Every time that I fall for that same old trick
I punish myself with the same old stick
I want to believe it so badly I deceive myself
Todd Rundgren – The Waiting Game
Before moving on to anticipate the week ahead, it’s probably worth reflecting a little on Saturday’s visit to Jersey.
No disrespect to Ealing, but the game against Jersey Reds will probably turn out to be our toughest of the season and I do think the performance should be seen in that context.
The first run-out for those who made the starting XV and the strongest team we’ll face all season.
It’s as hard as it gets in many respects and I really do think Cov performed pretty well.
And the Ealing game will probably be our next toughest…At times we were outplayed, but seldom were we outgunned…and this against what is being tipped to be one of the strongest set of forwards in the Championship over the coming season.
There was plenty of evidence to suggest that the Coventry squad has the power, physical presence and skills needed to compete at the top end of National 1 and certainly Jersey were quick to acknowledge Coventry’s performance:
Coventry had defended gamely and the visiting pack held their own at scrum time (Jersey Coach)
I’ve only seen one National One side in action this season (Jersey Reds 47 Cov 5 yesterday), and I’m not sure many other sides have even played, so it’s very early, but it appears Cov have recruited well and should be a force in Nat 1. I can’t see many Nat 1 packs shoving the Cov scrum around – Jersey couldn’t. There were some defensive lapses with a gift of an intercept for the first try after 3 mins and some other scores from turnovers. The hosts scored seven tries, two of which were in last 4 mins, and for the first proper run-out for most of the Cov team, a creditable effort…(Rolling-maul.com)
There are plenty of other similar comments to be found following the game, not just from those connected to Cov, but also from Jersey supporters (check the Messageboard) – even the guy who picked me up from the hotel on Sunday morning, and who’d been to the game, was full of praise for Coventry and for the second half performance in particular.
The first half was disappointing, there’s no getting away from that, but even then the first 17 minutes were Coventry’s, other than the interception. We were undone by our own mistakes and the clinical finishing of a Jersey side that looked extremely sharp for this stage of the season.
A big plus for me was having been somewhat overwhelmed in the final 20 minutes of the first half, after the break and despite conceding another fairly fortuitous try almost from the kick off (involving some great footballing skills from the Jersey flanker, together with some impressive speed to outpace the Coventry defence), Coventry were able to regroup and inflict control on the game.
This is an experienced squad, individually if not collectively, and it showed for much of the last 40 minutes. We retained the ball for the most part and that enabled us to play the attacking game that we’re beginning to get used to…some decent off loads and some good support play kept Jersey Reds very much on the back foot. From the discussions at the airport waiting for the plane back yesterday morning, it was clear the Cov players had been unhappy that the referee repeatedly failed to allow Cov to take quick taps following several Jersey infringements, insisting he spoke to the Jersey captain on each occasion.
If I was going to be critical, then we did hand Jersey the ball in good positions, especially when Tony Fenner attempted a couple of dinks over the advancing defenders, one of which led to a Jersey score….it was the wrong occasion to be profligate, although we’d struggled to unlock the Jersey defence so I can see the reasoning.
I did feel sorry for young scrum half Rhodri Adamson, someone who had stood out when he appeared against us for Blaydon last season. I think he has the makings of a fine prospect and with Brendan Burke and James Pritchard looking after him, as well as Sam Grasso to learn from, I’m sure he’ll make good. But he looked a bit nervous out there on Saturday and a couple of early passes went wayward. Then, after he’d been subbed for Sam Grasso and then come back on, he incurred the wrath of the referee and was sin-binned for (I think) a deliberate knock on, an offence that had happened on a couple of previous occasions without the accompanying sanction. Not a game he’ll want to remember personally, but I think he’s one of the younger players who has much to offer over the coming months…
Next weekend will be another interesting one for Coventry. Not only do we take on a Championship side for the second week running in Ealing Trailfinders, but another National 1 club, Ampthill, visit Jersey.
You’d think Ampthill might struggle too (and best of luck to Pete Weightman who joined Ampthill recently), so the score-line there will be one I’ll be looking out for on Saturday evening.
As for the Ealing game – well at home and with now 1 or 2 games under their belts, the Coventry players should be well-prepared for the challenge. In front of a decent crowd and against a team that again you’d expect to be stronger than anything we’ll come across in National 1 over the entire season, I think it’s going to be tough.
But I’d also expect Cov to have learned from their mistakes this weekend and to see some further progress. It’s Ealing’s first pre-season fixture so I hope they won’t want to play it as a practice game – I think Cov have got beyond that now and need proper match conditions. (Full credit to Jersey, by the way, for whom Saturday’s fixture was anything but a practice game!)
With the gap between the Championship and National 1 widening, it will be a tough ask of Coventry. Once again, it’s about the performance for me…the win would be good, but if Coventry can eradicate some of Saturday’s costly errors and compete at least as well as they did in the scrum, then against a strong opposition, but probably not quite as strong as Jersey, then I think we’ll see Cov being more competitive over the whole 80 minutes.
I’m sure the Rowland Winter and the coaches will today be reviewing the game and analysing with the players the areas of strength and, of course, those areas that need to be addressed in the training over the coming week.
I do think the club have played a canny game as far as making predictions about the coming season is concerned. This time last season, we’d already had a Members’ Meeting, out of which came the statement from the coaches confirming that we were going to be making a push for promotion on the basis of the strong recruitment over the summer.
The hype that followed, if hype it was, had been fed by that meeting and because the pre-season results had gone so favourably, when we lost two consecutive games early on, suddenly the mood changed. Scott’s comment that teams couldn’t afford to lose more than 4 games over the season had come to back to haunt him within 4 weeks of the campaign starting.
This year, there is obviously excitement at the coming season and the changes that are currently taking place but a) it’s no more than that, excitement (most supporters aren’t really predicting anything other than a top 3 or 4 finish) and b) the excitement is being fuelled by the supporters and not by the club.
Which is the way it should be…
That seems eminently sensible to me and should ensure supporters attach more realistic targets to what is, after all, only the first season of the new management team. I thought ‘eggshape’s’ post on the Messageboard was a really pertinent one – could the Jersey defeat be seen as a good one for us in the sense that it might ground us a little more this season?
I guess from a player’s or a coach’s point of view, no defeat can be seen as good, but I do I agree with the premise, namely had we got a lot closer in terms of points, the expectations would have been much, much greater going into the Ealing game and beyond. And that might not be such a good thing…
I do think RW is right to just talk about the changes and what he and his team are trying to achieve, rather than making bold statements of intent that can all too easily backfire.
I know hindsight is a wonderful thing and I was as optimistic as anyone following that meeting last August and the success of the pre-season games. I guess what I’m trying to say is that the two styles of management are very different…
…you ‘pays your money and you takes your choice’ as to which you prefer…
I do think it would be a good idea to have another chance to listen to RW over the next few weeks, either at an open meeting, a members’ forum or maybe just informally talking to the Supporters’ Club (there should be additional talks from coaches, players and those connected to the club as incentives to join) to recap on what’s happened and where we’re headed. Such meetings between supporters and the management of the club have been relatively few and far between in recent years…and yet do provide real understanding of what is being done and why, whilst also helping to prevent the kind of frustrations from supporters we saw boil over occasionally on the messageboard last season.
Anyway…that’s me done. The pre-season isn’t so much about individual games as it is about what is learned from the sum of the parts. I’m sure plenty of things will have come out of the Jersey game that the coaches will have either had confirmed or they learned for the first time.
The big question is …how will they use this to the team’s advantage and how will the players respond against Ealing Trailfinders on Saturday?
It’s a waiting game…