I’d intended for visit my GP on Tuesday morning having been struck down on Monday with a sudden bout of dizziness, shortage of breath and the odd unexpected nosebleed.
I feared the worst given I’m usually in rude health. For 24 hours I’d been in a state of mild panic.
However, the reason for my sudden failing health was soon to become clear for on Tuesday morning I realised that it was nothing more than a bad bout of vertigo brought on by Coventry’s rapid rise to 8th place in the National 1 following Plymouth Albion’s 30 point deduction on Monday of this week.
Albion had been forced to go into administration on the Friday of last week following their a worsening financial situation which had become more and more untenable over the last few months. Although, the club was almost immediately bought by two former players, Bruce Priday and David Venables, an automatic points reduction was the inevitable consequence.
Hopefully, Plymouth Albion have now turned a corner and with their position in National 1 next season now guaranteed, they can look to build for the future. Director of Rugby Graham Dawe was philosophical about the sanction:
They (the players) are extremely disappointed that they have worked so hard from July onwards, with blood, sweat and tears and then this came along. They totally understand the situation and if it’s for the better future of the club, they accept that.
The good news for Plymouth is that players won’t be losing their jobs as a result of the sale.
8th place by default. We’re in no position to complain though, however humiliating it is.
Still, with three tough matches to come, the likelihood that we can maintain that position is certainly questionable but it does give Scott Morgan and the team something to aim for – a finish in the top half of the table wasn’t something we could have really anticipated following 4 consecutive defeats prior to the Cinderford game.
The table below takes into account Plymouth’s points’ deduction:
|6||Darlington Mowden Park||27||17||0||10||673||578||95||10||4||82|
Coventry have now been in National 1 for the last six seasons.
Disappointing as 2015/16 has been, I thought I’d have a brief look at our results this season compared with those of the last five.
Just how poor have the last 8 months been…?
Well, let’s get the bad news out of the way first…as it stands at the moment, this could well be Coventry’s worst season in National 1, beating that of 20011/12 when we amassed 67 points and finished 13th .
So pretty poor, all-in-all.
If we fail to win any of the last three games and don’t pick up a bonus point in all of them, then it will be. Were that scenario to come about (and surely it won’t, will it?) then the 2.41 points per game we are currently averaging would drop to 2.13, compared to 2.23 in 2011/12. Even in 2011/12 in finishing 13th, Coventry won 13 games against the 12 we’ve so far won, with just 3 games remaining.
Another target to aim for then; none of the players will want to be remembered for being part of the poorest performing Coventry side in terms of points scored, well…in living memory, I guess.
Is that right…would it be?
Eek…that sounds pretty grim if it is, especially considering all the hopes and expectations most of us had back in September.
The strange thing is, I don’t see the team in anything like those terms at all…but statistics can be cruel masters on occasions. Even in the games we’ve been losing, Coventry have played some decent rugby at times, so the idea that this could be Coventry’s worst ever season seems hard to accept. I’ve certainly enjoyed this season more than some others I care to recall.
The good news is that we are set to pass our lowest ever points score of 641, again in the 2011/12 season. However, we’ll have to average over 25 points in each of remaining three games if we are to beat our next highest total of 716 in the 2012/13 season (with a high last season of 1011).
Coventry are presently standing on a 44% wins-to-games-played ratio, whereas the average over the 6 years we’ve been in the league is 51.2%, a further indication of just how mediocre this season has been. Contrast this season’s 44% with last season’s 73% and it’s pretty clear just how dramatic the decline in results has been since September. In 2014/15 we were averaging 34 points a game, this season it’s barely 23 points.
In contrast, the teams winning promotion in the last two seasons have had to achieve double our current % wins vs games played record:
2014 Doncaster Knights – 25 wins = 83.3%
2015 Ealing Trailfinders – 27 wins = 90%
2016 Richmond* – 22 (out of 27 games played so far) = 73.33%
All the above suggest that this hasn’t been anything other than a poor season for Coventry RFC. It’s been a season in which attendances have dropped and an increasing belief amongst many supporters that the changes currently taking place within the club amongst players and coaches, whilst maybe not initially handled as well as they should have been, are in the best interests of the club.
The tables below show the comparisons in Coventry’s performance this season and that of the average over the last six.
|National One 15/16 League table|
|National One All time league table|
Should Coventry win their last three games, it would go some way in turning a poor season into an average one. It’s a big ask with two of the teams we’ve yet to play, Blackheath and Ampthill, both enjoying a good deal of success of late. A run of 6 straight wins would certainly leave supporters with some much happier memories of the 2015/16 season than might otherwise be the case. Were I one of the coaches, it would be something I would be focusing on in the build up to tomorrow’s game. Poor results in the remaining 3 games would only heighten the sense of frustration for both players and supporters alike.
Much better to end a disappointing season on a high, rather reinforce it with further setbacks.
The above only serves to bring home just how difficult it is to get out of this league. Scott Morgan’s comment pre-season about us not being able to afford to lose more than 4 games if we were to stand any chance of promotion was pretty much spot on. The current leaders, Richmond, although they have won just 22 of their 27 games played, have actually only lost two, the others being drawn.
The hard truth is that this season Coventry’s results have been poor.
What I find hard to accept is that many of the performances, even the ones in which we’ve lost, haven’t been anywhere as near as bad as some of the above would suggest. There must be nearly 10 games that I can recall where we’ve lost by less than 8 or 9 points. These are games where we’ve had an advantage but then, through a lack of discipline or a lack of leadership on and off the pitch, we’ve conspired to lose them when we could have, and possibly should have, won. From memory, only in three of the games have Cov been very poor – all away from home as well – at Richmond, Esher and Blaydon (although I have to admit I wasn’t at the Blaydon game, so that is anecdotal).
Maybe this is where next season the experience of the 4 new full-time coaches, together with Rowland Winter, will have a positive impact. Their influence might make a real difference in the very tight games, especially if one or two of them are on the pitch at the death. With the likes of James Pritchard, Boris Stankovich, Brendon Snyman, and Brendan Burke there’s a wealth of experience and this can only benefit the younger, less experienced players – although with Tolmie, Boulton, Price, Price, Knox and Rundle already signed, there’s going to be some senior players alongside them as well.
With more opportunity to train together during the week and work through options available to the team across a range of scenarios, you’d hope that in similar close games next season, players will be able to close the opposition out to better effect than perhaps was the case this year.
That could be the difference between a mid table team and one in the top three.