The news that Olly Povoas was released from hospital yesterday evening with no serious injuries was the best thing to come out of a game which, for most Coventry supporters, was as frustrating as it was disappointing.
Full marks to Cov’s head physio, Hannah Walker, for releasing the news so promptly on Twitter and reassuring some concerned supporters out there today.
On the way back from the game, those who travelled on the supporters’ coach voted, as is customary, for their man of the match.
Someone suggested slightly tongue-in-cheek that given the result it should go to Hannah…and the more I’ve thought about it, the more it’s actually a pretty good shout.Within seconds of Olly’s injury, Hannah was there, securing his head whilst a stretcher was brought out onto the pitch and he was made ready to be moved. The whole process took a long 9 minutes and during that time Hannah was clearly overseeing what was taking place. The work she and her assistants did enabled Olly to be kept in a stable position and possibly prevented a more serious scenario from developing.
And full marks to Ampthill’s support, too. They played their part and should be given plenty of credit for the role they had in stabilising Olly…
…though what happened after that was simply shocking.
Olly lay on the stretcher inside the team dugout for 45 minutes or more. He was strapped down, a collar/brace around his neck and despite being covered in warm coats, he was still exposed to the cold and wind that was making the game so difficult for the players and supporters alike to enjoy, possibly in shock and needing to be removed from the pitch as quickly as possible..
The photo left, taken before the game, shows the dugout.
Whatever the reason, it is not acceptable to have to wait 45 plus minutes for an ambulance for what was potentially a serious, possibly life-changing, if not life-threatening injury. No one knew the extent of Olly injuries and anything to do with the neck, back or head has to be treated as an emergency. It’s no excuse to say that in the end it wasn’t as serious as was first feared. At the time it was serious and the end result could have had dire consequences.
I’m certainly not blaming Ampthill for the delay…there were various comments being made from officials/supporters immediately after the game suggesting that it was the fault of the ambulance service and nothing to do with the club at all, which might well be the case and I’m more than happy to accept that.
That said, any risk assessment undertaken must have catered for such injuries and quicker access to the ground highlighted as a potential area of concern…
However, there is also a wider issue, one that perhaps will open me up to all sorts of criticism from those at Ampthill and officials at Coventry for saying it out loud, but I do question whether Ampthill’s facilities are really up to the levels expected of professional/semi-professional rugby.
It’s an opinion and nothing more and might well come across as sour grapes, penned as it is from a passionate supporter who earlier in the day saw his side defeated in a closely fought encounter that up until the final 10 minutes could have gone either way.
But that really isn’t the case.
Ampthill RFC is in the most wonderful of settings, as picturesque a ground as you could hope for, with a number of supporting pitches and a decent enough clubhouse.
But the access to the main pitch is a real issue, requiring a walk of a couple of hundred metres along a secluded dirt path that in yesterday’s weather became extremely slippy under foot.
Irrespective of Olly’s injury, the walk itself would be difficult for anyone of advancing years or with any mobility problem, even in dry conditions.
Once through the wooded area, you encounter a lovely amphitheatre of a ground, the like of which I haven’t come across before. I was really impressed by it, despite the muddied walk.
However, as soon as the injury to Povoas occurred, the real health and safety issues became all too evident.
The pitch is accessed via a sloping bank of grass which isn’t steep, but is inclined enough to make it impossible for the ambulance men to bring their gurney/stretcher pitchside. Instead, Olly had to be lifted by stretcher and carried up the slope, itself a potential hazard, up to the gurney before Olly could be transferred on to it.
The video clip below of the ground will hopefully makes it a little clearer…
For a head/neck injury where the injured party has to be kept still, this is far from satisfactory…
No one knew the extent of Olly’s injury at the time and at the very least Ampthill should review the systems in place to cope a similar injury in the future. It was shocking, and however much Ampthill defend themselves with regard to the length of time the ambulance took, the fact that there is no immediate access to the main pitch is a real issue…and the problem is theirs alone.
With two pitches adjacent to the clubhouse, admittedly not as scenic and with less of an area for spectators to watch the game from, it seems that there are plenty of options open to the club to ensure that where players’ safety is concerned, the club are seen to be doing everything they can to minimise the problems that were encountered today.
And whilst it is a very minor point by comparison, it is not right that teams should have to change pitchside into their match shirts in the minutes leading up to the start of the game. The walk too and from the changing room is too long to take and would undo all the good of the warm up that has taken place immediately beforehand.
You can see from the image left that Cov were getting ready after the tunnel of youngsters to welcome the players onto the pitch had already formed.
Okay, these are professional players who should be able to cope with minor inconveniences such as this, but I just don’t feel they should have to. It’s unsettling and gives the home team a psychological advantage in my opinion. It sounds a bit of a whinge as I type, but it’s a far from satisfactory situation…
And no minute’s silence either…and odd one that, too. I always thought it was customary at sporting events that took place on the weekend of Armistice Day to hold a period of silence in memory of those who fell fighting for the freedoms we enjoy today.
Well done to Cov for holding theirs last week, at least Coventry supporters got a chance to show a united show of respect.
I have to say, Ampthill, it didn’t look good…
As for the game, well we were beaten in the end by a side who finished the stronger and took their chances as and when they arose. And to be fair to them, in the final 10 minutes, and at 8-8, they had a very kickable penalty from 30m out which they declined in order to kick to the corner. A brave decision and one which won them the match in many ways because from the lineout they promptly drove us back and scored a crucial try…a big, big call that one.
It wasn’t one of Coventry’s better performances; it was gutsy and lacking nothing in effort, and in terms of pure statistics, Ampthill saw more ball and had the greater territorial advantage. We still got some good ball, but whereas their backs were incisive and made some telling breaks, we rarely were able to do so and made far too many handling errors, even allowing for the poor conditions.
We definitely seemed to lack a cutting edge behind the scrum and I’m still not sure what are best pairing is in midfield…or is it a case of picking the right players for the right conditions?
We kicked the ball away a lot, no harm in that at all, but often it was to the player instead of into space and it meant that rather than having to chase back, Ampthill were able to either return it, often with interest, or run it back.
One thing I felt we did do a lot better was to chase our kicks down and when the kick was accurate, Rob Knox in particular (and James Stokes before he was injured), put the opposition receivers under a fair bit of pressure – indeed, our try resulted from one such play.
We started off slowly and Ampthill look strong up front and pounded our defences early doors. However, after their opening try we began to dominate the set pieces, especially in the scrums where we put them under immense pressure. However, it’s another game in which we were so dominant in this area but just weren’t able to turn the advantage into points.
Defensively, we actually did pretty well for most of the game and the tackle count for our back row must have been pretty high…the final two tries both coming from our inability to stop the drive from the lineout, the last one being from almost 20m out. Darrel Dyer and Eoghan Grace both stood out for me, as did Brett Daynes who came on to replace Olly Povoas.
Injuries certainly didn’t help and having to play Scott Tolmie in the back row for Eoghan Grace for what seemed like 15-20 minutes of the second half certainly wasn’t ideal. As well as the injury to Olly Povoas, James Stokes limped off and although his powers of recovery seem limitless, it didn’t look good. He’d played well up to his departure and our attacking options were certainly reduced when he left.
And Ampthill were a strong doughty side who stuck to their game plan and used all the experience of their senior players to make life increasingly difficult for us in the second half. Where I thought they might tire after 60 minutes or so, in actual fact if anything they grew stronger and with their tails up from the penalty kick to level the scores, from that point onwards they looked far more likely to take the spoils than we did.
Without ever dominating the game, up until 65 minutes or so we could well have nicked the points. That we didn’t is more about Ampthill’s strengths than our own failings. Injuries, a lack of possession and players having to play out of position all contributed to the final result…
There was some frustration shown by pockets of Cov supporters, especially when we weren’t able to move up a gear when they got the penalty to make it 8 all. That said, the level of Coventry support yesterday was as good as I can remember for a long time, out shouting and out singing the Ampthill support all afternoon…in fact they were quieter than any set of home supporters that I have come across in many a year.
This certainly wasn’t another Blackheath or Esher, and there were several positives that the coaches can take out of the game. I’m not that disheartened by the result or the performance and whilst there is something still missing in the backs at the moment, it was an improvement on some of the away performances I’ve seen this season. That said, we can’t keep relying on James Stokes and Rob Knox to produce moments of magic and create something from nothing…
But it’s another away day downer and not the best of build ups to Coventry’s home game against Cambridge next week which is bound to capture the imagination of supporters over the next few days given the obvious connections between the two teams.
So, not the best of days, but not the worst and one overshadowed really by events off the pitch as much as those on it. Ampthill do need to address the problems of access to the main pitch but given that I’m sure this will have been raised several times before, that would seem unlikely to happen any time soon. Let’s just hope there isn’t a serious injury before then.
The Ampthill supporters themselves were pleasant and welcoming and we were warmly greeted on our arrival. The clubhouse was friendly service was good…it’s such a shame that Olly’s injury has caused some disquiet on my part and that of other supporters, too.
And here’s hoping Olly Povoas a speedy recovery…