Blaydon 25 – 12 Moseley.
Blaydon were at the races and won…
…Moseley fell at the first hurdle.
Yesterday, it seems as if Kevin Maggs’ worst fears were yesterday realised.
Without 5 players following the England Counties game against Scotland Club XV on Friday, Moseley made the long journey up to a resurgent Blaydon.
The result, if not a foregone conclusion, was certainly always on the cards and you have to feel for Maggs.
Had Coventry been put into such a position, I know that today’s post would have been a vitriolic outpouring the likes of which this blog has never seen, and at times there were some pretty emotive ones last season.Prior to the game, Maggs had made his frustrations abundantly clear:
It’s just common sense to cancel games until the next available window…but the NCA and the RFU will have no one of it.
It’s extreme circumstances as we have five in England Counties, and while they have two, they want the game to go ahead as they know a third of my starting team are involved which gives them a significant advantage.
Such situations put clubs in an intolerable position.
Presumably, it’s not by chance that the England Counties games are played on blank weekends, and clubs whose players are involved are invariably supportive of the fixtures, even though potentially it puts players at risk of injury at a particularly important time of the year and after the deadline for taking on loanees has passed.
Maggs had tried to bring some additional players in as his squad is already depleted through injury and, with the absence of the 5 who played for the Counties the day before, Moseley were ‘barely going to have 20 players’ available.
It seems grossly unfair that a club that is so supportive of the England Counties set up, even to the extent of hosting the fixture for goodness sake, should be penalised in this way and I can’t see that many other clubs, outside of Blaydon, would have complained had the fixture been postponed for a second time.
And the situation is made that much worse by the significance of the game…
The bottom of the table is extremely tight and as a result of their win yesterday, Blaydon remain in 14th place, one position off the relegation places. The only other fixture yesterday was, ironically, the bottom of the table clash between Hull Ionians and Macclesfield, which Hull won 45-21 with neither team affected by the Counties game the night before.
Hull would have every right in my view to be pretty miffed…having beaten Macclesfield, they find themselves no better off as a result of Blaydon’s win against a seriously weakened Moseley side.
One thing you have the right to expect is a level playing field.
Whilst there is no guarantee that on any other weekend, and against a Moseley side that contained their five Counties representatives, Blaydon wouldn’t still have won – but it certainly would have been a far tougher game, even with Blaydon’s own two players returned to the side.
Hull Ionians would have every reason to feel aggrieved and if, as seems possible, that second relegation position goes down to the wire and is decided by a margin of just two or three points, then I think they will have been somewhat harshly treated.
And, indirectly, the result hasn’t helped Coventry.
We travel up there next week to play a Blaydon team which, despite their lowly 14th position in the league, has won 4 of its last 6 games and one of those defeats was against all-conquering Hartpury. Over a similar period, Coventry has won just three.
Having put one over Moseley this weekend, I can’t help but feel that Blaydon will be looking forward to doing battle with a Coventry side that has only won 2 and drawn 1 of it’s 11 away games so far this season. And it’s probably not a game that Cov will be relishing either.
Travel sickness rather than injuries seems to have been the major contributory factor to away form this season.
However, the Counties players will be buzzing after their success on Friday and we have to believe that we have the squad to cope with anything that Blaydon can throw at us…it’s usually a hard fought game up front against them. Win that battle and the game will be there for the taking.
Despite our 6th position, things have started to look a little better for us as far as the table is concerned. I know this season shouldn’t be judged by where we finish in the league, I get that, but it is interesting to see that teams 4 to 7 have all had a tough time of it of late and our position, I would argue, is something of a false negative (sorry…)
Of the teams around us, Cov has arguably the better run in to the end of the season and one thing’s for sure, there’s going to be a fair amount of chopping and changing of places over the next few weeks.
Take Moseley, in 4th place, for example. Their last 3 games have all been defeats and the club is in something of a free fall at the moment. Still to come for them are Plymouth (h), Blackheath (a) and Hartpury (h).
Rosslyn Park, in 5th, have Hartpury (h), Coventry (a), Blaydon (a) and Ampthill (h)
Blackheath, in 7th, have Moseley (h), Plymouth (h) and Hartpury (a)
Obviously, they all have other games which could prove to be their undoing, but those named represent their toughest games, on paper at least.
By comparison, we have Blaydon (a), Ampthill (h), Cambridge (a), Rosslyn Park (h), Old Albanian (a), DMP (h) and Loughborough (a) – the two stand out games of Ampthill and Rosslyn Park both being at home.
It’s a long, long season and those fixtures suggest that there is still much to unfold before the final positions become clear.
A strong finish, which means winning probably 5 of the last 7 game, is important not just because it will obviously impact on where we end up in the league, but also because it will set us up nicely for the pre-season. Those players retained will be full of confidence, those coming in will know they are joining a club very much on the up.
It looks as if the players who have signed but whose names have yet to be announced are going to certainly strengthen the squad and you’d hope that the platform we’ve built this season becomes the foundations for next.
Cast your mind back a couple of seasons to 2015.
We’d just finished 3rd and expectations were high.
Phil Maynard, together with Scott Morgan, brought in an influx of players in the belief that they would at least be as good as those retained and in many cases they would be better and the squad would be strengthened enough to make a concerted push for promotion. Most of the players who were recruited at that time were unknown to ordinarysupporters, players who on paper had decent CVs or had impressive YouTube clips. I bought into it, as did many, though to be fair not all…
…and some of those players were good, far better than they were given credit for, but it all went belly up from a very early stage in the new season.
9th place come the end of the season, a team that appeared anything but united and a mass exodus in April.
Two years on and we can see the difference. Probably 4th or 5th once the final round of fixtures has been completed, so not too far behind where we were back then, and with signings already being announced whom we know of and who are proven at this level or above.
And there’s the real difference for me…I might well be wrong, but it does seem as if this season that real attention to detail is being paid not just to the areas that need strengthening, but also to the type of player that is needed. We know, for instance, that experience is going to be one of the key factors in recruitment, players who can read a game and who can control the play because they’re more seasoned, something that wasn’t necessarily the case a couple of years ago. Players like Roberts, Hope, Weightman, Ryan, Tincknell and so on, they were all good players but relative young and inexperienced, they lacked the old heads in the team to mentor them and guide them.
Many of those who were retained were still relatively young themselves – Rundle, MacBurnie, Oliver, Poole, Brown and so. This season, the coaches are looking to ensure that mistake doesn’t happen again.
The next 7 match day weekends are certainly going to throw up some interesting results and a good finish from Cov is really important…with no team relegated from the Championship, those teams at the top end of National One at the moment will want to finish strongly to set down a marker for the coming season.
The teams promoted into National One will also want to have their say, especially Chinnor who have shown their ambition by already making some important signings to see them through to the end of this season, including Ben Pienaar from London Welsh.
All we need to do is keep winning our games…
…starting with that tough trip to Blaydon on Saturday.