Some things in life are bad
They can really make you mad
Other things just make you swear and curse.
When you’re chewing on life’s gristle
Don’t grumble, give a whistle
And this’ll help things turn out for the best…
And…always look on the bright side of life…
Always look on the light side of life…
Monty Python – Always Look On The Bright Side
With 23 games now completed, Coventry are currently the second highest points scorers in National One on 712* , 11 ahead of third placed Loughborough Students, and a staggering 409 behind run-away leaders, Hartpury College who have already amassed 1121 points.
We are averaging just over 30 points a game which is probably a little down on what we might have hoped for at the start of the season, but that figure is skewed greatly by Cov’s poor away form.
At home, Cov is currently averaging a very healthy 41 points a game which should come as no surprise given some of the entertaining matches we’ve seen at the BPA this season, that figure being second only to…Hartpury, of course, on 48 points.
And I would imagine the average number of total points scored at home would probably be the highest in the league, given the number of games that have been decided by a single figure margin. This year those supporters who bought their season tickets early will have had exceptional value for money – 11 out of 12 wins and Cov averaging over 40 points a game.
Time to put up the early bird renewal notice up on the website methinks…hopefully, today’s announcement will only add to the interest.
By contrast, away from home we have managed just 196** points in total, with only Esher managing less, at just 181.
At an average of under 18, it’s pretty clear where the problem lies this season. For a team that set its stall out to play attacking, expansive rugby, clearly there’s something amiss away from the BPA. Only six other teams have conceded fewer points than us away from home, and three of those are with ten or so points, so in that respect it doesn’t sound too bad.
For me, it’s our inability to score points, rather than a tendency to concede them, that the problem. Surprisingly, there is relatively little difference between the number of points conceded at home, 23, and the number conceded away from the BPA, 26.
Having attended a fair few of the away games this season I have to be honest and say it’s felt like more than that.
Maybe there have been times when we should have been a little less cautious and played to our strengths and attacked the opposition more on our travels – when teams have come to us and done that – Old Albanian, Blaydon and Plymouth, for example, we’ve almost been undone.
It would be good to see us break the 1000 points barrier for the season, but in order to do that we would need to average over 40 points a game of the remain seven fixtures which isn’t going to happen. However, I do hope that we can average well above that 17 points a game away from home over the remaining 4 games, especially as the teams we will be playing are all below us in the table.
In previous seasons, we have probably opted to kick far more penalties than we have this one, so points would probably have been accumulated other than through the scoring of tries, something which might explain why we haven’t scored quite as many points as we really should have done..
We only scored 710 points in total last season, so there is clearly going to be a marked improvement there, although we actually conceded 653 and given we are currently already on 567, that figure will also be surpassed.
Granted, the points conceded total is irrelevant in many respects as provided we are winning games, the amount of points scored against us isn’t a real problem – however, is indicative to some extent, of how we’ve been playing our rugby this season. A bit kamikaze at times, but certainly at home it’s been effective.
One of the more surprising scoring statistics is that even though we are currently a close third in the table of total points scored this season as mentioned above, we have just one player in the top 30 try scorers in the league and that’s Wasps’ loanee, Owain James, on 9 (and he’s unlikely to play for us again this season).
That is something of a concern really, and for our top try scorer to be on just 9 tries is disappointing – if we are to feature in the top three or four teams next season I would anticipate we are going to have to have at least three players who will have scored 12 or more by the end of the season or our own version of Jonas Mikalcius. Hartpury already have 4 players over the ten try mark and Mikalcius is on 26.
Coventry have both scored 94 tries, the top 5 try scorers for Cov have managing 33 tries between them. Compare that with Loughborough, whose top 5, on 45, have scored over half their tries between them.
I imagine that could be taken either as a positive – namely that Coventry’s game is such that try scoring opportunities fall to far more players given their preference for expansive rugby, especially at home. Or, conversely, it could be seen to suggest that there are fewer out and out ‘finishers’ within the side at the moment…you pays your money and you takes your choice.
Perhaps it is something that the coaches will be looking to address through their current recruitment. A couple more wingers might be in order, especially as there’s no guarantee that our loanees will return next season.
I always felt that 100 tries for the season isn’t a bad marker really and we are well on scheduled to beat that target, being just 6 short with seven games still to play.
I know it’s oversimplifying things a little, but the fact remains that away from home the problem isn’t necessarily that we are conceding shed loads of points, rather it’s our inability to score them, something that I hadn’t really appreciated until I saw the stats.
*Stats updated – Statbunker appears inaccurate, although not wildly so – have repopulated with data from englandrugby.com. Many thanks to RW for this…apologies for any confusion caused
2. Snyman 1st, Fenner 1st
3. Tolmie 1st and 2nd, Grace 2nd, Penalty 1st, Daynes 1st, Hircock 2nd, Dyer 1st, Stokes 2nd, Knox 1st
4. Dyer 2nd
5. Knox 2nd, Jubb 1st
6. Stokes 3rd
7. Stokes 4th, Knox 3rd, Brown 1st, Howe 1st, Penalty 2nd, James 1st, Willis 1st, 2nd
8. James 2nd & 3rd, Howe 2nd
9. James 4th & 5th, Howe 3rd, White 1st & 2nd, Wheatcroft 1st.
10. Knox 4th, Jubb 2nd, Rundle 1st
11. Grace 3rd
12. Willis 3rd, James 6th & 7th, Daynes 2nd, Knox 5th, Tolmie 3rd, Penalty 2nd, Dyer 3rd
13. Rundle 2nd, Pritchard 2nd
14. James 8th, Tolmie 4th, Tuilagi 1st, Hircock 3rd, Bone 1st, Jubb 3rd
15. Trimble 3rd, Maisey 1st
16. Howe 4th, Price 1st
17. Howe 5th, Hodgson 1st, Fenner 2nd, Willis 4th & 5th.
18. Dyer 4th, Tolmie 5th, James 9th, Peters 1st, Penalty 2nd, Jubb 4th
19. Stokes 5th
20. Fenner 3rd, Tolmie 6th, Wheatcroft 2nd, Stokes 6th
21. Stevens 1st, Peters 2nd, Hircock 4th, Maisey 2nd
22. Howe 6th, Daynes 3rd, Penalty 3rd
23. Howe 7th, Stevens 3rd, White 5th, Litchfield 3rd
I’m not sure if it’s been commented on elsewhere, but I did think Jon Sharp comments in the ‘From the Board Room (?)’ in the match day programme a couple of weeks ago were interesting and, hopefully, a little understated.
In making reference to the recruitment drive which is currently underway, the Coventry Chairman spoke of ‘shoring up’ those areas where we have underperformed recently and that the we should be ‘fairly excited’ about the players joining us.
A couple of things there.
First, I rather hope the intention behind the signings is to do more than simply shore up certain areas of weakness – the decision to bring in players like Jack Preece and Alex Grove is one I imagine the coaches believe will move Coventry on to the next level in their journey towards promotion into the second tier of national rugby. At least that’s how I would choose to see it. It might be a little unflattering on those already at the club, but I would tentatively suggest that Preece, in the back row, and Grove in midfield, are potentially better players than those currently at the club.
Maybe it’s just semantics, but ‘shoring up’ sounds something of a retrograde step.
I certainly wouldn’t disagree, though, with the fact that the two areas concerned have both caused some headaches this season and we haven’t really found combinations of players in those positions that have been as effective as we would have hoped for.
Secondly, Jon Sharp has no need to worry about the supporters being ‘fairly’ excited about the players so far announced…I, for one, am delighted. Both are quality players and if Jack Preece can show the sort of form he displayed for England Counties last Friday, Coventry has got itself a real gem. Grove too, with all his experience, is going to be a real threat alongside Heath Stevens and Tom Wheatcroft next season. Both really strong signings for me.
There have been other names of players who have signed, or are in the process of signing, for Coventry banded about by supporters, some seeming more likely than others. However, one thing they do all have in common is that they are players who would definitely strengthen the current squad, a squad which is pretty strong all-round already. I think many supporters learned their lessons from two seasons ago and whilst there will be plenty of excitement for sure, expectations won’t be anything other than pragmatic.
Next season is about making further improvements and being more competitive – other than that I don’t think there will be too many supporters expecting promotion come next April – hoping for, certainly, but not necessarily expecting.
In the next hour or so we’ll know the names of the next couple of players signed by Cov as part of the 2017/18 recruitment drive.
Shore up or strengthen…?
I know what my money’s on…
And for those of you who might not share quite the same degree of optimism…there’s always this: