What a turnaround.
Suddenly the top teams begin to look ordinary as Coventry, unbeaten in five games, become the form team in the league and start to show signs of what might have been had they managed this level of consistency from the start of the season.
The back row look a yard quicker than they did back in January and the backs, with Tresidder and Jones controlling play, seem to be intent on playing a wider, more expansive game than was the case when we were struggling to see where the next win might come from.
The team won not only the game, but also the hearts of the Coventry faithful yesterday. It was afternoon that ended in celebration tinged with some sadness and pain.
Too many goodbyes were said, too many broken dreams laid bare.
As relationships came to their unnatural end at the Butts, relationships once full of hope and expectation but lately filled with frustration and suspicion, supporters were able to show their appreciation of a group of players who, through all the machinations of the last three months or so, have remained dignified and focused.
Come the final whistle, it finally sank in that that this had been the last time I’d see many of the team in a Cov shirt.
There was an outpouring of gratitude from the supporters as the players turned to face the main stand once the customary respect had been shown to the opposition. It was genuine and heartfelt.
Some great players and even greater people will be hugely missed next season.
The build up to the game was all very low key. In the couple of hours we were at the ground before kick off, you wouldn’t have known it was anything other than a typical Saturday afternoon at the Butts. However, I tend to stay outside of the bar area and maybe things we different there, but around the ground there was a steady trickle of people coming through the turnstiles, but little else.
There was nothing to suggest this was Dave Addleton’s final home game with Coventry after 20 plus years or indeed Matt Price’s 150th appearance, something else which failed to get the pre-match publicity it deserved.
And Scott Morgan and Pete Glackin?
Sadly they barely got a mention. The club failed them in that respect – my opinion only, I hasten to add.
It wasn’t until the teams came out onto the pitch that the atmosphere really changed. First Ampthill emerged and then, after a slight pause, Aggy appeared, stoop-shouldered and short, quick strides, with a raise of the hand to acknowledge the ovation. Suddenly this was it…what we’d waited for…the chance to say a proper farewell.
More could, indeed I believe should, have been done to mark the occasion but this at least was fitting.
A great servant of the club…a great response from the crowd.
And followed by Matt Price, daughter (eek, I hope that’s right!) in arms and also beaming with pride. And deservedly so…in these days of short contracts and widespread movement across the country, 150 appearances is one hell of an effort.
The atmosphere was charged, the crowd full of expectation. In front of their largest crowd of the season would Coventry be able to do what they’d failed to do up to then, beat one of the top 3 teams in the league?
Conditions were good, the pitched looked fantastic and the players clearly up for the challenge.
Within just three minutes Coventry had taken the lead, a lead they were to retain for the duration of the game and, although having to defend at times for longer they would have liked, Coventry looked in control.
The irony is, this wasn’t a complete performance by any means and there would be more to come from this group of players were circumstances different.
But they’re not and we have to accept that.
Once again, this was a team effort and it’s probably wrong to single out individual players, but well, this is a blog after all and etiquette was never my strong point.
Man of the Match for me – Danny Wright.
Maybe an odd one, but in defence the man was a machine. His tackle count must have been huge; for someone so big, he’s very mobile. Oliver or Pailor would be a close second, but they are probably more noticeable around the park than Danny, so for me to be so aware of him means he gets the nod.
A word about MoM awards…should it be the sponsors who decide on the winner each week? I know they provide much needed revenue and it’s a nice gesture, but so often the decision they make seems out of kilter with what most of the crowd think.
Dom had a strong game yesterday and scored one of the best tries seen at The Butts all season, so I’m probably mentioning this when it least applies, but I do wonder sometimes…had I thought about it before, I would have put a poll in for the home games to see just how much agreement there was between the official MoM award and that of those reading the blog.
Anyway, back to the game…
The forwards played well as a unit and for me the most impressive aspect of their game was the fact that they so effectively countered the catch and drive following a kick into the corner, the result of some indiscipline that might have cost Cov the win earlier in the season. They’ve clearly worked hard at defending from line-outs close to their line.
The scrums at times seemed to look less than solid, especially in the first half, but at others Cov were able to dominate. The scrum in the final minutes, 5 m out from Cov’s line on Ampthill put in was one of the most memorable for a long time.
Ampthill, on the ascendency and looking as if they might just take something from the game they in truth probably didn’t deserve, had their tails up. They were in the perfect position to attack the Cov line. But out of nowhere came a Cov surge as the ball was put into the scrum and the Ampthill pack went backwards at a rapid rate. The referee had no option but to award Cov the penalty which allowed them to clear their lines…it was a massive moment and one that the front 5 will live off for most of the week to come.
But the scrums generally were unsatisfactory affairs and the referee seemed unsure as to who was the cause of the disruption.
Fortunately, Ampthill’s lineout didn’t work too well for them and we were able to get good ball, with their hooker staying on in the second half but throwing duties being handed over to someone else.
Cov’s backs continue to grow in confidence and Callum MacBurnie had arguably his best game of the season. Tresidder and Jones control the play and both will be a huge loss to the club next season. The scrum half is being courted by Cov as I understand it, but he’s aroused the interest of several Championship clubs too, so the likelihood is he’ll be on his way after the Wharfedale game which is a shame as he’s been an integral part of Coventry’s revival in the last few weeks.
Jones, too, has made a big difference since his return. I love watching him and at this level he has so much more time than most fly halves we see. He controls the game well so well and his decision making is what makes the difference…when he does kick, it’s usually accurate and deep, although he has the vision to dink the ball over the defence to allow players like Knox and Lespierre the chance to chase. Yesterday, we seldom kicked possession away and when we did it was either deep and behind the Ampthill defences, allowing our backs to chase, or accurate enough to allow the kicker time to challenge for the ball (as was the case in the build up leading to Dan Rundle’s first try of the season).
I thought Rob Knox had his quietest game since his return and oddly he seemed to be used more as a decoy runner than a receiver which was frustrating as he’s such a fantastic player to watch with ball in hand. However, given the fact that Cov won I suppose the end justifies the means, but there were no characteristic Knox breaks through centre of midfield which so often get the crowd to their feet. I should imagine he left the pitch a little frustrated at the lack of opportunity.
The wings both had good games, with Dom obviously more evident given his try, a try that reinforced just how quick and elusive he is over 30 metres or so. Peter Weightman also had some great moments and his run through the centre of midfield resulted in a try for Caolan Ryan. He was also denied one himself after a forward pass in the build up gave him a clear run to the line. Peter is another player who should count himself rather unlucky not to be staying on.
Ryan, who we will be seeing again next season as he’ll be playing for Darlington Mowden Park, had another solid game and his own athletic take from a massive up and under led directly to Dan Rundle’s first try of the season. Seeing Dan back on the pitch at least reminded us that despite the problems this year and all the forthcoming departures, there is still much to look forward to.
It was a very enjoyable game to watch, full of running rugby but spoiled somewhat by the incessant problems with the scrum that the referee seemed unable to sort out. There was plenty of passion and spirit out there, from both teams, and Ampthill clearly wanted the win to put pressure on Hartpury for that second spot. It was hardly your typical end of season fixture.
The most memorable moment?
For me, one that probably wouldn’t be anyone else’s choice – the final couple of minutes when George Oliver, supposedly in the sin bin, was screaming out instructions to his team mates from the touch line. Oliver, the players’ player and supporters’ player of the season, a man whose services are no longer required but one who still retains the same level of passion and commitment for the club and his team mates. Professional to the end.
The win was a fillip to everyone there yesterday…it was exactly what was needed to take the edge of what has been, after all, such a disappointing season. Unbeaten in five, with the prospect of it being six next Saturday, Cov’s recent run of form ensures that the season ends far better than it might otherwise have done.
We’ve seen the last of a fantastic bunch of players and yesterday they did us, and more importantly, themselves proud.
Well done lads,
All the very best, wherever you go.
It was the end of our own Cov soap opera that has been the 2015/16 season. Truly a case of…
Home and away…