The Friendlies: Episode 5: the one with all the Homies (the report)
Two games, two very different performances.
Two very different sets of playing conditions.
If you’ll excuse the pun, in the final game Coventry made heavy weather in beating a tenacious Bury St Edmunds side in the last of the three fixtures, but they certainly weren’t helped by driving rain that caused plenty of problems for both sides.
8 minutes into the game the referee took the decision to take the players off as thunder rolled round the BPA and lightening lit up the darkened skies. There were no complaints from anyone.
On the teams’ return, the rain continued to fall and Coventry weren’t able to break down a determined and resolute Bury Saint Albans’ defence and at half time they only had a narrow 7-3 lead.
Poor handling, perhaps understandable if not forgivable given the rain, and some inconsistent decision-making at times meant that despite plenty of possession and territory, Cov went into the break with much still to do. Coventry tried to vary it a little, with more kicking out of hand especially from penalties to kick for territorial advantage, but too often we lost good ball through a combination of interceptions and poor passing or even poorer handling.
We didn’t seem able to adapt to the conditions and Coventry’s attempts to run the ball gained scant reward. To their credit, St Albans chased us down and were particularly quick to the breakdown especially in the first half. Three yellow cards for BSE during the game though probably should tell us something.
The Cov players stayed out at half time and Rowland Winter’s body language suggested he was clearly frustrated by what he’d seen. A few words to Brendon Snyman, a chance for the players to regroup and in the second half Cov gave a far better performance. They looked more secure with the ball and began to dominate in all areas of play. It’s always a good sign when a team can turn things round in the second half… and says something about the coaches too.
Cov scored a further 4 tries in the second half with Scott Tolmie adding a further two to the one he scored in the first half…hatricks don’t come around too often, so I guess Scott might have had to dig deep into his pockets yesterday evening! The club seems blessed with having another two try scoring hookers this season…a bit of healthy competition then? A bit like last season…
Despite the heavy conditions, Cov made some good metres with the likes of Stokes and Trimble far more prominent, despite further rain. The scrum, which in fairness had been dominant all the way through the game, caused BSE all sorts of problems and Coventry benefitted from an ever increasing penalty count in favour of the home team, although Cov gave away far too many penalties during the course of the game as well.
It was a much better second half and if, after 60 minutes of play, you’d been told that Cov were 35-7 up with 20 minutes to go, then you’d have probably accepted it. RW had said before the game that this Bury St Edmunds team was very close to being the same side that had beaten Cambridge in the penultimate game of last season, a result which meant RW’s team had to win their final game to gain automatic promotion. They were no pushovers…except in the scrum.
They provided just the right sort of test for a Coventry side about to embark on their National 1 campaign.
After the game Eoghan Grace tweeted:
Ground out the W in the storm. Tried not laugh at the crowd having a go @ their choice to kick @ goal. #16thman Good to have you on board.
— Eoghan Grace (@EoghanG7) August 27, 2016
and that’s spot on. Interesting how aware the players are of the crowd’s response to what happens on the pitch, even when it’s as small a gate as it was yesterday.
This wasn’t the kind of performance that we might have hoped for had the conditions been better suited to the style of rugby that we are beginning to expect from Cov these days. It was a full on encounter and at times there was a bit of niggle,too. Bury St Edmunds had come here to prove a point and they caused Cov problems. They weren’t about to treat it as anything other than a proper game and when penalties were in range, they kicked them. But equally, when the situation was right, they were prepared to use quick ball to put us on the back foot and twice their scrum half made exceptional metres from quick taps. There were times when they played us at our own game…
Nevertheless, there are lots of positives to be taken from it and I’ve seen many a previous Cov team play supposedly weaker opposition and come a cropper. Not so today and in the end Cov proved comfortable winners.
Cov look to be a side that will score points even when they’re not playing particularly well which is a real bonus and there are players in the team who are capable of turning a game on its head with a moment of inspiration.
In the backs, Stokes, Trimble and Knox all made searing breaks and Tony Fenner looks to be improving with every game. He’s got good pace and distributes the ball well and doesn’t kick it away needlessly as Cov fly halves have been want to do in the past. Sam Grasso put in a lot of hard work around the fringes and looks to be settling in to the team well, developing a good understanding with Fenner. Corey Hircock saw a lot less of the ball than most of the backs and it’s going to be interesting to see who RW opts for out on the wing next weekend. Dan Rundle looked sharp against Colchester, scoring a good try from a long way out, but he had the better of the conditions and an opposition that weren’t a strong as BSE. Dan’s pace is going to cause problems for any team in the league, but does RW see that as enough to justify his place? He’s getting stronger and he’ll improve his game under the new coaches…I guess we’ll know the answer on Thursday.
Elsewhere, the front row was strong again and it looks as if pretty much any combination we play is going to cause the opposition difficulties. Starting with Boris might be one possibility; wear the opposition down and then give him a break after 40-50 minutes. The second row has a pretty settled look about it for the time being and in the back row the number 8 spot is potentially the one other area where there’s a decision to be made. Bone, Povoas or Dyer?
I should make an apology at this point.
I think I incorrectly tweeted during the game that Eoghan Grace made an impressive 50m break in the second half, showing a good turn of pace. It might have been Ali Bone, in which case I feel pretty stupid. However, in my defence scrum caps and acute myopia make it pretty difficult to tell the difference. If they weren’t quite so worried about maintaining their looks, then there wouldn’t have been any confusion…and I’m only saying that now because I’m not going to be seeing them for a while.
The game against Colchester was played in much easier conditions (I forgot to mention that the pitch was starting to cut up a little by the end of the third game…Eric Richardson could have done without that rain!). Colchester weren’t able to cope with the Cov’s superior armoury in all areas of the team and we scored at pretty much a point a minute…winning 59-7 in the end. In truth, we wasted a number of good scoring opportunities with passes not going to hand or the ball going forward and we probably should have added another 20 points onto the total. We still need to be even more clinical. There were lots of good performances out there today and whilst many players will have got themselves noticed, I’m not sure there are that many places up for grabs for the Loughborough game.
There were strong returns for Callum MacBurnie (who must have scored in the first minute!) and Tom Poole, both of whom will have enjoyed just being out on the pitch again. Rhodri Adamson seemed to fit in quite comfortably at 10 and Alex Smith showed his pace in scoring the first of two tries. Just how much rugby some of these players will see over the coming weeks is a concern, but I understand that other than positions 2, 9 and 10, which are picked purely according to who is playing the best rugby at the time, the rest will be rotated to enable everyone to get some game time. In addition, there will be the monthly Nighthawks games, so there are going to be opportunities for all players to make their case, as well as in the regular training sessions led by the coaches.
A crowd of just 361 were there to watch the afternoon’s entertainment and entertaining it was despite the weather. I’m hoping we’ll get at least 1200 for the first league game next weekend. By way of comparison, 1259 watched Coventry’s opener against Wharfedale last season, so that’s a good yardstick by which to gauge next week’s gate. The players need to experience a decent sized Cov crowd wind up the noise a bit…it will spur them on, I’m sure.
The waiting is almost over…the players have had a decent few weeks of pre-season.
It’s now time for the serious stuff…
The launch of the Supporters’ Club proved to be extremely successful yesterday, with 85 supporters joining the party.
With such a small gate, a number of whom were with the visiting teams, it’s a very pleasing start.
I’d expect the numbers to be approaching 130 or 140 come the end of the Loughborough game and that would be above most people’s guestimations.
In addition, 29 have already signed up for the coach to Moseley and with it being a 49 seater, if there are folk interested in going who are readers of this blog, I strongly recommend you get in touch with any of the Committee or email email@example.com sooner rather than later; I rather expect it to sell out at some stage next Saturday.
I should add that if you want to make use of the discounted travel to Moseley and entry into the ground, then you need to have booked your places by next Saturday – discounts apply to members only!
A word for Cliff and Nige…they worked their socks off yesterday, as has everyone on the committee in the run in to the launch. There a still things to be done…launch packs to be distributed, electronic payment to be set up and so on, but in a very short space of time they have done wonders…
— Tim Smith (@CowshedTim) August 27, 2016
If you’re still not sure about whether the Supporters’ Club is for you, then come along and speak to the Cliff, Quent or Paul who will be manning the stall next week.
I’ve never really made any comment about the popularity or otherwise of the blog as it’s not really something that is of particular interest to anyone, other than to me. However, I’m going to make an exception today, but only because it gives a wider indication of the interest currently being expressed in what’s happening at Coventry at the moment.
Yesterday saw the highest number of views since the blog started, at 2140, comfortably beating the 2018 views recorded on the Saturday of the Jersey game. Now that’s views, not viewers remember.
That’s said, there have been 2529 different viewers so far this month, so that doesn’t include anyone who revisits the blog more than once in the month (also a record) from 34 different countries (again, a record – but it is the holiday season!).
I only include this to emphasise that the interest in Cov is definitely out there, and the numbers are probably 25% up on the final month of last season. In fairness, a lot of the people who read the blog are living in areas of the UK or beyond that make it impossible to visit The Butts, but there are still many, many potential supporters who are coming across to read what’s happening at Cov but as yet aren’t coming through the turnstiles.
I guess that’s a problem for the marketing team at the club, but as a supporter it is heartening to know that far from the club losing its fan base, in fact it seems to be broadening.
Anyway…time to sign off and wish everyone a happy Sunday.
I’m off on my hols for a while and tomorrow’s will be the final post for three weeks…I value my genitalia too much to spend my holidays blogging. I really don’t think Sue would be overly amused! I’m an early morning kind of guy back at home, but tapping away in bed…well, it’s not conducive to happy hols.
The irony is, the children asked if I’d create a blog for the holiday which they could read whilst we’re away…mind you…just photos should keep them happy.
I’ll be logging on fairly regularly, provided there’s a connection, so if anyone wants to leave a message, I’ll get back to them asap.
I’ll be up and running in time for the Blackheath game…
Up the Cov.