out of trouble.

Any thoughts:

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