Mon. Mar 8th, 2021

When Coventry player coach James Pritchard says that the win against Hull was a ‘turning point’ for Cov, then you have to sit up and take notice.

Leading points scorer for his country, Canada, for his previous club, Bedford Blues and appearances in 4 World Cups and you imagine he’s seen it all before in his rugby playing career. If anyone can recognise a team that’s starting to play to something like its potential, then surely it’s JP?

Okay, he did precede the statement with ‘hopefully’ which I guess makes the overall statement a little less certain, but it’s still something that will be music to the ears of most Coventry supporters.

The playing side of the club, having been transformed root and branch during the weeks leading up to pre-season, is now beginning to show the green shoots of a new Cov growing out from what little that’s left of the old stock.

Sometimes the harder you prune the more beneficial the results. Pruning and cutting back is important if you’re to get the best displays possible. So it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that we’re now beginning to see the benefits of that wholesale pruning of most of last season’s squad, hard as it was to take at the time.

The club’s roots remain strong and with careful nurturing we will see it blossom once again in the coming months and seasons.

And who knows what fruits it will bear…?

And JP has pitched it just about right, I reckon. Three consecutive wins in a row, the first of which was a potential banana skin and the last two against tough teams resulting in two of our better performances.

There a real note of optimism creeping in.

Sounding a little cautious still, as it needs to be, but one that is just what supporters want to hear.

The players appear to be training well and are now bringing what they’ve been practising into play at the weekends. A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that at a Thursday night training session, Rowland Winter explained that the emphasis in training as far as defence was concerned for the next 6 week block was to be the ‘chop’ tackle, where the middle of the hub of three defenders goes low and takes out the legs of the ball carrier whilst the player(s) in support look to either turnover possession or prevent the quick off-load.

That was done to good effect on Saturday.

Rowland Winter placed himself initially at the back of the main stand for the Hull game, although he seemed unable to stay seated for too long. Whenever we were defending near our 22, RW would shout out ‘Chop’ fairly frequently, causing some bemused looks amongst the Hull supporters. Those of us in the know just looked smug.

The fact that it has been a feature of training these past three week, during which time  defensively we have looked so much more solid, is encouraging.

In yesterday’s interview with John Wilkinson, James Pritchard explained…

We knew that if we just kept them at arm’s length, got underneath and chopped them, then we were in with a good shot, and it showed what we can do if we’re on our game.

He must be pleased with what he’s seen over the last couple of weeks…we are indeed  beginning to see what this squad is capable of achieving. It is far more than just a team capable of playing champagne rugby against some of the weaker sides and in the process notching up 50 or so points. It is just as capable of dogging it out and wearing sides down, and then exploiting defences that are stretched by the speed and pace of the Coventry attacks.

It’s hard not to understand why JP feels we have turned the corner – although maybe ‘a’ corner would be more accurate at the moment.

JP mentioned that the coaches had warned the team at half time that Hull were likely to come out after the break and take it to Cov and that:

if we’d started to slip off tackles and go to high, they would have pegged back another try,

which is exactly what they did, and quickly too. However, Cov immediately regrouped and for near enough another 40 minutes Cov’s defence stood firm and time after time they prevented Hull from making ground, forcing Hull to concede possession. Only in the last minute of play did they score again.

It was a very good defensive performance, although the threat Hull posed didn’t seem to me to be as great as that of Hartpury whom I thought we defended brilliantly against, other than two lapses which probably cost us the game. In stark contrast, however, were the trips down to Esher and Blackheath which were nightmares as far as our defence was concerned, although the emphasis on the chop tackle in training only began after the Esher game, interestingly enough (I think!).

James Pritchard rightly makes the point that, ‘It was never going to be right, I think, from day one’. We did extremely well pre-season and we all saw the potential, but it was always going to take 10 or so games to determine just how good a side we could be. And it’s looking promising at the moment, although Blaydon on Saturday and especially Ampthill the week after will both test us, albeit in different ways.

One of the things that supporters haven’t been privy to in the past is just what is being worked on in training, undertaken as it was in previous seasons behind close doors. To be able to pop along on a Thursday night, watch the squad train and then see it all come to fruition in a competitive situation at the weekend adds another dimension from a spectator’s point of view. You know what to look out for and just how well it is working. Or not, as the case may be.

I’m intending to pop over on Thursday evening if I can; hopefully, there will be a few others there as well…

All seems to be well in the Coventry garden at the moment…it’s incredible just how far the club has come from those dark days in March and April. Back then it was in need of some intensive reorganisation and along came RW with his secateurs to cut out a lot of branches, some of which seemed perfectly healthy at the time. And after a flurry of early growth, things died back for a while and now the green shoots can be clearly seen. They’ll need feeding and caring for, but the new branches will grown back stronger and bigger than we’ve seen for many a year…

It just shows what a bit of Winter pruning can achieve…


It would appear that Hull Ionians had their best bar takings of the season so far on Saturday, so well done everyone who made the trip up to Brantingham Park. I rather think that the fact that one of the Cov players had a birthday that day might also have helped!  That said, the number of travelling supporters on Saturday will have made a significant difference to the income generated that day, both via gate receipts and drinks/refreshments.

For a club that has totalled just 998 spectators in their four home games this season, with Saturday’s attendance of 312 being their largest so far, then the additional 40 or 50 Coventry supporters will have had a bid impact.

Theirs really must be a shoestring budget, and whilst we clearly have far more overheads than Hull Ionians and aren’t exactly flushed with cash ourselves, the capacity Cov has to generate additional monies must be that much greater. It’s hard not to feel for them, especially as they were so friendly and welcoming.

A word here for Cliff Bennett, too.

Hull Ionians were so pleased with their takings on Saturday, partly as a result of Cliff’s efforts to provide Cov Supporters’ Club members with a reduction in the cost of entry to the ground and 10% off all drinks, that it plans to extend this deal to all travelling supporters from National 1 clubs in possession of a season ticket.

I think that’s a really big coup for the Supporters’ Club – that indirectly other clubs, particularly those in most need, are benefitting from work the SC is undertaking.  And Hull Ionians are also extremely grateful.

What I haven’t yet heard is whether Coventry is rolling out similar discounts to those clubs that have made Coventry’s away supporters deals similar to that of Hull and I think that’s every club we’ve played away from the Butts so far this season (although I believe I’m right in saying Hull is the only club to offer a reduction in the price of drinks purchased at the bar?).

It would be rather unfortunate if we didn’t and I’m pretty sure we will be, but it would be good to have it confirmed. The first group of supporters it will really affect will be Moseley’s, although if we are hoping to get similar offers at away grounds after Christmas, we ought to be offering the likes of Blaydon, Cambridge and Old Albanian something similar discounts to those that we’ll be asking for in the return fixture.

That’s not one for the CRSC though, but it is an offer that you’d hope the business side of the club is happy to make.

CRSC are being very proactive at the moment and it is getting noticed by other clubs, as shown by this comment from a Blackheath supporter on rolling-maul:

 … it would appear that (Coventry) are one of the more organised away supporters groups.

As more supporters come through the turnstiles and further interest in the CRSC is generated, then it will just keep on growing. Cliff and Quent Melhuish, who have been the real driving force behind the CRSC’s revival, have done,and will continue to do, a great job. Meetings take place behind the scenes every week, often more than just the one, as they work with the club to further develop the opportunities available to their members. A great effort on the part of everyone involved.

And fair play to the club too, it has been very receptive in it’s dealings with  the SC, as has Rowland Winter who has met with members both formally and informally.

Everyone helping everyone else.

That’s exactly how it should be.





By Tim

6 thought on “Prune early for Winter growth…”
  1. Hi Phil…shame you couldn’t make it on Saturday, you missed a good Cov performance. With the face value of a standard entry ticket £15 (the same as the cheapest seats at the Ricoh to see Premiership games), I do think Cov are going to have to experiment with discounted prices, although it’s always difficult because you don’t want to offer prices that are lower than those paid by season ticket holders. Not sure what the answer is really, but one is definitely needed!

  2. Hi Cliff, I absolutely agree that this is not the concern of the CRSC, something I mentioned in the post…the point I’d hope to get across was that it is really incumbent of the club to provide a reciprocal arrangement…personally I think it should be open to a club’s traveling season ticket holders, rather than members of a SC, of which there is only one other in our league. Great work…

  3. Discounted prices etc is an interesting subject, only today i have received an email via my lads school from Coventry Blaze ice hockey team offering discounted prices of £6 for all students and parents for this weekends game. It seems we are all facing challenges of getting people through the turnstiles!

  4. I wish to thank CRSC for their great efforts in what they are doing for all fans. Hope you continue in this process fro along time to come.

  5. The question as to whether Cov Rugby is offering travelling supporters a discounted ground admission charge is, frankly, not something I wish to get involved in, not least because I’m not an employee at BPA and therefore have no authority to negotiate a deal. A number of clubs have asked for a reciprocal deal, and I am pointing them in the direction of Phil Maynard, as he has asked me to do, and he is perfectly willing to do a deal. What the detail of those deals is, I don’t know. But there’s absolutely no reason why I won’t continue to contact clubs for our away matches in order to get the best possible deal for Supporters’ Club members.

Any thoughts:

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.