Club talk

Old Albanian v Coventry – the Deadwood stage is a-rollin’… a beautiful sky, a wonderful day.

Oh the Deadwood Stage is a-rollin’ on over the plains
With the curtains flappin’ and the driver slappin’ the reins
A beautiful sky, a wonderful day
Whip crack-away, whip crack-away, whip crack-away

The wheels go turnin’ round, homeward bound
Can’t you hear ’em hummin’
Happy times are comin’ for to stay – hey!

Doris Day – The Deadwood Stage

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

The Deadwood stage it won’t be…

Nor, hopefully will it be a run down charabanc,  given that this season Coventry supporters have travelled in some comfort.

But on our return from Old Albanian this evening, providing Coventry continues to perform with the same level of intensity and self-discipline that we’ve seen in the last two or three performances away from home, then hearts will indeed be a-thumpin”

Whip crack-away, whip crack-away, whip crack-away…

And whilst recent form points to an away win, I have to admit I am less confident about a Coventry win today than I was against either Blaydon or Cambridge.

Old Albanian are the proverbial dark horses, a small club that seemingly punches above its weight and one that is more than capable of causing an upset.

I should point out early doors though that I do expect Cov to win, despite some concerns.

But whereas I was pretty certain in the previous two games, I do feel it will take a far better performance today to beat Old Albanian than it did against either Cambridge or Blaydon. If OA play anything close to their best, then we’ll need to play like we did against Plymouth for those first 70 minutes if we are to come away with the points.

It’s the perfect test for us  – five consecutive wins now, a growing confidence and self belief and against a team that won’t respect reputations.

Old Albanian will be itching to beat us having got so close in the game at the BPA earlier in the season – remember we were 9 points adrift with just two minutes of normal time remaining before Tom Jubb scored the converted try and Maisey then calmly slotted over the final penalty.

And with OA now including James Prichard in their squad, it could be a feisty affair  – I’m sure he’ll want to make a statement…or three.

Many thanks again to CameraShake for making the highlights of the earlier encounter between the two teams available on YouTube.

Watch it and you’ll see the best and the worst of Cov in the 9 minutes of footage.

Strong scrummaging, expansive play and excellent finishing on the one hand and some woeful defensive work on the other. Tom Jubb had a stormer that day and hasn’t really looked back since.

We are a better side now, though.

A much better side.

It was the week following the OA game that James Pritchard was dismissed and soon afterwards, not much more than a week later perhaps, Craig Newby joined us and our defence has since improved no end. And it will need to be at its best given OAs like to play running rugby in the same mould as Fylde and Cambridge do.

At home they are going to be a tough nut to crack. It all makes for an interesting and exciting encounter.

The measure of the task facing Coventry is best shown by looking at the bottom half of the league table:

8 Old Albanians 27 12 15 17 65
9 Darlington Mowden Park 27 12 14 13 63
10 Loughborough Students 27 10 16 21 63
11 Esher 27 10 17 19 59
12 Cambridge 27 8 18 22 56
13 Fylde 27 9 18 18 54
14 Hull Ionians 27 7 19 14 44
15 Blaydon 27 6 19 13 41
16 Macclesfield 27 3 23 13 27

Whilst Coventry has a very impressive home record, we have yet to beat a team above twelfth place in the league, having previously won at Hull, Macclesfield, Blaydon and Cambridge and drawn against DMP. OA, at eighth , represents a significant challenge and the fact that we have failed on our travels is the reason why we are 5th and not second.

Just three more away wins would have seen us above Plymouth.

And three more would only have been 7 in total…what we might have expected at  the start of the season.

All-in-all, then, you have to fancy Cov to take the points this afternoon, given the form we have shown of late and the fact that defensively we have been so much tighter since Christmas (other than against Fylde and Hartpury in the second half).

As I said earlier, a great test.

And the good news is that the match day squad that has been selected to travel down to OA is similar to that of the last few games, with the exception of Darrel Dyer coming in for Freddie Tuilagi. Tom Howe is again unavailable due to Wasps’ commitments.

Freddie has impressed me of late, especially defensively and whilst the inclusion of Darrel at 8 probably gives us more options in the line-out and in attack, Freddie’s presence might be missed elsewhere.

I was pleased to see Rob Knox in the side…I feared he might have been out for a few games when he hobbled off last week, but apparently it was no more than a slight turn of the ankle. He’s back on the wing again this afternoon and whilst I know he enjoys playing in midfield, with Stevens, Grove, Wheatcroft and another big signing still to come, I rather think Rob will be out wide next season where there appear to be fewer options available.

Rob’s made an impact wherever he’s played this season, no surprise there given his obvious ability, but I’d like to see him stick to the one position next season and stay there…a good pre-season should help him no end.

I actually thought Tom Wheatcroft looked very sharp last week when he came on for Stokes and I’m looking forward to seeing the back line get some decent ball today…will Cliffie Hodgson always looking to come into the line, and Trimble and Knox out wide, there’s plenty of pace and power across the back division. Maisey likes to attack anyway, so we might well see Cov play with a bit more width away from home than in some of the games we seen this season.

The forwards will go into the game full of confidence. The second half display against Rosslyn Park was impressive and Jake Burns’ introduction at half time seemed, if anything, to strengthen the scrum.

It will be really interesting to see how he gets on today – he won’t get the benefit of coming on once the likes of Boulton, Tolmie/Price and Litchfield have done  a number on the opposition front row in the opening 40 minutes or so, so this is a significant step up for him. But he’s coped with everything that been asked of him so far and this is just the next hurdle in his rapid rise into the 1st XV this season.

I’m not sure anyone would have forecast back in September just how rapid the rate of Jake’s progress has been and if I’m honest at the start of the season I would have put Joe Foreman ahead of Jake given his appearances for Cov the season before. I’m sure Boris has been a key factor there and showing, once again, just what a good coach he has proved to be this season.

Difficult it will be, but I am expecting to see Cov come away with the spoils.  And, once again, if needed, Cov has its finishers to fall back on.

And what a strong bench it is.

Price, Boulton, Harry, Grasso and Stokes are all bound to be called upon at some point and a tiring OA could find that the depth that Cov possess is just too great.

Above all though, I hope we don’t see a repeat of the kind of injury that befell OA winger, Chris May, back in December at the BPA. I hope he’s well on the road to recovery by now, although I imagine there’s a good few months still to go before he can begin training again.

Prompt action by the medical staff from both teams prevented it from being even more serious than it was – I’m sure they’ll be reliving the moment at some point in the afternoon.

Here’s to a good day out then, some exciting rugby and hopefully a third consecutive Coventry away win…

Let’s hear it, Doris…

We’ll be home tonight by the light of the silvery moon
And my heart’s a-thumpin’ like a mandolin a-plunkin’ a tune
When I get home, I’m fixin’ to stay
So whip crack-away, whip crack-away, whip crack-away
Whip crack-away, whip crack-away, whip crack-away…

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

Providing there are no last minute phone calls, I’m expecting to be at the game today.

Presuming I am, and you’re notable  get across to Old Albanian but want to keep up-to-date with what’s happening at Woollams Playing Fields in real time other than just updates of the scores, please let me know and I’ll be happy to tweet regular descriptions of what is happening which, when combined, make a crude  ‘commentary’ of sorts.

@CoventryRugby will usually offer score updates, as will the Messageboard. Old Albanian also has its own Twitter account (@Old_AlbanianRFC), although it appears not to tweet too frequently during home games.
Please bear in mind, I do tend to be a bit one-eyed when I tweet, covering more than just the scores as they occur… usually there are other choices available though, depending what it is that you’re looking for.
I’m on @Cowshedtim.
Hopefully, there will be a decent signal near St Albans.
Apologies in advance for some of the typos that appear. It all gets a bit fast and furious at times and I’m all fat fingers and fat thumbs.

If you aren’t familiar with Twitter or don’t have an account, then on the homepage of this blog (www.coventryrfc.me), all the tweets will appear in real time on the far right of the page, towards the top end.

Up the Cov!

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

Hopefully, there will be nothing dead, or wooden, about Coventry’s performance today…

That would be a calamity, Jane…

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