And one for the road…

This weekend’s edition of The Rugby Paper includes an article previewing National 1, outlining a couple of DoRs’ thoughts on those teams likely to be pushing for the top spot in the league this season.

It starts with a comment from Hartpury College’s DoR, John Barnes (presumably because Hartpury finished 2nd last season) stating that Rosslyn Park are the team most likely to pose Hartpury the biggest threat, along with ‘Plymouth Albion, Moseley, Ampthill. Esher and Blackheath’).

No mention of Cov there then.

And that is exactly as I’d want it to be. No hyping up our chances and therefore no fear of complacency because everyone expects us to do well.

I’m more than happy for us to be not just under the radar, but actually well out of range of it at this stage of the season.

Rowland Winter has wisely set no time limit on reaching the Championship and I think most supporters would settle for a period of consolidation for a while, a chance for the club to bed in all the changes that have been implemented and for the players and coaches to acclimatise themselves to National 1 rugby.

That said, if we hit the ground running and win 4 of our first 5 games, then it  begins to look a little bit different, but this is a long term project and its success or failure shouldn’t be measured simply on whether we finish in the top two or three come the end of the season. Cov supporters are going to have to be patient and bide our time.

Things won’t all fall into place immediately but given that the last time Coventry were promoted was back in 1996, it’s not as if we aren’t used to having to show a fair deal of forbearance anyway.

Barnes did concede that Coventry:

with their new Director of Rugby and fresh outlook, will challenge more than they have in the last couple of years…

which doesn’t make a great deal of sense to me really, given that two years ago we finished 3rd…? But I think we know the point he’s making.

Predicting the league winners was, until last season, a fairly straightforward affair, with the relegated team from the Championship gaining automatic promotion – Ealing Trailfinders managed it twice, along with Jersey and Doncaster Knights.

Last season Plymouth’s financial troubles and the loss of most of their Championship squad meant it was never going to be that simple and with pre-season favourites Rosslyn Park and Coventry imploding early on, Richmond were the team to benefit.

Once again, this season seems far more open, with several clubs looking to be in the mix, and everyone understandably wary of making predictions. Even our own Tom Little declined to do so at the last Members’ Forum, having had his fingers burned 12 months ago, as did we all.

The team that I’d put some money on if I were a betting person this season would be Blackheath. Not just because they finished 3rd last year and retained most of their squad with some decent additions, but also because they have had some very promising results in their pre-season games, beating London Scottish 33-12, Carmarthen Quins 27-17 and Richmond 31-14 (2 Championship sides and a Welsh Premiership is a decent haul).

The article does suggest that ‘the division is brimming with new talent’ and perhaps that is the key…all the teams mentioned have the squads to go on a run at any point in the season, so it’s too close to call at the moment. It won’t be until Christmas and the first half of the fixtures has been completed that we will really know the teams that are in contention.

To redress the balance a little, I should add that in the same article the Macclesfield DoR, Giles Heagerty expressed a view that:

Coventry, Ampthill, Hartpury, Plymouth Albion and Moseley are the ones to watch…

(Looks Birmingham Moseley’s decision to change their name isn’t catching on amongst the rugby fraternity, then)

Macclesfield are clearly determined not to be seen as a ‘yo-yo’ club as has been the case in recent years and have plans approved to develop their facilities, including the installation of a 3G pitch. As Heagerty says:

If you have Championship facilities, that’s where you want to be…

…which sounds familiar.

At least the wait is almost over now and the time for clubs to be making statements of intent on the pitch, rather than the supporters off it, is almost upon us. This time a year ago, because I’d wanted to believe all that was said about Coventry’s expectations, I felt extraordinary excited and not a little anxious, but I’ve managed to contain my hopes somewhat this pre-season and just I’m looking forward to watching Coventry play the type of rugby that we’ve seen in recent weeks under more competitive circumstances.

Because it is so early in Coventry’s metamorphosis, not everything will go our way…but just as I’m going to try not to allow myself to get too carried away if Cov have a decent run early on, I’m also going to try and not get too despondent if we suffer a couple of early disappointments.

Somehow though, I think that’s easier said that done


Other results from pre-season games involving National 1 sides include:

Ealing Trailfinders 38 – 12 Hartpury College

Hull 5 – 55 Rotherham

Doncaster Knights 64 – 0 Darlington MP

London Irish 48 – 21 Loughborough Students (London Irish tipped for promotion by James Pritchard in  The Rugby Paper)

A decent result for Loughborough Students away from home and a reminder that no game in this league is going to be a gimme.


And finally, a big thank you for reading the blog, whether this is your first post or 343rd, as would be the case if you’ve been here from the start!

And an especially big thank you to those of you who have added comments, messaged me or just come up and said a hello at the ground…whilst it’s never, ever expected, it’s always very much appreciated.

Whether or not the players respect what’s in the blog is for others to opine. It was never my intention to do anything other than express my thoughts about the club I  have followed for such a long time; the thoughts of someone who’s never played the game at any kind of decent level and who will always hold his hand up when he gets it wrong.

I’ve never set myself to be anything other than a  supporter with a bit too much time on his hands.

It is easy to be dismissive of others’ views, much harder to recognise the efforts that sometimes go into expressing them…

…it’s one of the first lessons you learn as teacher, and one you never forget.

Best of luck to the management, coaches and players at Cov over the next three weeks or so, to the Supporters’ Club Committee and to all the supporters as well.

Up the Cov!


6 thoughts on “And one for the road…

  1. Hi Andrew…I did wonder at the time how JB would feel reading it! Must be the most open season in years. I reckon they’ll be a number of DoRs come 3.00 pm tomorrow secretly expecting that their teams will still be in the mix at the end of October. It is, as you say, an excellent league and one that i can’t help but feel will unearth a few surprises over the coming weeks.

    Many thanks for popping over…hope to hear from you again!!!! Good luck tomorrow…wouldn’t it be great both teams were undefeated prior to our meeting!

  2. Tim…Congrats on a great forum and blog.

    I am writing from Hartpury. John Barnes feels that he was misquoted (or at least misinterpreted) by TRP and is probably the last person to publicly declare us as favourites! Obviously, as we finished as runners-up last year, we have some reason for optimism but we fully recognise that a number of clubs, including your own, have strengthened significantly for this year – on and off the pitch.

    I would tend to agree with the overall concensus that picking a winner at this early stage is extremely difficult, with arguably seven or eight teams in a with a shout. We’ll know a lot more in a six weeks or so (we play you in Week 5 🙂 ! ).

    Whatever the outcome, it all makes for what should be an exciting season. Only one of us can go up – the rest of us can continue to enjoy this excellent league!

  3. For me, with all the changes this season i’d be happy with finishing better than the ninth place achieved last year. Consolidation, learning, growing together – progressing & getting better thro the season. The season after however…

    Regarding John Barnes’ comment about Cov possibly challenging more than they have recently, even though finishing 4th & 3rd in recent seasons looks like it – but points wise we were 32 & 24 points respectively behind the league winners. I guess that’s where he’s coming from.

  4. I agree, Rob…although there’s no clear ‘favourite’ for promotion, there are a lot of teams that must believe they have a chance. I rather imagine that having taken got Cambridge promoted last season, RW will have a slightly different plan for when the rains come, the pitch becomes a mud bath and the wind howls from the railway end. I think some of the clubs in our league going to be able to adapt better to our present game plan than perhaps in Nat 1. The big strength for me is the fact that the forwards look so strong, so if it does come down to 10 man rugby, Cov must still be in with a fighting chance, especially with two sets of front rows, each seemingly as strong as the other. I do think that RW will use 2 props and a hooker on the bench, plus another forwards and a back, but we’ll see.

  5. I think this season may be a steep learning curve and perhaps a shock to some as to how tough a league we’re in. I hope Rowland has a plan B up his sleeve as I don’t think flinging the ball around like it’s a hot potato is going to cut it, especially as conditions worsen.
    The sides who’ve been successful have defenses of steel and know when and where to spin the ball out wide. I hope, though, that we can eventually develop into such a side.
    Have a great holiday Tim, the blog will be sorely missed whilst you’re away.

Any thoughts:

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