On playing it safe, a Titan returns and the result of Saturday’s poll…
One of the things that made Saturday’s game so enjoyable for me was the fact that, pretty much from the first whistle, Coventry were happy to run the ball from deep whenever they got the opportunity in an attempt to play the expansive, attacking rugby that we’ve come to expect when at home – although sadly not yet on our travels!
As well as the 3 tries we scored against Plymouth, we could (and should) have had a further 3 tries from moves beginning deep into our own half had it not been for a couple of forward passes or, in one instance, no pass at all.
At home, Cov do try to play an exciting brand of rugby which is always compelling to watch; such a change from the rather lacklustre rugby we were watching this time last season, other than a couple of games in early November. Back then, if we won, we tended to have to grind out the result and the free-flowing rugby that we’re beginning to get used to at the BPA this season was noticeable by its absence.
Yet, Rowland Winter still felt after Saturday’s performance that:
We were a bit conservative, but eventually the gaps opened up and our offloading game came into play.
RW is referring in particular to the decisions made on the pitch to kick for goal and take the points rather than go for the corner, win the line-out ball and do what so many teams did to us last season, drive the ball over to score. And there’s nothing at all wrong in that and probably against some of the sides struggling already at the foot of the table I’d be screaming for Will to go for the 5m line, but I have to say I was mightily relieved when we opted for the attempts at goal and the 3 points.
We also tended to kick to touch more once again on Saturday, rather than take the quick tap, something that was de rigueur during the pre-season and the first two or three league games. Whilst it made for entertaining rugby with the ball probably being in play a good few minutes more during the course of the game than it would be normally, played at the pace it was resulted in a few too many mistakes. Also, whilst we suffered one or two interceptions, especially close to our own line, in the first few games when we ran everything, we haven’t been guilty of gifting the opposition the ball in this way for a while now.
I have to say, opinion was divided in the Smith camp on Row L on Saturday. Sam was definitely with RW on Cov playing it too conservatively. I admit that as he chuntered away whilst the kicks were being lined up, I was dreading Will might miss – the disappointment of the lost points would have been nothing in comparison to the ‘I told you so look’ I would have got immediately afterwards.
As it was, I was smugness personified – without ever having to say a word.
I know this has also been discussed on the Messageboard and I can totally see the argument for going for the 5 points, especially so early on in the game. A try from a ‘catch and drive’ must be demoralising and would have been a real bonus for the pack at that stage. The fact that we would probably have gone on to secure a bonus point is also had to be a serious consideration when deciding whether it would have been the right thing to do.
However, Plymouth are a strong side, were fourth in the league at the start of the game and, for me, the win was probably more important than the manner in which it was achieved. We needed to come away with the points to start the winning run that had avoided us up to then and we also needed to beat a team above us in the league. Psychologically, from a supporter’s point of view, the means justified the end.
I reckon Eoghan Grace got it just about spot on in the first half…
Although that’s clearly not going to be how the coaches see it.
Had the situation arisen at the start of the second half when we were 21 points up and looking good for our lead, then yes, I’m sure I wouldn’t have been so cautious but as it stands, those kicks at goals arguably won us the game.
Or perhaps RW might argue that they nearly lost us the game…
And maybe he is right…
Playing it safe is dangerous…?
A case of…
…if you’re too conservative in the first half, you’ll labour in the second…
The politics of rugby.
Are you on the right wing or the left wing, so-to-speak…?
My problem is that I’m definitely far too conservative in my approach to sport, or indeed life in general, to risk losing the 3 points when winning 7 is far less likely.
In his post-match interview with John Wilkinson, Rowland Winter reinforced the alternative view:
I think we showed Plymouth a little too much respect in the first half, a couple of times we went for the posts when we could have banged the ball into the corner and put them on the ropes
but I can’t help but think that by taking the kicks ar goal and going into the beak 21 points up, we’d done just that.
Plymouth were on the ropes and although we probably were lucky to be that far ahead, the fact that they got so close in the end wasn’t so much about not taking the gamble and kicking to the corner early on, but more about some odd decision-making and couple of poor phases of play after the break. At half time Plymouth Albion were reeling – but we left them off by failing to take advantage of the platform we’d built in the first half.
But Rowland Winter has championed a less cautious approach to his rugby and has been hugely successful with it and if it’s a choice between kicking everything or running everything, then I’d go with running the ball every time. However, just to show how illogical I am, if it’s a choice between a penalty kick in front of the posts or the option of a scrum rather than a lineout, I’d go for the scrum every time. I guess that’s because I believe that in the majority of occasions we’ll come away with either a try, a penalty try or a yellow card for the opposition in the scrum. Eperience suggest, though, that we are far less likely to achieve similar success in the lineout.
I suppose therein lies the reason why the conservative approach is best for me; it’s more about a lack of faith in us scoring from a lineout 5 metres out rather than a scrum…as a coach, RW will know the options available from a lineout close in and will back his players to make use of the ball effectively. However, as we’ve seen a few times this season already, we’re not always able to guarantee we win the ball from our own throw. Hence the three points often seems like a safer bet…, although the lineouts have held up far better than they did last season and I thought they looked particularly solid in the first half when Matt Price was throwing the ball in.
All academic really…but there is an interesting discussion to be had and presumably Eoghan Grace, as captain, must have also thought a long the same lines in making the decisions to take the three pointers against Plymouth..
If a similar situation arises in the opening minutes against Hull Ionians I rather imagine I’ll be calling out to take the points again whilst Sam is telling me how lacking in adventure and creativity I am. But we do need that first away win and I’ll be happy to take it in whatever form it comes…hopefully, though, I’ll be proved wrong and Scott Tolmie or Matt Price will get a hatrick of tries from 5m lineouts, the result of opting for kick to the corner than the 3 points.
I’m a pudding person, me…especially a big slice of humble pie.
It was good to see George Oliver back at the BPA on Saturday, presumably because he wasn’t part of the Rotherham Titan squad that beat London Welsh in their British and Irish Cup at the weekend. George left Coventry as both Supporters’ and Players’ Player of the Season and was one of the players I thought might be retained given the impact he’d had for Cov over the three seasons he was with us.
In a difficult last season, he was one of the few players who held his form and I wasn’t surprised when a Championship side came in for him when it became obvious he would be moving on.
I really hope it’s working out for him with the Titans. Hard to believe he’s still only 23. He should have a good career head of him.
I hope he enjoyed his time with us on Saturday and the memories that it brought back for him were happy ones. It’s always heartening to see ex-players return and George in particular.
I’d be really interested to know where those players from last year’s squad who left have all ended up and how they’ve got on in the opening couple of months. Many were here for a long time and served the club well over a number of seasons.
Whilst the current shouldn’t be expected to follow up contacts, perhaps it’s something the club could do…a player a week on the website with some brief info as to where they are now, how much game time they’ve been getting and anything else that’s relevant…a sort of ‘Where are they now?’ feature. Or it could go straight into the programme, perhaps.
Cov is a family orientated club and the players, past and present, are very much part of that extended family…or should be, shouldn’t they?
Maybe I’m making a little too much of what is just me thinking out loud but I’d be interested to find out how they’re getting on…maybe it’s something for the blog in the future.
Very many thanks to everyone who took part in the Coventry v Plymouth ‘Man of the Match’ poll over the weekend. The results of the votes are as follows:
- Brendon Snyman – 31%
- Jack Willis – 19%
- Darrell Dyer – 18%
- James Stokes – 11%
In what was a much closer poll than that of the previous week, with votes spread rather more evenly across the team and with 13 players receiving at least one vote. The Sponsors’ choice, Darrell Dyer polled well, but Brendon Snyman ended up comfortably ahead. Once again, Jack Willis featured strongly and is proving to be something of a firm favourite with supporters already.
The poll proved popular for the second week running, so I’ll keep it going for the home games – or at least the ones I make it to!
With relatively few supporters attending away games and in turn I guess relatively few of them reading the blog, any result probably wouldn’t be statistically viable. However, I’ll take a straw poll amongst supporters on the coach to give some sort of indication as to which players made the biggest impact amongst those watching, just to keep it ticking over.