There are those who apparently believe that Blackheath got its name from its association with the plague, or Black Death, of 1665. The area was used to bury the dead, so the land in which the pits were dug became known as Black Heath or Blackheath, as it is now.
And after the Black Death came the Great Fire of London in 1666.
I strongly hope that Coventry will be commemorating the latter event by starting a conflagration of it’s own…following their 9 try romp last weekend, Cov are currently on fire and it will take a strong Blackheath performance to douse the flames this afternoon.
And with a coach load of supporters making their way down to Blackheath, maybe it’s a question of them ‘fan’ning those flames. (Sorry…).
The last game I watched Coventry play was against Bury St Edmunds. Far too long ago…
I guess at the start of the season I’d have taken third place in National 1 after 3 games, just 4 points behind the leaders and with more tries and more points scored than any other team in the league.
Yet, by all accounts we have yet to play a full 80 minutes of quality rugby and with Rowland Winter making it clear in last week’s post-match interview that Cov just can’t afford to ‘take their foot off the gas’ with a run of three tough games coming up, I have to say I’m more nervous about today’s game against Blackheath than perhaps I might have imagined I would be, given the apparently healthy position Cov currently find themselves in.
I did a quick count up of the Rolling-maul predictions for the outcome of Cov’s visit to Rectory Field this afternoon and was somewhat surprised to find that of the 42 forecasts made, an overwhelming 37 were backing Cov to win and most of them giving Cov the bonus point as well. It’s worth remembering that Blackheath have a similar record to us, winning 2 of their 3 games, which suggests they’re not in too bad a shape either.
It would seem that many supporters of National 1 sides are already starting to sit up and take notice of the performances Coventry are putting together and even now see us as one of the strongest teams in this league. We’ve barely started the season, so for 88% of those taking part in the prediction league to be suggesting that Cov will win, and win comfortably, seems to ignore the fact that Blackheath, at home, are potentially going to be a very tough team to beat. Whilst it’s heartening to see from the perspective of a Coventry supporter, it’s all a bit too premature for my liking.
Admittedly, Blackheath have found tires hard to come by, with a combined total of just 38 points scored in their three games (against our 129), so it doesn’t appear as if they’re playing the most expansive rugby at the moment. However, they haven’t leaked many points either (conceding an average of 21 points in each game), so their defence is probably going to be somewhat more resilient than Macclesfield’s or Loughborough’s.
Cov don’t travel well at the best of times and if the team is slow off the blocks again this afternoon, as it was against Moseley, or if it fails to play for the full 80 minutes, then any result is possible. These next three games will be a big test for Coventry…Blackheath, followed by Hartpury College at home and then Esher away. The performance at Esher last year was the lowest point of the season for me. We were played off the pitch by the home side for whom ex-Coventry wing Spencer Sutherland scored 4 (or was it 5 even?) tries. It was a long, long journey home that day.
RW suggested we were along way behind where we need to be following the Macclesfield game. I guess his expectations are so high that the second half performance took a lot of the shine off the first half display which was exceptional at times. He and the coaches have had the past week to both identify and address the reasons why Coventry haven’t been able to put in a complete performance over the two halves of any game so far. I’m sure the players will know exactly what is expected of them come 3.00 pm!
And, whilst I remember, a warm welcome to Nick Walshe, the latest addition to the coaching staff, brought in to work with RW on Cov’s attacking play, as I understand it.
RW certainly doesn’t seem to be showing any further concerns following Cov’s second half display against Macclesfield, given that this week’s team only sees three changes with at least one of those is enforced, with Brendon Snyman unavailable to play for personal reasons. A question then of fine-tuning rather a complete overhaul…the coaches have shown their confidence in last week’s team whilst also making it clear to everyone they are not averse to changing a winning side.
I seem to remember RW saying that he likes his teams to play the first 20 minutes or so at an extremely high tempo and, wherever possible, get the bonus point secured by half time, as indeed was the case against both Macclesfield and Loughborough (thanks, Paul!). With Blackheath struggling for points at the moment, a four try blitz before half time would undoubtedly but Blackheath under all sorts of pressure. As yet, though, we haven’t seen a dominant away performance from Cov under RW, with us conceding early on against both Jersey and Moseley and having to play catch up for the rest of the games.
A good performance away from home this afternoon and I’ll be a lot happier about our prospects for the rest of the season. Our away form has been something of a perennial problem and rarely do we play with anything like the freedom and confidence to run the ball wide that we have displayed on occasions at the BPA. Will the coaches be wanting to spurn kickable penalties early on again for the chance to attack quickly, or will there have been a slight readjustment this week..? It will be interesting to see how the first 10-15 minutes unfold.
I still can’t quite get to grips with the fact that after 240 minutes plus of rugby, Cov has yet to attempt a 3 pointer (I might be wrong on that, but if they have it’s just the one…?). Cliffie would have been leading points scoring by a distance in any other season! Whether or not this is sustainable for too much longer is open to debate…presumably we will find ourselves in the odd tight corner where three points could be particularly useful.
Something to watch out for anyway…
I’ve always enjoyed my visits to Blackheath…a friendly and welcoming ‘Club’ with a proud tradition, not unlike our own. I’d like to think they’ll do well this season, provided it’s not at the expense of Cov, though. Needless to say, I’m more than a little excited about today’s game and am hopeful that Cov will be able to get its first win on its travels this season, bag the four tries, remain injury free and start the build up to what could be an absolute corker against Hartpury next weekend.
But first things first. Cov have a job to do this afternoon. That must be the players’ sole focus and that of the supporters, too.
Fingers crossed, I’ll put on a few photos from the pre-match build up early evening…I’ll update scorers etc as and when via Twitter.
The 350th anniversary of the Great Fire of London, won’t be held in Pudding Lane…