If you’re going to choose to sit in a coach for well over five hours there and back in order to watch a pretty depressing second half performance from a Coventry side that is going to, in all honesty, flatter to deceive again on its travels, well there are worst places to go than Fylde.
And certainly less entertaining teams to be humbled by.
A trip to Blackpool for a less than towering display. But an illuminating one, nevertheless.
No complaints really…friendly people, good hospitality, good ale and good chips – although I forewent the burger this week. I’m being Captain Sensible at the moment following a great holiday, an expanding waistline and a decreasing amount of options left available to me in the wardrobe.
Even the Lancastrian weather gods smiled on us for a change.
Perhaps a few inconsistent decisions from the ref, but nothing that impacted on the outcome of the game.
And against opponents who, when required, were able to up the tempo, throw caution to the wind and run Coventry ragged for a period of 10 minutes in the second half that changed the course of the game.
Great to watch.
If you’re a neutral.
Otherwise, you just had to admire Fylde’s willingness to run the ball, wide and at pace, and test the Coventry defences which suddenly looked stretched beyond breaking point.
They rolled the dice and came out worthy winners.
12-12 at half time…
I think the combination of the dropping temperature and too much to drink (mostly non-alcoholic, I hasten to add), had got to me and I’d made my way back to the clubhouse to pop to the loo.
On the way over, I bumped into Steve Hood and we chatted briefly about the game, both of us feeling confident that it was ours for the taking, despite a poor first 10 minutes.
Territorially, we’d had the better of Fylde and squandered a couple of good chances to go into the break with a clear lead.
Fylde had done enough to keep in touch, their pack had coped pretty well with our scrum and lineout drive close in and on the couple of times they’d been in our half, they’d come away with the points. Dangerous, but certainly nothing there to suggest there would be quite the drama that was to unfold in the second half.
Back to the stand and to a second half that started so well for us.
Cov came out and looked to have stepped it up a gear or two…the pace of the game was noticeably quicker and the intent clearer. Two scores in the opening minutes put us 12 points up and there was a feeling that Cov had this game now by the scruff of the neck…Fylde looked like they were on the ropes.
The game was definitely ours to lose….
…so we promptly went and did just that.
We suffered a second yellow following Josh Peters’ in the first half, with Tony Fenner given a 10 minute respite from the referee that suddenly prompted a complete volte face. Fylde sensed blood and rather like Ali in Zaire against Foreman, the ‘dopes on the ropes’ let go a fearful combination of flowing moves and Cov was out for the count…
It was breathless stuff.
Coventry played into their hands really, the increased tempo certainly got us the lead, but in playing the ball with width and pace, we left ourselves exposed to the counter attack and there are few better exponents of that than Fylde. For 55 -60 minutes of the game we looked as if we had it in the bag, played some controlled rugby and gave Fylde relatively little opportunity to get the ball moving out wide…it was a decent enough performance, good at times…
…4 tries, a bonus point in the bag after 60 minutes.
But in this league, against opposition like Fylde, good isn’t good enough and in the end Fylde taught us a pretty tough lesson.
The disappointing thing for me was that we knew what they were capable of, yet we didn’t really change our game plan and kill the game – okay there were still 20 minutes left, but we could have hung on the ball a little more and made it a lot harder for Fylde than we actually did.
Just as an aside – James Stokes came of very early on to be replaced by Heath Stevens who I thought had a very good game. He’s extremely strong with ball in hand taking out sometimes two or even three defenders, often making metres in the process. He’s a good acquisition and hopefully will be with us beyond the end of the season.
Post-match, I think the general consensus amongst supporters was that it was a game that we certainly could have won and arguably should have won.
We’d squandered a number of excellent scoring chances, falling several times short from a metre to mere centimetres and we had a number of good opportunities from lineouts close in that we just weren’t able to take. Disappointing, frustrating but certainly not a Blackheath or an Esher.
And that’s kind of what I’d expected Rowland Winter might say as he joined supporters on the bus prior to our departure to say a few words about the game and to thank those who had travelled up. Some good things to come out of the game, a work in progress, lots to do on the training ground before next week…the sort of thing you expect coaches to say in these situations.
But RW is nothing if not honest…
I’m paraphrasing here what RW said and am hampered by a fading memory and several hours of sleep since…
RW made the point that there is quality in the side, quality to win territory, quality to put ourselves into scoring positions and quality to respond to the half-time talk, but at the moment there just isn’t the quality in the team to turn these opportunities into points.
In essence, the squad isn’t strong enough, just as the team weren’t good enough yesterday.
The performance was a good reflection of where Cov are right now in terms of the journey the club has started…at the moment, they’re well short of where they need to be. They’ve got some very good youngsters in the team, but they are lacking the experienced heads to ensure that when they get themselves into the kinds of positions that we saw yesterday, that additional composure that comes with experience will see them through.
Clear heads and clear thinking to finish teams off.
And here’s the interesting part…recruitment for next season is focussing on just this, bringing in some seasoned players who can complement the quality of some of the youngsters.
I guess we saw a little of that when Boris and Brendon Snyman were out on the pitch together earlier in the season…old heads together with some young hearts.
There will be those supporters who’ll see this as another game lost and another reason to question why so many changes took place at the end of last season.
But as someone who has seen so many false dawns over the years, so many seasons which have been supposed to be THE season…well, I’m all for a bit of realism.
We’ve seen so much that has changed for the best across so many aspects of the club over the past 6 months. The club is building towards its long term goal, but we’re talking marathons not sprints.
Some important news as well…Boris came onto the bus and was asked whether he would be with us next year to which he replied, with no hesitation, yes he would (although RW did point out he would have to be retained first!).
Now in some respects, Boris’ retention next season is more significant than yesterday’s loss, and that’s not intended to trivialise what was ultimately a very disappointing performance.
The impact that Boris has had over the season has been clear, I don’t think anyone would question that. The fact that he will remain with us, whether in a reduced capacity or not, is a statement of intent from Cov as I’m sure there will be other opportunities for him elsewhere, as we’ve already seen with his invitation from Leicester last month. His confirmation certainly met with a good deal of approval from those who were there to hear it.
A strange day on reflection.
From my perspective as a supporter, everything went well other than the result.
Even the journeys there and back were free from any delays. Our return took just two and a half hours, which meant we were back in Coventry by 8.30 pm. Fed, watered and showered by 9.30 pm. Result.
Many thanks to Paul Ingleston who was Oberführer for the day, and to Steve Hood as well. For those of you yet to experience the Supporters’ Coach, I thoroughly recommend you give it a go…a chance to get to the game in some comfort, relaxed and with opportunities to meet some lovely folk. Paul had even organised a quiz for the way up for those who wanted a distraction from the journey – a tough one too! (What is 12 in London, 10 in New York and 40 in Rome…? Answer in tomorrow’s post, hopefully).
Despite Rowland Winter’s candid approach, I still feel this is a game that was there for the taking. We had so many chances to be out of sight before the game was turned on its head and Fylde played as we know they can and quite literally ran us ragged and, in so doing, scoring some fabulous tries.
If you condensed the game into the main highlights, you’d have yourself a really entertaining, if rather depressing, 15 minutes of rugby.
I’ve never been one to mope over results,; we lost and we move on.
Frying pans and fire spring to mind.