Training ground update…Cov looking sharp

Words can make you pay and pay
Four-letter words I cannot say
Panty, toilet, dirty devil
Words are trouble, words are subtle
Words of anger, words of hate

The Tom Tom² Club – Wordy Rapping Hood – (aka Jubb, Poole, Wheatcroft  and Howe)

It looks as if Coventry are certainly up for the challenge of Ampthill on Saturday, if yesterday evening’s training was anything to go by.

There was a real intensity about the way Coventry went about their routines and it appeared as if they were practising getting their big hitters into the game, preparing to take Ampthill on up front right from the word go.

Whilst Ampthill have an effective set of three quarters, with both their wingers Pete Weightman and Sam Baker having played for Coventry last season, it is their forwards who are arguably their real strength and if we win that battle then, for me, as likely as not we win the game.

Ampthill have built their reputation on their forward play and with the likes of Maama Molitika (his brother Loti also played for us last year), Ben Gulliver and Aleki Lutui, they have exactly the sort of experience that we have lacked this season and are looking to recruit in readiness for the 2017/18 campaign.

In a closely fought game back in mid-November, it was their forwards who in the end decided the game with two tries, both from driving lineouts, although in the second became a penalty try as the referee decided Coventry had dropped the drive illegally.

Coventry will hope that they fair better on the injury front that they did in that first encounter, with Eoghan Grace and Olly Povoas both having to retire from the game. It was also the game in which Hannah Walker was nominated as ‘Man of the Match’ by supporters following the contribution she made…and for many Cov fans there, an exciting game was spoiled by the sixty minute wait for an ambulance following Olly’s injury…it was a cold and miserable day and he was strapped into a stretcher with little in the way of protection from the elements, other than the bus shelter-like canopy of the dugout and a few blankets.

Olly was injured early on in that game and his inclusion in tomorrow’s team is a chance for him to complete some unfinished business with Ampthill…a nice touch that from the coaches and it’s a belated opportunity, too, for Olly to remind the coaches that after a couple of big back row announcements over the last few weeks, he is also someone capable of doing a job for Cov next season.

Sam Harry, another back rower who has impressed this season, makes way for him with Darrel Dyer (ex-Ampthill last season, of course) and Freddie Tuilagi claiming the other two places. Freddie had a really strong game against Blaydon last week, especially in defence…this week I think we’ll see him in a more attacking role as well and yesterday he was certainly getting a fair amount of crash ball to work with.

It’s my guess that Cov will run the ball straight and hard, directly into the Ampthill forwards, sucking in the back row in the first couple of phases before releasing the ball wide to the three quarters who looked extremely sharp yesterday.  Players were working the angles and there were also dummy runners drawing in the defence…if we play with the same pace and intensity that we witnessed in training, then it should make for an exciting 80 minutes of rugby. Nick Walshe, back after the break, had the backs working hard and Boris spent some time working with the forwards, going through the various combinations of front rows to cover most scenarios.

Sam Grasso gets the nod over Pete White (who I think is on the bench?) – he had arguably his best game for Cov last week and will look to put pressure on the opposition scrum half on their ball, as well as provide quick service to Will Maisey who will wear the 10 shirt.

Tony Fenner picked up an injury last weekend and didn’t take much of a part in training at all. Cliffie will be on the bench and is very much the perfect replacement – able to cover fly half, centre and full back and should Will have to come off or be unable to kick, well we all know what an effective accumulator of points he can be.

I was really relieved to see Heath Stevens looking fit and lively yesterday, he took a big knock against Blaydon and had to come off and I did wonder whether he would be available, but it was clearly nothing serious and he’ll play alongside Tom Wheatcroft in midfield. Rob Knox is back on the wing gain and having impressed since his return, he is in the starting XV.

Rob has looked increasingly confident over the last few weeks and it wouldn’t surprise me if he had a blinder tomorrow in front of a home crowd who would like nothing better than to see him on the score sheet once again. He remains a firm favourite with the Cov crowds and he’ll be one of the names supporters are hoping to see on the lists of retained players as they are published over the next few weeks. (RW suggested that it might be mostly retained players announced next week with perhaps just the one new player…).

Tom Howe is on the other wing with James Stokes at full back –  a Howe, Stokes, Knox back three is just about the  strongest we could put out and if our forwards do provide our three quarters with some decent ball, then Ampthill could be stretched out wide. I’m praying for some dry, warmer weather tomorrow afternoon…conditions which would definitely favour us I think.

Pete Weightman and Sam Baker are both exciting players, both very good with ball in hand and both very different – Weightman is strong and quick and is more direct and he impressed me greatly last season, whilst Baker is a more fluid runner and probably underrated by Cov supporters who never saw the best of him during his brief sojourn at Cov last season.

However, just how good they both are defensively remains to be seen and with Coventry probably playing a more expansive game, provided they win the battle up front, then we have the backs to give them a severe test.

The Tom Tom² Club – Messrs Jubb and Poole, together with Howe and Wheatcroft, of course – (and there I was struggling for a music link today and it was in front of me all the time…) are at 4 and 5 and both formed an excellent partnership last weekend. Tom P’s physicality was integral in our forward power and ability to hold Blaydon at bay in attack and Tom J’s mobility was exceptional – since Christmas he has grown as a player and whilst still not the finished article (which speaks volumes about just how good I think he could be), he is going to be an integral member of our squad next season, even with some pretty decent players still to come in by all accounts.

Up front, Scott Tolmie returns at hooker and Matt Price goes back onto the bench and Jimmy ‘I so hope he signs soon’ Litchfield and Phil Boulton are either side of him. I can’t help but feel Cov are going to take it to the Ampthill forwards in the opening minutes and that first scrum could be as competitive as anything we have seen this season…it’s going to be something of a slugfest again.

The Coventry forwards played well for much of the game at Ampthill and it was only in the last 10 minutes or so that we lost our concentration and they were able to effectively use their lineout as a springboard to maul their way over the line.

Jake Byrne is on the bench again tomorrow and I’ll lay odds on him getting on for a decent run out after half time…if you’re going to cut your teeth in front of your home crowd for the first time, then there’s no better team than Ampthill to face in our league. Jake will have earned his spurs after this one. He’s more than up to the challenge and I’m sure he’ll revel in the atmosphere.

It was a painful defeat to Ampthill back in November- one that we lost as much as they won. That said, their forwards were impressive and Maama Molitika, at the grand age of 42, was immense as was Aleki Lutui and both have a huge influence on the way Ampthill play. After the game, Head Coach, Paul Turner (how often has he got the better of Cov teams over the years) pretty accurately summed up that first encounter:

This was a classic forward struggle in which the backs, apart from defence, were restricted to cameo roles while the two packs slugged it out up front. Coventry had the better of the tight exchanges for much of the game while it was pretty even in the loose. On the whole a much better performance for the hosts than of late with the clinical finishing in the last 10 minutes particularly of note.

It will definitely be another very tough afternoon for both sets of forwards, one in which Coventry are going to have to keep their discipline under what is likely to be a lot of pressure from the Ampthill forwards. However,  from what we saw at training, Coventry will be ready to set the backs free wherever and whenever possible…

Owain James was also at training yesterday…I understood we probably wouldn’t see him back again this season but see him we did and it might well be he’s on the bench as well tomorrow.

Cov will need the crowd to be loud and proud – hopefully it will be another strong attendance, despite the England game which srarts so soon after the final whistle.

Tough game this one…

Cov by 8 points.


And in honour of the four Toms playing tomorrow…

…The Tom Tom² Club.

Anyone who has followed the blog from its inception will know that I am a big fan of Talking Heads – David Byrne can do know wrong as far as I am concerned and ‘Road to Nowhere’ was pretty much the perfect anthem for last season.

Harsh, but fair.

But one of the other reasons why I started following them was because of Tina Weymouth – her of the pig tails and bass guitar on this video.

They were one of the first bands I saw when I went up to uni and I fell in love with TW from the moment first saw her live.

She and Siouxsie Sioux, of course…

Oh, and Chrissie Hynde, obviously.

And here’s why…




4 thoughts on “Training ground update…Cov looking sharp

  1. Hi Phil…I have to say that I’m getting more confident the nearer the game gets which is rather worrying and almost certainly the kiss of death for the team!

    I think the signings have certainly created plenty of interest, I just which it was reflected in the Messageboard which seems to have gone very quiet in recent weeks – a shame because there’s plenty to discuss.

    Not looking good for your predictions though! Thought Wales were good value for the win but would have gone with Ireland as well.Hope you’re right about the others, though!

  2. Hi Tim
    I imagine it will be a close encounter and i also think that Cov will nick it, home crowd advantage and all that.
    12 months ago we were all in the dark about what was happening with our club and although this season has been far from perfect i do feel that the foundations have been built to push onwards, the weekly release of news is more than welcome and already next season looks like being very exciting in light of the signings that have been announced. Six games to go and i am already looking forward to next season!!!
    Anyway a big big weekend of Rugby and if i were a betting man i would bet on these four to win, Ireland, Coventry, France, England.

    Up the Cov

  3. Hi Dave – should be a great game tomorrow – not sure that Ampthill will be waiting to read the blog before deciding on the game plan!!!! There’s always a bit of fake news in there (inadvertently on my part, I hasten to add!). Besides, Ampthill will know exactly what to expect from Cov at home – they have access to all the videos of our home games.

    Quietly confident, but it is going to be as tough as previous games against the likes of Blackheath and Moseley have been – the crowd could well make a difference…

  4. Thanks Tim, great to hear that the lads are looking sharp and ready for Saturday, but a little concerned that you may have given Ampthill a ‘heads up’ as to our preparations and game plan! Lol.
    Or, are you in cahoots with RW to spread a little ‘Fake news’ and mislead them about our actual preparations?
    Anyway, keep up the great work with the blog and maybe see you there on Saturday #CmonCov

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