Club talk

Crow Trees, scarecrows and the beginnings of an away day renaissance…

Your lucky days are over
Your lucky days are gone

The bells have all stopped their ringing
The music sounded wrong
And now the only song worth the singing
Is the sad old Scarecrow Song

Lindisfarne – The Scarecrow Song…

As away games go, Blaydon is one of the toughest.

Having beaten them comfortably at home last season, we travelled up to Crow Trees in early March in reasonably good heart, despite  a run of indifferent results and plenty of concerns about what was happening behind the scenes.

We got stuffed.

26-8 and with little to smile about other than a Matt Price try.

It was memorable only for the fact that on our way back to the Metro Centre, Sam and I were dive-bombed from a great height by a particularly vindictive pigeon.

A direct hit…

It was the second time that day that we’d been ‘shat’ on, so-to-speak.

Towards the end of the Blaydon game, Sam and I got  into a conversation with a local who expressed surprise at the marked difference between the Coventry that beat them so convincingly 38-0 at the BPA the previous November and the side that was struggling so much that afternoon.

I clearly remember him saying something to the effect that Blaydon only really get into their stride once the weather deteriorates and the pitches get wet and muddy. In effect, from January onwards.

And the muddier the pitch got the better Blaydon played.

And boy did the pitch cut up that day.

The two photos below show the state of the pitch before and during the game, clearly illustrating how heavy it became as the match wore on.

The Blaydon pitch before the game started last season

The pitch as it was just after half time

Blaydon played to their strengths, using the driving maul to very good effect. We were three tries down by the end of the first quarter and always playing catch up thereafter.

Injuries to Cliff Hodgson and Scott Hamilton meant that Loti Molitika played alongside Callum MacBurnie for almost 50 minutes of the game and despite plenty of effort on the team’s part, and an unnecessary yellow card for Ben Thomas, we were comprehensively beaten.

I mention all this because the scenario will be much the same on Saturday. The pitch is going to be heavy once again and despite the welcoming statement on Blaydon’s website that they:

offer high standards of open, flowing entertaining rugby, against National opposition

Cov should expect a forward dominated display and if it is anything like last season, they will kick deep and force us to work the ball from well into our own half and with the ball wet and greasy, handling is going to be difficult.

We have yet to win at Blaydon in seven attempts and despite their lowly position back in early November, they almost beat us, finally losing out by just two points in a low scoring game which we won 19-17, Dan Rundle scoring the winning try in the 80th minute.

And as the Blaydon supporter suggested last season, Blaydon’s recovery  in recent weeks appears to have coincided with the colder, wetter weather. Their last 3 home games have all been wins:

  • vs Blackheath 28-11
  • vs Esher 17-7
  • vs Moseley 25-12

Were it not for these, Blaydon would be a long way behind Hull Ionians and clear favourites for relegation. As it is, they are a point above Hull and presently in the safety zone, just. and with it all to play for.

Blaydon will clearly fancy themselves to take another 4 or 5 points from the game on Saturday. They are in a decent run of form and having only just lost out to us before Christmas, they will have Cov down as a team that they should beat, especially given our miserable away form this season.

And yet…

Cov have had two weeks to off and with only a couple of injuries,  Rowland Winter should be able to select his team from near enough a full squad which makes things a little easier.

I think it might well come down to dominance up front and in the set pieces, areas this season where we have been particularly strong. Win the scrums, at least win our own ball in the lineouts and I believe we’ve got more than enough fire power in the backs to cause Blaydon real difficulties.

However, we cannot afford to have our ball turned over or lose possession through poor handling or the wrong options at key moments. Our half backs need to control the game on Saturday, if necessary playing 10 man rugby to break the defence down and then spread the ball wide for the likes of Stevens, Stokes and Trimble to take advantage of the space that should then open up.

But Blaydon are going to be fighting for their National One lives and they will be up to the fight. Matt Price hit the nail on the head in his interview with John Wilkinson this week when he said that Coventry have got to go up to Blaydon ‘with the right attitude’.

And therein lies the problem. Cov’s difficulties are surely not based around a lack of ability or skill, or even fitness. In several close games Cov have finished the stronger, so that shouldn’t be an issue.

However, in so many games we have not shown any real mental strength and have switched off at times and, in so doing, have allowed the opposition a period of often 15-20 minutes at key points in the game where they have dominated us and scored crucial points.

It’s one of the areas that RW seems keen to address next season by bringing in more experienced players who are leaders on the pitch and who will bring a little more consistency into our play.

On Saturday, the more experienced players in the team will need to read the game and respond accordingly. When the pressure is on, with Blaydon causing us problems, as they undoubtedly will, they will be the ones who will have to look to change the play and make Blaydon rethink what they are doing. No need for Connor O’Shea style tactics here (but for the record, there was no ‘ruck-gate’, I thought it was just a brilliant strategy that in the end was undone by a much stronger team) – just someone to take control on the pitch and change things if necessary.

I was most impressed with Blaydon’s Keith Laughlin last week when he captained the England Counties to their emphatic win over their Scottish counterparts and no doubt he will be a threat again on Saturday, as will be the pack generally. But whatever Cov team is selected, it should be good enough to overcome a Blaydon side that is perhaps a little shorter on quality across the team.

Yes, Blaydon had a decent win against Moseley last weekend, but Mose were without their 5 England Counties representatives, whilst the two from Blaydon made the long journey back up north and played – which is indicative of just how important these games are to Blaydon at the moment.

They’ll want a win on Saturday.

We’ve got to want it more, even though the game might not have quite the same importance attached to it for us.

I’m certainly looking forward to visiting Blaydon again.

Even when the weather is poor, it is still a lovely part of the world and the folk there are always very friendly. We have yet to win up there and whilst I think the neutral might well view it as a probable home win given our current away record, I know we not only have the ability to come away with the win, we also have the desire. Our away form doesn’t sit easy with either the players or the coaches and they will be more than a little keen to make a statement on Saturday.

And talking of neutrals, rolling-maul.com currently has it 17-7 in favour of a Blaydon win…which would make a rare Coventry away victory all the more enjoyable.

There are a number of Cov players who have yet to perform consistently away from home who will want to prove a  point; players who will hope to be regulars in the match day squads next season. With the quality of players that RW looks to be bringing in, they might have their work cut out and the remaining games will be a chance for them to give a reminder to the coaches that they will be staking their own claims as well.

I’ve not witnessed a Cov side this season play without heart or the desire to win, but I have witnessed performances away from home where we don’t seem to believe that we are the better team. In those games, teams have been allowed to bully us a little and dictate how the game is played, even though we might well have the stronger pack and backs who can create problems from anywhere on the pitch if they see enough of the ball.

It very much depends on which Coventry side turns up  – provided we leave nothing out there on the pitch come the final whistle, Cov will prevail, but it is another really tough test away from home.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sooner rather than later we need to put this away day hoodoo to bed…

Surely, it’s time for a renaissance, a rebirth, the start of a change in our fortunes away from home?

No win at Blaydon for six consecutive season….

If Cov want to make a statement of intent to one and all that the juggernaut is on the move, well there’s no better place to start doing that than Crow Trees, home of Blaydon Rugby Football Club.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

And perhaps, given the name of Blaydon’s ground, there is no better song to finish on than ‘Scarecrow Song’ – by Geordie favourites, Lindisfarne.

On Saturday, Cov will be that scarecrow, making Blaydon dance to our tune for a change…

 

Your lucky days are over
Your lucky days are gone

The bells have all stopped their ringing
The music sounded wrong

And now the only song worth the singing
Is the sad old Scarecrow Song

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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