Club talk

Cambridge v Coventry – Spring blossom shows the benefit of a hard Winter

As we saw oh this light I swear you, emerge blinking into
To tell me it’s alright
As we soar walls, every siren is a symphony
And every tear’s a waterfall
Is a waterfall
Oh
Is a waterfall
Oh oh oh
Is a is a waterfall

Coldplay – Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall

Back-to-back away wins.

And two good ones at that.

When a team has had such indifferent away form as we’ve had over the majority of the season, then a narrow defeat against second placed Plymouth, followed by wins at Blaydon and Cambridge represents a significant change in our fortunes.

If we can consistently produce this sort of form outside of the BPA next season and replicate a similar ‘Fortress Butts’ mentality at home, then Cov will be there or thereabouts next season. The form we have shown since Christmas, 8 wins and 3 defeats, would put us right up there with Ampthill and Plymouth and whilst there continues to be some concerns voiced, understandably for the most part, about a lack of discipline, the inability sometimes to turn possession into points, defences lapses and so on, I reckon there’s plenty of evidence to suggest we’re turning a corner.

There are still plenty more twists and turns on the way, but there is much to be optimistic about.

As we soar walls, every siren is a symphony

At the end of last season, Jon Sharp appointed Rowland Winter and entrusted to him a root and branch overhaul of the playing side of the club. It was radical and, at times, painful and there were real misgivings regarding the loss of most of the squad that had been together for sometime and had won the hearts, if not minds, of so many supporters.

It wasn’t just a pruning, it was a complete shearing.

Yet here we are, 7 months on, looking very much to me as if we’re beginning to see new growth, with the green shoots beginning to bud and the first glimpse of a Spring blossom visible.

Summer is some way off and we’re still vulnerable to the odd frost…but there’s plenty of evidence to show that we’re starting to see the benefits of a hard Winter…

And every tear’s a waterfall

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

Cambridge are a far better side than their league position suggests.

They’ve won 8 games, lost another 5 games by less than 5 points and another five on top of those by less than 10 points.

…okay, still games lost but they’ve taken some of the bigger clubs in National One down to the wire. For a side in it’s first season after promotion, they’ve done well.

Cov’s performance on Saturday was good, better than perhaps it’s been given credit for, especially as we are to Cambridge what Moseley is to us…maybe not with the history, but certainly with the passion.

Cambridge were well up for it on Saturday…

And they tested us in all areas of our game and despite taking the game to us, they fell short. We had to change things around a little, especially with a couple of yellow cards, but when you’re under pressure, cards go with the territory….or in Cov’s case, the lack of it.

It’s just as much about how you cope with the loss of a player as it is about avoiding losing one. Last season was a real issue in this respect, and we topped the National One ‘Cards’ table for most, if not all the season. Not so this time around.

The table below might not include Saturday’s game, but it shows we’re pretty much in line with most clubs…the average is 6 yellows and we’re on 7.

7 too many, of course, but it’s not a major issue.

What seems as important, if not more, is the fact that we were able to defend pretty effectively when with a player short, winning the first 10 minute spell (Tom Poole) 7-5 and losing the second one (Pete White) 7-0 (I think they scored again just after his return…?).

Net deficit of 5 points. Most teams would settle for that…not ideal, but a positive nevertheless.

Pete White’s ‘binning was at a crucial time, just as Cambridge had started to get their tails up and we’ve all seen Cov implode before now in similar situations.

Against better teams would we be able to do that?

It’s an unknown but we’re more likely to do better next time having had the experience before.

I guess I’ll be in the minority on that one, though.

Boris goes through some final preparations with Jake Byrne

The scrum held up well again and it was encouraging that Jake Byrne was able to play for most of the second half without there being evidence of things being that different once Jimmy Litchfield came off. It will be a relief for the coaches that Jake came through a difficult test so well and under the watchful eye of Boris, Jake will undoubtedly improve still further.  In the warm up before the game, Boris talked for a while to Jake and propped against him, one-on-one, just to go through some last minute preparations.

For a youngster to have that sort of support from a player of Boris’ reputation, well it’s hard to beat.

Don’t want to see another generation drop
I’d rather be a comma than a full stop

Although all five Cov tries came from the backs (Howe 2, Trimble 2 and Knox 1), 24 hours on and in my head it was very much a forward dominated game.  Whilst it was entertaining, much of the hard work was done up front in order to release the backs and it certainly wasn’t as free-flowing a game as the score might suggest. 2 tries in the first 12 minutes, another 2 in a 5 minute spell early in the second half and in between a lot of graft from the forwards.

The forwards come together after the usual post match conventions have been observed…

I’m not sure how often this happens, and I certainly don’t recall it occurring in recent games, but after the obligatory shaking of hands with the opposition and team huddle, led in the main by Nick Walshe, the forwards then broke off to form their own separate huddle.

Maybe it’s a regular thing, but it certainly impressed upon me just how close this group of forwards has become of late, helped by more consistent selection (as much through necessity as intent).

There was no Darrel Dyer on Saturday, but Brett Daynes was clearly up for the challenge and I thought he had a very good 60 minutes or so (?) and Freddie Tuilagi  and Olly Povoas are getting better by the game. Although Freddie’s handling can sometimes let him down, he is immense in defence at times and again on Saturday he held players up within inches of the line – despite his age, he is immensely strong. He is a better 8 than Dyer and if I’m honest, I think Darrel’s not had the impact in the last few games that he had before Christmas.

With the exception of Sam Harry and Freddie T, we now know that the forwards who played against Cambridge on Saturday will all be returning.

Add Nile Dacres, Jack Preece, Henry Morely and Latu Mafaaki into the mix (and there will be another 3/4 to be announced in the next few weeks) and this is going to be a pretty formidable set of forwards. I’m speculating again, but I’d imagine there will be a number 8 on his way here, presuming Freddie doesn’t return, probably another hooker, a second row and a 6/7 yet to be named.  If they are anything like the calibre of those we already know about, then it could get very interesting.

The forwards have pretty much dominated every team they’ve come across this season, including Hartpury.

Add the experience, and ability, of those coming in and there won’t be many packs getting the better of us…

The seated area on balcony above the clubhouse, A fantastic vantage point but a bit exposed in the depths of December, perhaps

Cambridge’s gate, 650, was their highest of the season and both sets of fans were fairly vocal, although it took a while for Cambridge to warm up following the two quick tries conceded in the opening 12 minutes of the game. We sat on the seated area on the balcony of the clubhouse, one of the best viewing areas of any club in National 1 (I always imagine the boxes/Centurions Room at the BPA would be as good as it gets…)…it’s not the cheapest place to watch your rugby but it is one of the friendliest.

I know Cambridge are more than happy to put on a buffet for supporters travelling down to Cambridge next season and the pre-match meal will be sold out almost as soon as the fixtures are announced, such is the interest in Coventry and its past links with the club.

I was really impressed with the set up there and the fervour of the support.

It’s a club that has worked hard to get to where it is and in some respects it is punching above its weight in a league with clubs like Cov, Plymouth, Moseley, Rosslyn Park and Blackheath. That it is surviving, even thriving, is an example of how teams on relatively low budgets can succeed. Whilst it must be hard to ensure the books balance at Cov, it’s probably just as hard, if not harder, at Blaydon, Hull and Cambridge.

Saturday’s fixture against Cambridge was always going to be a tricky affair and I think the ease of the win back in November probably meant expectations were higher than they realistically should have been.

That said, 5 points, five tries and plenty to be confident about going into the game against Rosslyn Park on Saturday…a decent return.

Hopefully, there are no serious injuries and we can put out another strong side and continue on the unbeaten run…

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

Not a great one for festivals, preferring small venues with loads of atmosphere. However, Coldplay at Glastonbury brings an atmosphere of its own…

(sic) As we saw oh this light I swear you, emerge blinking into
To tell me it’s alright

1 reply »

  1. Hi Tim. Another good post.
    A couple of things;
    You mention that all forwards from Saturday will be returning, has Poole signed now?
    Just wondering too, how Knox and Heath partnership faired on Saturday?

    Like

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