Will Smith – Men In Black 2
It was Sam’s idea.
A bite to eat at new Supporters’ Club sponsor, Akbar’s Bar and Lounge, adjacent to the ground and offering a handsome 15% off all food on production of a Supporters’ Club membership card into the bargain.
And a good idea it was, too.
Had I thought about it, I might have persuaded the management of Akbar’s to offer me a freebie, given that I am reviewing it so favourably, but sadly it didn’t occur to me at the time…
Well done the Supporters’ Club…it’s an ideal place to eat, given its proximity to the ground and hopefully there will be plenty of takers after home games.
If the SC are looking to have an end of season meal – it would make the perfect venue.
Not that I’m hinting, of course…
I would encourage anyone who enjoys good Indian cuisine to give Akbar’s a try. The staff are extremely friendly, the service excellent, the restaurant itself very comfortably furnished and the food well presented.
Whilst I’m no connoisseur, it was everything I’d expected it to be.
And I don’t mind Cobra beer either.
So we both arrived at the Butts in good humour…
The Referee’s Evening followed very much along the lines of the first back in late November.
I guess you’d call it ‘Men in Black 2’
Rhys Davies, Cov’s own fourth official, was the man very much in charge, providing a very informative and immensely enjoyable couple of hours – a mixture of chat, question and answers, slides and video clips – ably supported by Rowland Winter who was there from start to finish and Matt Price, Brett Daynes and Tom Jubb who were there for the first half an hour or so, offering some interesting insights on aspects of the game very much from the players’ perspective.
Rhys makes the ideal front man, drawing plenty of information from the players and RW, often backed up with examples from some of the games this season. It was exactly the right balance between gaining a genuine understanding of the laws of the game and a more informal discussion involving Rhys, the players and Rowland Winter, along with involvement from the supporters themselves.
Towards the end of the evening the point was made that some of the players don’t mix with supporters after the game as much as they have done in previous seasons – a point which RW acknowledged, whilst also explaining that players aren’t allowed to leave the changing rooms until they are cleaned and have topped up their electrolytes etc – by then the band is often playing and so they make their way to the back of the bar area so they can chat and they’re often then required to eat in one of the upstairs rooms. It’s a new squad, a young squad too, and some of them aren’t quite as confident when talking to supporters as they are to fellow rugby players – and as someone who is painfully shy at times, I can well appreciate that.
Just as an aside, it seems to me that a good way to get players and supporters to mingle is to have exactly this sort of evening, with questions and answers and a chance to chat during a coffee break.
Rhys seems very comfortable in the role as front man and certainly asks some probing questions at times.
His initial question about player discipline was a case in point – Tom Jubb was asked the question originally and he assumed that Rhys was referring to his red card at Moseley, which I’m not sure he was, but immediately he cleared up a point that I must admit I had wondered about and in fact had commented on in Saturday’s blog…
The reason that Jubby got the red over at Billesley Common and the Ampthill player was yellowed for his tackle on Tom on Saturday was that the Moseley player (George Oram?) landed on his neck/head whilst TJ had landed on his back. It was simply down to the way the players had landed, even though for me there was more intent on Saturday than there was when Jubby made the tackle against the Moseley player last September.
Following on from that, Rowland talked more generally about the ‘games’ played by clubs…for instance when a player is down following foul play, he is often advised to stay down and told not to get up until the player who has committed the foul is carded by the referee. A quick recovery might persuade the ref that the incident wasn’t serious enough to warrant a yellow/red card. Medical teams will go on and comment to the referee about how the injury occurred, just to reinforce the illegality of the incident.
More often than not, you’ll see the injured player spring to his feet once the card has been shown by the referee.
Such practices are common place and are just gamesmanship rather than anything more sinister and RW seemed to accept that it was common practice and just part of the game.
Matt Price suggested that props and hookers tend to get carded more than most because they are expected to be a bit ‘edgy’ and the front row of the scrum is often the place where ‘niggles’ take place, which makes total sense to me.
There was plenty of interesting talk along similar lines, far too much to recount here, other than the key areas.
For instance, there was plenty of discussion about mauling and rucking and the comment was made by one of the players that there is less turnover ball these days – Brett Daynes, I think. It seems that there is far less emphasis on trying to win the ball at the breakdown than trying to put pressure on the opposition when they have the ball by ensuring a tight defence. The theory is that after several phases the attacking side will get frustrated and either make a mistake and perhaps knock on, or in the end be forced into kicking the ball away.
Indeed, in the games where Cov has defended well, this has been the case. The opposition have had plenty of ball at times – Ampthill, in the opening minutes of the game on Saturday, for instance, had plenty of possession but were confined to the 10-15 metres either side of the half way line. Such was Coventry’s defence that it took a full 29 minutes for Ampthill to break into our 22 and despite having a decent amount of ball, they were unable to do anything with it up to that point.
Brett mentioned how the big hits that we saw on Saturday (Poole against Maama Molitika early on) can have a big effect on teammates, giving everyone a lift – as it does the crowd, too.
Matt Price made the point that one of the reasons why Hartpury have done so well this season is that they seldom lose possession of the ball. Even when defences are doing well against them, they’ll hold on to the ball and eventually it will be the defending side that makes the mistake, perhaps committing too many players to the breakdown with the result that Hartpury can then exploit the gaps. Rhys suggested that Hartpury will be okay in the Championship, a point that led on to an interesting discussion as to the quality of the Championship generally.
There are good players playing in tier 2, but the rugby played is often dull and a poor spectacle for supporters because too many teams play it safe, with the bottom 5 or 6 clubs ensuring there is always one team worse than they are to guarantee their survival. Rhys remains adamant the best rugby is in National 1 as it is much more open than that in the Championship, or even the Premiership, where there is just too much at stake.
RW also talked about why the side had become more settled after Christmas. Initially, with so many players new to the club, he needed to see everyone play several times before any real assessment could be made; there’s absolutely no point in recruiting players if they are not to be given a chance. By Christmas, the coaches had narrowed it down to 25ish plus the dual reg players and now, with injuries and departures, that number is down to around 21 or 22 plus d/rs.
RW went on to mention that with new players in a new environment, many playing in a new league, the away form was going to suffer, especially against the top teams early on. However, those same players next year will have learned from their experiences and, with the added benefit several new and experienced players being brought in, many of those games we lost this season will be won next. Cov have been too naïve at times over the last few months, especially away from home, and the coaches have recruited players this season like Jack Preece who read games a little better and know what to do at key moments, something lacking a little at present.
Brett talked about what players first to the breakdown might be expected to do, saying that different situations require different actions. Sometimes it’s about trying to win the ball or slowing it down, at others it’s about making sure the defensive line isn’t broken, something that has been a bit of a ‘team theme’ of late for Rowland Winter. Rolling away and getting back into the line and making sure it keeps it’s shape can be just as important as trying to win the ball – committing too many players means you’re prone to the next phase or two if the opposition can achieve quick ball.
Rhys mentioned the old adage that rugby was a game for players of all shapes and sizes, but the consensus was that in the modern game, whilst that might be true of junior rugby, at this level and above the bigger and quicker the player, the better.
Brett and Tom J were both asked about what it was like being at Cov and they both talked about loving the pride and the passion of the supporters here, with Brett saying it felt really good to be back, almost as if he hadn’t been away. Tom Jubb mentioned how fantastic the atmosphere is at home compared to his previous club, Darlington, where the three quarters empty stadium lacked anything like the atmosphere of the BPA. Plenty of mention was also made of the Moseley game at home in front of 2700 supporters and how that really lifted players. Such was the buzz around the ground that day apparently that even at 12.00, when some of the players arrived, they could sense it was going to be a very special day
…whereas at Blaydon, as the visiting team, it’s almost as if you have to create your own atmosphere.
RW also made the point that big crowds at the BPA will ensure that the better referees are given Coventry games in the future and that, in itself, gives Cov the advantage.
RW was asked about the input the coaches have in the final minutes before a game. He said there is little that can be done to influence the players and he tends to steer away from too much involvement in the warm up, letting the players go through their own routines and the specialist coaches to take them through their final routines. All coaches are different, though – Nick Walshe prefers to be with the players even in the changing room just before they come out for kick off.
RW confessed to getting very nervy before a game and he’ll often let out what his son calls his ‘dinosaur roar’ when, say, the players go down for the first scrum. It’s only then that he’ll know whether the players have brought onto the pitch all the hard work and effort put into training the previous week. Me, I’ll have a Pepsi Max or a strong coffee during a game – seems like RW’s preferred tipple is the odd can of Red Bull, or three..! (We banned it from school when I was in leadership… 😉 – just saying).
The good news about the coaches is that either Nick Walshe has signed, or is about to sign (I can’t remember the exact wording – apologies), a new two year contract, and the club are currently trying to bring in another coach into the team (line-out perhaps?). Boris is definitely going to be here for another season, having turned down a contract with Leicester (again, I think that’s correct)…he recognises that Coventry has given him the chance to get into coaching and he wants to develop his skills with the club further before breaking into the Premiership – he’s spending three weeks in Argentina in May and could go to France for experience too, having played there for several years.
However, Boris is unlikely to be with us after 12 months as he’ll be looking to gain further experience at a higher level.
Rowland confirmed he is in talks over a contract extension with the club, but he still has another year at least left – I would imagine it’s about how the aspirations of the club fit in with his own that will be the deciding factor.
I apologise it’s all a bit rushed – I just wanted to give a flavour of what was discussed prior (mostly) to the main even which was Rhys Davies’ guide to some of the laws of rugby, particularly those involved in offside, rucking, mauling and tackling. Rhys has the ability to make the complicated seem quite straightforward and I certainly left knowing more than I did when I arrived – although a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing!
With a mixture of slides, video clips and anecdotes from games we’ve seen this season, Rhys took us on a tour of the key laws affecting each of the areas mentioned and gave the supporters the opportunity to chip in or ask questions as and when.
A lot of areas of uncertainty were dealt with extremely effectively and I’ll go down to Cambridge armed with a number of things to look out for – when mauls become rucks, what is and isn’t offside at a scrum or a lineout and when a tackle is or isn’t a tackle. Incidents from previous games this season were mentioned to provide examples which everyone could relate to and there were plenty of questions from supporters wanting clarification on a range of areas of the game.
It was another great evening, one that was extremely entertaining. Many, many thanks to Rhys for fronting it. There were upwards of 40 supporters there and I think we all left extremely grateful for the time that Rhys had given up to prepare for the evening and to Brett, Tom and Matt for their contributions. Such evenings help bring the coaches and players that much closer to the supporters and I’m sure everyone there was appreciative of the willingness of Rowland Winter to be so open and upfront. From being arguably the weakest aspect of the club last year, communication is now one of the strongest and it is so refreshing to hear things directly from the management team or the players rather than though the local newspaper as was often the case then.
And finally, a big, big ‘thank you’ to the Supporters’ Club for organising the evening, and especially to Nigel Harrison for overseeing it. I’ve said it many times before, but it won’t harm to say it again, the club is so much better this season for having such a proactive Supporters’ Club and, on a personal level, I’ve got far more enjoyment from this season as a result of the SC’s involvement than I ever did in recent seasons when there was no real connection between the club and its supporters.
One of the best £20s I’ve spent all year.
And a great return on my investment, too.
Men in Black 2 –
Nod ya head…
Here come the Men In Black
It’s the MIB’s, uh, here come the MIB’s
Here come the Men In Black, Men In Black
They won’t let you remember
Nah nah nah.
The good guys dress in black, remember that
Just in case we ever face to face and make contact
The title held by me, MIB