This was a BIG win…
The team needed it, Rowland Winter needed it and the supporters needed it.
A fourth defeat on the bounce and no matter how much the talk of periods of restructuring and the need to be patient, a second home defeat (thanks, Paul) would have been a real worry for all concerned.
So the win was important; very important.
And the manner of it, the fact that at last after 10 or so matches Cov was able to put in pretty much a full 80 minute performance, must come as something of a relief to the coaches who will surely have been frustrated by a Cov team that up to now has in truth flattered to deceive at times.
When I’d spoken to Rowland Winter at training on Tuesday, he’d made it clear that he wanted to get back to the kind of rugby that Coventry had been playing at times pre-season and in the Loughborough and Macclesfield games – 15 man rugby at pace and using the full width of the pitch.
And he delivered.
And the players delivered, too, and as far as the spectators were concerned, there was no need to return to sender…this was one of those performances that you very much want to keep with you just to remind yourself what this team is really capable of when everything clicks.
It’s wasn’t a complete performance by any means. There are still plenty of things that need tightening up, but there was far more Jekyll about yesterday’s win over Fylde and whilst Hyde hadn’t exactly gone into…well, into ‘Hyding’ so-to-speak, he did keep a much lower profile than of late.
Funnily enough, even when Fylde opened the scoring early on in the first two or three minutes I wasn’t unduly worried. We had done something similar last week and it had made little difference to the outcome of the game and so it proved yesterday. It was the wake up call the team needed and they responded well.
Fylde were probably the ideal opposition in many respects. We know how they play, a game in any ways similar to the one Rowland Winter favours, but in so doing they leave themselves exposed just as we have tended to leave ourselves exposed on occasions in previous games. It provides the space behind the first tacklers for the opposition to exploit if their defensive line is broken…and break it we did.
Just as they broke ours.
On rather too many occasions really, but Cov were able to use the pace of the likes of James Stokes and Owain James to chase down the Fylde runners. With many of the attacks starting from deep in their own half, even when they broke through the initial defensive line, we were able to get back and make the final tackle.
But it’s not something you want to have to rely on.
22-17 at half time and Coventry were good value for the lead, but we’d seen enough of Fylde to know that they weren’t out of the game by any means. Having beaten Plymouth and Esher in the last couple of weeks, they will have still have fancied their chances of coming away from the Butts with another 5 points.
And although I hoped we’d be able to see it through for another 40 minutes, we hadn’t manage to put together two really good halves in the same game up to yesterday, so there was always an element of doubt in the back of my mind…
But I needn’t have worried.
The second half was a far more one-sided affair and although Fylde reminded Cov on a few occasions that they could still cause us problems from anywhere on the pitch, Cov’s defence held firm for the most part and we eased away.
We ended up beating Fylde at their own game and some of the tries we scored were out of the top drawer, with Andy Brown’s arguably the pick of them. The very fact that a prop should be the one to finish off such a flowing move was impressive enough, but to do so with one of the most outrageous dummies seen at the BPA since it opened will live in long in the memory.
…and brilliant work by Camera Shake to slow those final seconds down. I’m not sure the Fylde 12 will be too appreciative but if I were Andy Brown, I’d be saving that one for the grandchildren.
But the clip also highlights a couple of the players…of the several players…who had stand out games.
I thought Ali Bone had by far his best game in a Coventry shirt yesterday and was prominent both in attack and defence and the back row looked altogether a more effective unit for it. We were quicker to the breakdown and able to win turnover ball, something lacking in previous games this season. Sam Harry was also everywhere, putting in a really strong shift alongside Bone and Jack Willis, the Wasps D/R and I thought defensively he was particularly impressive.
And Jack Willis…what a revelation. The bullocking run he made that led to Brown’s try was immense, as was his performance over the whole 80 minutes.
In his post match interview on local radio, Rowland Winter suggested that Jack Willis had won more turnover ball in the game yesterday than Coventry had in total in their previous games this season. Whether that’s true or not, I don’t know, but he then went on to say that he should have had 4 or 5 more which the referee failed to award, something he was going to have a chat with the referee about later…
It’s only a short clip, but RW’s relief is almost palpable…
I know there are those who would rather us not have to rely on Wasps to bolster our squad, that they aren’t of the city and that we shouldn’t have anything to do with them.
Dancing with the devil…
I was definitely of that opinion myself 12 months ago, but they’re here and they aren’t going away and the odd samba with Satan is something I can live with, especially if it brings such rewards as we saw yesterday. Many other clubs in National 1 rely on such links and it’s not as if we haven’t had DRs from the likes of Northampton, Leicester and Worcester in the past. So how is this different…?
And it’s just a pleasure to watch youngsters with such ability. I’d prefer to see than playing for us than against us, mind.
Harry Randall caused us a few problems when we played Hartpury but I’m glad I’ve seen him…
DRs are a means to an end, but if we can use them to our advantage, whilst also help their own development, then on balance it has to be the right thing to do.
The two wings, Tom Howe and Owain James also had really strong games. Tom, as was the case in the build up to Andy Brown’s try, was a real force in attack and caused the Fylde defence all sorts of problems whereas Owain James, also a strong runner, put in some crucial tackles that prevented Fylde from scoring, or getting into try scoring opportunities. Both had fine games. The irony is, of course, that this was the kind of game in which Dan Rundle would have probably thrived but we did see out there yesterday wingers who provided not just a threat in attack, but who were also very strong in defence. When Dan returns, as he will, hopefully it will be back into a team full of confidence, a team giving the ball plenty of width and a team playing as they did yesterday. A team in short that will enable Dan to do what Dan does best…
The set pieces held up well. The scrum, not quite as dominant as it has been in some games, was still good enough to earn a penalty try and to cause the Fylde 8 problems on their own put in. The line out looked solid, other than a couple that we lost in the second half. With that sort of base, Cov were able to provide good ball for the runners to hit the Fylde lines at speed and at angles that would create the gaps for the runners to run through. It was altogether a better performance with players able to off-load to players in support…there still needs to be a bit more urgency at times and occasionally lines were a bit static. But as a performance on which to build, it was ideal.
Against the top teams perhaps they’ll need to play with a bit more intensity and, as we’ve seen against the likes of Moseley, Hartpury, Esher and Blackheath – teams that have well marshalled defences – it isn’t so easy to break the gain line. But it will come and at least now we’ve seen that good teams, of which Fylde is one, will struggle if we execute our game plan effectively. Plymouth will probably be another step up so it will be interesting to see if we can continue to play in a similar vein. Plymouth will be coming here next week on the back of a very good win against Darlington Mowden Park, but Coventry will be itching to continue where they left off yesterday…
If intensity is going to have to be increased, Pete White looks to be someone who might be able to provide it. Coming on in the second half, he provided the sort of cameo performance that leaves you wanting more, a taster of what he might bring when he’s had a few games under his belt. He one of those scrum halves who gets into the faces of the opposition, quick both in feet and mind and someone who is looking to give fast ball to his support players wherever possible. His break and clever off-load created the space for Owain James to score the final try and his clenched fist to celebrate showed just how much yesterday meant to him. He looks like he’s a natural leader, encouraging the players around him and urging them on…an exciting player to watch.
I’ve been impressed with Rhodri Adamson who is certainly a youngster with a bright future ahead of him, but he probably had his least effective game in a Cov shirt yesterday – his passing put Tony Fenner (or is it Tom?) under pressure on several occasions and we were fortunate that a couple of times the ball bounced very kindly. Rhodri is a good player and he’ll still have a part to play. With the ability to play scrum half, fly half and even full back, he could be just the sort of player we need on the bench, alongside another back.
Rob Knox again did a great job coming on as a replacement…he scored a belter of a try, seeing the gap and then igniting the after-burners to power through and outpace the final defender. That power enables him to break tackles and if there are players on his shoulder he becomes a very, very dangerous weapon in Cov’s armoury. Hopefully, the coaches will be able to work with him to iron out any concerns they might have, but from a spectator’s point of view, or at least this spectator’s point of view, we look stronger as an attacking force with Knox in the side than we do without him.
We still managed to kick good ball away, losing possession and territory in the process, but far less than we used to be guilty of doing last season…I’m not sure Will Maisey at 12 is the long term solution, good as he is. At the moment, I’m not convinced we know our best pairing in the centres and maybe is going to be a ‘horses for courses season’ with Corey Hircock, Tom Wheatcroft, Rob Knox and Callum MacBurnie sharing duties, but they look to be the frontrunners really, although injuries at the moment aren’t helping.
All-in-all though, a far, far more encouraging performance and the mood on the training camp, good as it was last week, will be a whole better next week. RW has said that over the last couple of weeks training has been going really well, so it’s not difficult to understand his relief that the team have been able to transfer the work they’ve been doing during the week into a competitive environment.
In his interview for local radio, Rowland Winter succinctly summed up how everyone involved with Coventry felt immediately after the game:
We needed that. We definitely needed that after the last three weeks…