I don’t get travel sick…
…just a little sick of travel.
It would be easy to reel out the excuses…
Wasps recall of Jack Willis and Tom Howe, the last minute withdrawal of James Stokes following the pre-match warm up (forcing a late change with Will Maisey having to play full back and James Pritchard coming onto the bench) and the high penalty count against us in the opening 25 minutes or so, especially at the scrums which has so often this season been the one area where we have been dominant.
But that would only be an attempt on my part to mask what was a very poor Coventry performance indeed, one from which it is difficult to pick out any real positives.
And besides, I would be happy to play the apologist were this a one off, but four out of the five times I’ve travelled to away games this season we’ve failed to play to anything approaching the level we know we are capable of.
It simply isn’t good enough.
And you don’t know how much it hurts to say that.
I think what probably made yesterday even worse is that, on the day, Rosslyn Park wasn’t a side that looked as if they’d worry us at home. In fact, of the four teams we lost to on our travels, they were arguably (not even that, really) the weakest…and yet they deserved the win without any doubt whatsoever. We watched a game played by two poor teams at The Rock yesterday.
It was merely a case of Coventry being the poorer of the two.
By a distance.
What I won’t do though, is go down the route of Coventry showing little commitment, effort or passion, or that this wouldn’t have happened with last season’s squad. (It would and it did – remember Darlington and Esher for starters?). I’ve never gone with the view that teams sometimes don’t give of their best…to do so would be unforgivable and at this level individual players would soon get found out. And besides, if you don’t go into every tackle, every ruck, every contact situation committed and honest to yourself and to the team, then you’re going to get yourself hurt pretty quickly.
There was no lack of effort or passion from where I was sitting…what was missing was skill, flair and the ability to even do some of the basics to a level that would give us a chance to compete effectively over the 80 minutes.
As to how much the players hurt after the game, well I’m not in a position to say.
I know I did.
And still do…
It was unfortunate that after such a disappointing performance no one from the team came on to the coach after the game to say a few words, as has been the case on the previous five away games. It might well just have been an oversight, that in the post-match malaise it had been forgotten, but if ever there was need for someone from the team to say a few words to the travelling supporters, then it was yesterday.
Not to apologise, not to explain away the reasons for the defeat, but just to make the point that no one is hiding from the situation and they will get it right.
Thank you and good night, safe journey.
As I said, a shame no one made it to the coach, but it was probably for a very good reason. But when a precedent has been set, well if things are done differently then you read into them what isn’t necessarily the case.
Perhaps, they hurt too much to face supporters so soon after the game.
Or perhaps the internationals were on and the beer was good.
Or they just forgot.
I think I’d probably expected more from Cov as a result of Rowland Winter’s remarks at the Referees’ Evening just two days prior to the match. There was a real confidence in what he had to say…this was a surface that would suit the type of game we wanted to play, Rosslyn Park hadn’t adapted to it as well as they might have done and we’d run the ball at them from the word go and look for the bonus point before half time. (Just getting the ball proved difficult).
It was to be an exciting game…at last an away game that mirrored some of the performances we’ve seen back at The Butts and, even if we didn’t get the win, at least we’d see Coventry play attacking rugby away from home.
I was really looking forward to the game. This would be one to savour.
How different the reality was.
I don’t know enough about the game to explain what it was that went so horribly wrong, but from the onset we were chasing the ball, rather than Rosslyn Park chasing us. In the first half we lived off scraps and we enjoyed very little possession, with Park getting penalty after penalty in the scrum and doing exactly what RW had predicted, kicking for territory and pushing us back all the time.
When I say we ‘enjoyed’ the possession we got, that’s probably not quite true.
‘Squandered’ would be a better choice of word.
We lost far too many lineouts on our put in, our scrum was penalised far too often and when we did get the ball we were unable to go though more than a few phases before we either knocked on, were turned over or threw a forward pass. There was far too much lateral running with no one able to break the gain line.
In fairness, Rosslyn Park weren’t a great deal better and we were somewhat flattered by an 11-7 score line at half time. With Coventry scoring from the final play of the first half and Will Maisey converting from the touch-line, it looked as if we’d played our ‘Get out of Jail Free’ card and set ourselves up for a second half push.
And whilst the second half was a little better, with Coventry seeing more of the ball, in all honestly despite a promising passage of play that led to a Dan Rundle try wide out, we failed to make an real inroads into Rosslyn Park’s defences and in the backs continued to look rather one-dimensional.
We seemed a little slow to the breakdown at times and lost too much turnover ball. Their back row certainly had the beating of ours on the day and as a result it made things that much harder.
As the game opened up, so Rosslyn Park seemed to grow in confidence and their backs began to exploit the gaps and once again we found ourselves up against a team away from home that in the last 10 or 15 minutes finished much the stronger, easing away for a well-deserved win.
Rosslyn Park had problems retaining the ball themselves on occasions and had it not been for a couple of wayward passes in the second half, they might well have had a coupe more scores.
Yes there were some injuries and we had to ring the changes and a yellow card for Owain James for a high tackle (which looked pretty innocuous to be fair) didn’t help, but they can’t be used as contributory factors in our defeat.
One positive coming out of yesterday for me was the performance of Brendon Snyman who I thought put in a huge shift, both defensively and when carrying the ball. In a game where few Coventry players caught the eye, he was definitely the exception.
Quite simply though, we never got going and I really have no explanation as to why that’s the case. The same players in front of an enthused home crowd would taken the game to Park and I’m sure we would have seen a very different score line…but yet again, we failed to deliver away from The Butts.
It seems to be a trend throughout National 1, with most teams struggling to achieve any consistency away from home, other than the top two or three. It is something that the coaches are going to have to work on if we are to improve on our 6th place in the league.
The synthetic surface looked good and played even better, and certainly there can be nothing about the different type of surface that could account for Coventry’s poor form on the day. The ball seemed to bounce true and no one appeared to find their grip a problem even when our scrum was going backwards, as it did on several occasions in the first half.
There was a game being played on it when we arrived and after the game some youngsters were having a kick about, so it clearly gets used regularly – it’s not hard to see why Jon Sharp wants Cov to install one…it could be a real money spinner, accepting of course that it comes with high maintenance costs.
I’m not sure what the answer is…but at what point does our away form cease to be a worry and become something of a crisis?
Darlington in two weeks will be a tricky one, and with a big win at home against Esher yesterday, they will be looking forward to welcoming Cov in the expectation of doing what they did to us last season…a game which saw two of our current squad dominant in the second row and exploit our weakness in defending against the catch and drive.
Just how many supporters will make the long journey up north remains to be seen. The thought of another away performance similar to yesterday’s (and that of Blackheath, Esher and Ampthill) might well be enough to put even the most seasoned of Coventry supporters off the idea.
There are inevitably going to be some rumblings amongst supporters who have been patient for the most part. The honeymoon period is probably coming to an end now and spectators are soon going to be judging the squad purely on results rather than just potential.
Patience is a virtue but it can only withstand a finite amount of testing…five out of six defeats away from home is pushing it to the limits. RW has suggested that we will see some consistency in selection now outside of the front row and perhaps that might be the answer. However, injuries are beginning to mount up again and that might well make selection a problem in the short term.
Here’s hoping for a good week’s training, ending in another strong home performance against Old Albanian…