One of the things that has most impressed me about the Coventry squad this season is the character the players have shown at times to win several games this season that in the past we might have expected to lose from similar positions.
After the narrow defeat against Hartpury College back in the first week of October, the second game Coventry had lost to a narrow margin in just five games, the first being against Moseley in week 2, Coventry has since been involved in 6 games where the difference between the two sides has been 8 points or less…
..and Cov hasn’t lost a single one of them, drawing one and winning five.
That says something about the character of the squad and the way the players have pulled together when the going has got tough. It’s a pretty decent record and one that suggests that even though the performances might not always be as consistent as Rowland Winter would have liked, there’s a willingness to work together, put bodies on the line and play for the badge – in essence, the beginnings of the famous Covdog – albeit it still very much in its infancy.
- Week 2: Moseley 19 – 14 Cov L
- Week 5: Cov 23 – 27 Hartpury College L
- Week 8: Cov 34 – 33 Plymouth Albion W
- Week 10: Cov 19 – 17 Blaydon W
- Week 14: Cov 43 – 42 Old Albanian W
- Week 15: Cov 20 – 20 Darlington Mowden Park D
- Week 16: Cov 26-23 Birmingham Moseley W
- Week 20: Cov 35 – 27 Esher W
Pretty impressive, all-in-all.
Granted, it’s probably something that the coaches won’t want to dwell on for long as I’m sure they would have preferred to have been well ahead in all the games come the final whistle. Many of the wins have come from situations where Coventry have had to come back in the dying minutes of the game and grind out a result, often when for all the world we have looked down and out prior to the final few plays.
It hasn’t just been about the boot of Will Maisey. The team have fought their way back into games, playing very much as a team with everyone knowing their role and trusting in each other to do what is required.
After the first couple of close results where we pulled it out of the bag, against Plymouth and Blaydon, I remember saying to Sam something along the lines that we were lucky, but we can’t keep relying on good fortune.
However, I’ve come to realise that it is something far more profound than just luck.
It’s about resilience and tenacity, both important attributes in any team and whilst it might be that we have played poorly and won on occasions, the important thing is we’ve won.
Long term, Rowland Winter is absolutely right, it is very much about performance and consistency.
But for spectators, it is also more often than not about beating the opposition on the day. Me, I’m no purist and on a match day, I seldom put Cov’s performance into any other context than that of the game itself, so I’d much rather win and play badly than put in a really good performance and lose. And in the past, we’ve heard previous DoRs trying to justify defeats this way…which is what makes RWs approach so refreshing.
And if I’m honest, games like the one we saw on Saturday, as frustrating as they must be for the coaching staff, are infinitely more enjoyable as a spectacle than, say, putting 50 points past Macclesfield or Cambridge. I might be alone in that, and there might well be something rather masochistic in it, but to go through various emotions, including frustration and annoyance, and yet still come out on top, is particularly fulfilling.
If we can add more quality to the squad and retain the same esprit de corps, then we’ll be well on the way to creating something special next season. And if it’s true that in those close encounters where we have eventually come out on top, part of those wins is about a willingness on the part of the players to work for each other and for the team, too, then it is probably also true that they have high regard for the coaches as well.
If rumours were accurate last season, the changing room wasn’t always the happiest of places.
This doesn’t appear to be a concern this season…
Did Saturday’s hard fought win against Esher tell us anything new about the players…?
Yes, I think it probably did.
Take Rob Knox, for instance…did anyone else think he played like a man out to prove a point?
A man possessed at times…?
It was a real cameo for me, 40 minutes that showed exactly why Rob could become a key member of this squad if he can only prove he can stay fit enough to withstand the physical challenges posed by National 1 rugby.
His presence on the pitch made a massive difference in the second half and his all-round game added options out wide that we have often been missing when James and Howe have been unavailable. I couldn’t help but smile at the irony involved in Rob missing out on two tries, both cancelled out because of forward passes, when it is his own distribution that has been at times called into question this season.
The Esher break in the second half that would almost certainly have ended in a try for Andy Garner (thanks Tom L) had it not been for Rob chasing down of the player and then his interception of the ball, was a clear indication that he certainly doesn’t appear to have lost his basic speed.
Further, the strength he showed in the move that led up to Tom Wheatcroft’s try as hugely impressive…ask their second row who bounced off him as he drove forward:
Rob certainly didn’t hold anything back and he looked as if he was out to impress. I hope he can do enough to persuade RW to keep him on for another year, although one game isn’t going to be enough. Hopefully, he won’t have any sort of adverse reaction over the weekend and he’ll be up for selection next weekend.
He might well have played himself into the starting XV on that performance.
I mentioned during the week just how important I thought the game was for Tom Jubb. Partnering Josh Peters meant that he was probably the senior partner and as such he would need to be disciplined throughout the 80 minutes. On the day, I thought he gave a really strong performance, excellent in the lineout and putting in a good defensive shift, whilst also refraining from any ill-discipline that sometimes has got him in to trouble in the past. It was a very mature performance from a player who is already a crowd favourite…let’s hope he’ll be back with us next season.
I thought Pete White had a pretty good game, too, by and large and didn’t deserve some of the comments he received during the game for continued use of the box kicking or, indeed, for the criticism he received after the Hartpury game. He was clearly under instruction to kick on Saturday and whilst sometimes the kicks gave the receiver too much time, it wasn’t always his fault that the chasers weren’t quick enough off the mark. He certainly looked less than happy when he eventually came off, to be replaced almost on the final whistle by Adamson.
I thought his distribution was sharp on Saturday, with only one pass not hitting its target. He was incisive and his willingness to ship the ball out from rucks and mauls quickly kept the momentum going when we began to show signs of a recovery after Esher’s fourth try. I rate him highly and it wouldn’t surprise me if a Championship side or two comes a-knocking for Pete between now and the end of the season. He complements Tony Fenner well and hopefully their understanding will develop further the more games they play.
Fenner is growing in confidence with each passing week. He’s more of an attacking fly half than Matt Jones was and he is always looking for the gap to make the break or half-break and his acceleration over 10-15m is one of his strongest weapons. Like Pete, his distribution is also good and he’ll run the game when Coventry have the ball. He’s also a very strong tackler and always seems to bring his man down. He’s not strongly built, but he’s fearless at times – a part of his game that doesn’t always seem to get the praise it deserves.
Will Maisey – well, where do you start?
Was Saturday his best game so far in a Cov shirt this time around? Yes, he’s won games with his kicking before and looked to open up the game with some clever distribution at times, but against Esher we saw his full game. He defended resolutely, although he missed a couple of tackles but in attack he was something of a revelation and his break, preceded by a dummy, that led to Tony Fenner’s opening try was particularly impressive.
It’s no surprise that he won the MoM poll on this blog, and whilst I am a big Fenner fan, Will is a strong contender for the no 10 shirt. At the moment, Will fits into the centres quite comfortably, but if we recruit wisely over the summer, slotting him in to a regular starting spot at either 12 or 10 in the team as first choice might be a problem.
Definitely a keeper for me, though!
The front row regularly get the accolades, so I’ll gloss over them, other than to say once again the scrum was a real asset, especially when Litchfield, Brown and Tolmie partnered up, and later when Boulton returned to the fray. Another loose-head to replace Boris next season of similar quality to the other props and we should continue to dominate most teams in National 1.
One of the champagnes moments for me was when Tolmie tackled the Esher ball carrier and managed to stay on his feet to compete for the ball causing the Esher player to hold on and earn Cov the final penalty kick to take the Cov score to 35 points.
I would also like to mention the contributions of Brett Daynes and Sam Harry. Back in September, it looked as if neither would get much game time, with Grace, Dyer, Bone and Povoas all very much in contention. Injuries and a loss of form have meant that Brett Daynes has played more games than I certainly anticipated he would and he seems to have really relished the opportunity out there recently. His work rate is huge and he’s one of the unsung heroes for me – he’s not as prominent in attack as he was when he was last here, but he always works hard in the loose and his tackle rate must be up there with the best.
I’m sure the back row will be an area that Rowland will look to strengthen next season and it might be that Brett won’t get quite the same number of opportunities as he’s had up to now, but he’s such a really useful player to have in the squad.
And Sam Harry is beginning to look the part. He didn’t seem out of place at all, made a couple of very important off-loads leading to scores and certainly stepped up once again. At 22, he’s got a lot of time to mature still and is definitely one for the future.
As always, there are others I could have mentioned – Tom Poole for the contribution he made when he came on, Tom Wheatcroft’s try and his growing confidence, Stokes’ try saving tackle and his strong running and excellent finish for the final try and so on.
In a game where the was a lot to be frustrated about, there were also some pleasing individual performances, too…
…which leads nicely on to the results of the ‘Man of the Match’ award…
Very many thanks to everyone who took part in the Coventry v Esher ‘Man of the Match’ poll over the weekend.
The results of the votes are as follows:
- Will Maisey 25%
- James Stokes – 23%
- Tom Jubb– 9%
- Rob Knox – 9%
A big congratulations to Will.
This result, together with his high ranking in the MVP poll before Christmas, shows just how highly he is rated by many supporters.
An interesting result and one that once against differs from that of the match day sponsors who opted for James Stokes. Good to see Rob Knox feature, too, especially as he was limited to just the 40 minutes…