Cinderford and a place in the sun…
Cause there’s a place in the sun
Where there’s hope for ev’ryone
Where my poor restless heart’s gotta run
There’s a place in the sun
And before my life is done
Got to find me a place in the sun
A Place In The Sun – Stevie Wonder
Before the game yesterday I had reason to pop into Coventry city centre to get a couple of things I needed over the weekend, something that I often do on match days. Usually I meet my son there, too, and once we get chatting about the rugby and have a general catch-up I’m oblivious to what’s going on around me. But with Sam elsewhere, I took a bit more notice of my surroundings and was soon intrigued by a busker who was plying his trade outside Waterstones.
I’ve seen him before and never really taken much notice, but yesterday he was singing a song that I have to admit I hadn’t heard before – and old Stevie Wonder song entitled ‘A Place in the Sun’. It wasn’t his usual type of offering and I think at first I was more aware of the backing singers on the ‘tape’ he was using. Anyway, I stopped and listened to the remainder of the song and having paid my dues, walked away. But the song became what my wife calls an ‘ear worm’; bits of it kept coming back to me all afternoon and I couldn’t shake it off.
When I go home I found it on Youtube and played it a couple of times (my wife was horrified that I didn’t recognise it) and began to focus more on the words than the tune, which has a really catchy chorus.
And for some reason the lyrics seems to capture the moment in that they neatly sum up how I feel about what’s happening at Coventry RFC just now. Quite rightly there’s talk of the need ‘to build bridges’ at Cov. The old guard is being dismantled and we are about to embark on a new journey – a new adventure, with a new leader at the helm. Hearts are restless at the moment and the new Director of Rugby offers the prospect of a new hope for ‘ev’ryone’.
Certainly, I’m looking forward to some sort of new dawn, a place in the sun and maybe the only way the club are going to achieve it is by starting afresh, making the sweeping changes that are currently taking place.
The core of the squad have been with us for the last couple of seasons but actually in the last 35 games, we’ve won just 14 games. Things had to change if we were to break free of the present malaise. Yes, we had a fantastic 18 games unbeaten run, but we that was a long time ago now and hard as it is to see so many players go, it is absolutely the right decision to take such drastic action.
Okay, I might have kept a few more players, but not many…and even Scott Morgan accepts that a full time DoR has to be the next step in Coventry’s development. Hard as it is, it must be about making Coventry competitive again and I think it’s hard to argue against the view that at the moment we just aren’t ‘professional’ enough in our approach, from the top down.
If Rowland Winter has come in with a brief to address that and to develop the structures to ensure that the players he brings in are able to compete not only with the best that National 1 can offer but also, looking further ahead, the next level up, then I’m all for change.
There were those amongst us who were concerned about how the team might react following the publication of the players retained for the season 2016/17 . Only 5 of the team that started the game will be back at the Butts in August (including Tom Poole) so there were a number of players out there who will have been told since the Blaydon game that their contracts aren’t being renewed.
But we needn’t have worried…this is a group of players who are honest with themselves and loyal to the team, whatever else might be happening around them. A band of brothers…
I got to the ground around 1.45 and already the players were out, although not warming up. Instead, they were locked in a huddle for several minutes listening intently to what was being said. This was something that I hadn’t seen before and usually I’m there a good 30 minutes earlier. Players tend to drift out from 1.50 onwards to begin their individual warm ups.
It set me at ease straight away…whilst it wasn’t done for show, given that there was hardly anyone there to see it, that single act was a clear statement of intent.
Tough times but we battle on…together.
I have to say the game itself was far more enjoyable as a spectacle than I had expected it to be. The quality of the rugby wasn’t great, with Coventry being marginally the better of the two sides on display, but despite all their efforts and commitment to the cause, they were never able to dominate Cinderford and until the final five minutes I never felt confident that Coventry had done enough. What pleased me most, though, was that Coventry did try and run the ball at Cinderford and Dom was able to profit from some width for a change. I’ve always maintained that he is a class finisher and he showed that yesterday; his second and third tries weren’t ‘gimmes’ by any means.
The big talking point before the game was the inclusion of Alex Woodburn at centre. Just how ‘tactical’ the swap was is something we probably won’t get to find out, although with no other centre available, it must have been partly borne of necessity? However, whatever the reason, he had a stormer and the biggest compliment I can pay him is that he didn’t really look out of place. I appreciate Dom was awarded the Man of the Match award, but Alex must have been a close call. I had feared that Coventry would decide not to expose him too much and opt for a kicking game but I got that completely wrong, with the ball being passed out wide more often than not.
Woodburn did himself no harm at all yesterday and those who might have questioned why he was being retained in preference to perhaps George Oliver, for instance, might feel slightly more relaxed about the decision now.
At times the game had an end of season feel to it, with the ball being thrown around by forwards who seemed to forget that their job was to do the hard yards and then let the backs exploit the gaps. At times too, many players were grouped around the ball and out of position and it was a little reminiscent of the school playing fields where positions become meaningless and everyone tries to get the ball at once. There were a lot of mistakes on both sides but, fortunately, when we made ours Cinderford weren’t good enough to capitalise.
There were a fair few positives coming from the game.
Other than those mentioned above, Coventry’s discipline was good and for once it was the opposition who suffered at the hands of the referee, who I thought had a pretty decent game. Cinderford received 3 yellows (correction – 1 was for foul play…many thanks to Graham B for the update), all for technical offences (I think), but despite this advantage we weren’t really able to capitalise in the way other teams have when we’ve been in a similar position. I though Caolan Ryan had a good game and looks a far better player at 15 – it was one of his scything breaks from defence that led to Dom’s first try. Jones ran the line well and we are far stronger with him than without and Callum MacBurnie was more prominent – but as the senior partner in midfield he needed to be.
The scrum held up well until the last 15 minutes when it started to go backwards and the lineout was very effective. Kivalu was far more noticeable around the pitch than in previous games and in the second half he had a couple of strong runs, the second of which very nearly led to a try. The back row was effective, with Oliver, Pailor and Wright all prominent with the ball at various times of the game, although not quite as quick to the breakdown as usual. Hope probably had his best game in a Coventry shirt and seemed to put in an inordinate number of tackles and covered a fair few yards over the course of his time on the pitch.
But it was a scrappy game and to be fair Cinderford played their part in making it an entertaining one to watch, despite all the unforced errors. Sam Baker, who played for Coventry 3 times earlier in the season, scored two tries and a tweet of his from after the game suggests that perhaps he rather enjoyed scoring against Cov:
I have to admit, I hadn’t even realised he’d quit Coventry and gone back to Cinderford. Did Coventry announce it? I don’t remember seeing anything if they did.
How many players have we had at Cov who haven’t really done much whilst here, but who have then gone on to do well at other clubs. A fair few…?
It was a much needed win and one that doesn’t yet guarantee mathematically our place in National 1 next season, but does make it pretty certain. However, there are going to be some teams that will provide a far greater challenge than Cinderford, starting with Henley a week on Saturday. If we are going to get anything out of these games we are going to have to produce a far more rounded performance than we did against Cinderford and eliminate many of the frailties that we saw yesterday.
Another couple of weeks should allow time for players who are presently out injured a chance to recover and much as I enjoyed watching Alex Woodburn, we do need another recognised centre alongside Callum.
I feel much more relaxed about the remainder of the season now. The win has eased fears somewhat and now we know who is going, the speculation is over and we can begin to look forward to the announcements concerning those who have been recruited. There are still a few hurdles to jump before the end of the season, but at least we know where we are heading now. There seems to be a willingness from Rowland Winter to be more open about what is happening in and around the club which makes things far easier; too often it’s the not knowing that has led to the concerns and frustrations.
So a two week break until the next game. Just how much news will come out of the club in this period is anyone’s guess, but if Cov are true to form, not a great deal unless it comes from Rowland rather than the club itself…these weekend breaks are obviously much needed, especially for those clubs who have had fixtures postponed due to adverse weather and for players to have some much needed time to recuperate from a run of games, but they are so frustrating as a supporter!
A 2nd XV, playing in a competitive league, can’t come quick enough for me, albeit for purely selfish reasons. Any excuse to put off having to wash the car!
Like many, I’m still struggling for that place in the sun. Maybe the changes that are beginning to sweep through Coventry will bring about some small degree of warmth and the hint of the summer to come…and jeez, I do hope it happens before my days are well and truly done.