The winner takes it all
The loser standing small
Beside the victory
That’s her destiny
Abba – The Winner Takes It All
On Rolling-maul this week, hidden in the middle of a thread entitled ‘Is it a crunch week at the bottom?’, was a really interesting post from ‘FHLH’ that has relevance to all teams in National One, not just those fighting to avoid the dreaded drop into National Two over the last two weekends of fixtures.
In fact, such is its significance to Cov that I contacted its author, Chris Humphris (a Cambridge supporter), to ask if I could use it in the blog and he was kind enough to agree. So thanks, Chris…much appreciated.
And the subject of this post…
And it provides some really interesting information.
Invariably there’s an extra loud cheer when someone goes over for Cov’s fourth try of the afternoon, but when you’re not involved in a crucial run in at the end of the season, either at the bottom or the top of the league (and Cov hasn’t been for six of the last seven seasons in National One), then you forget just how important they can be.
It might well be, for instance, that the second relegation spot in National One this season is decided as much on the number of bonus points earned as on the number of games won.
First, a look at Chris’ table.
|League position||Bonus position||Club||Total bonus||Try Bonus||Try bonus – % all matches||Losing bonus||% of Lost games|
|3||6=||Ampthill & District||18||15||54%||3||38%|
|8||13=||Darlington Mowden Park||14||9||32%||5||36%|
Perhaps the most obvious thing as a Coventry supporter is just how low we feature in a National One table that focuses only on the number of bonus points accrued by each team.
We’re well into the bottom half of the table, in 9th place in terms of total number of bonus points, just 17.
What is even more interesting is that in only two games of the nine games that we’ve lost have we gained a losing bonus point, ie been within 7 points of the team that beat us.
It’s a lower percentage rate than any other team, other than bottom of the table Macclesfield and even then they are on the same percentage.
We’ve lost 9 games in total…(obviously all away from home other than Hartpury).
- Birmingham Moseley 19-14 (-5)
- Blackheath 42-5 (-37)
- Hartpury College (as was) 23-27 (-4)
- Esher 34-14 (-20)
- Ampthill 22-8 (-14)
- Rosslyn Park 33-15 (-18)
- Hartpury 50-19 (-31)
- Fylde 33-24 (-9)
- Plymouth 33-24 (-9)
Our last losing bonus point was back on 2nd October.
What all this seems to suggest is that when we’ve lost, more often than not, we’ve lost big…or biggish anyway, especially for a side that’s 5th in the league and with aspirations of improving on that significantly next season.
At just over one in 5, our conversion rate of games lost to losing bonus points secured, isn’t great and just as it could make all the difference to clubs at the bottom end, with Hartpury out of the equation next season, who’s to say the promotion chase next season won’t go down to the wire and ultimately be decided by the odd point in 120 or so?
Yes, we’re on target to score our highest number of league tries ever this season, being something like 5 short of the current record with 2 games to go, and we’ve scored more points than any other team in the league with the exception of Hartpury. However, despite this we’ve only earned 15 bonus points for scoring 4 tries or more in a game, behind Cambridge and Loughborough and in line with most other teams.
So, put another way, in 15 of our 29 games we scored four tries and got the additional bonus point but in all 9 games we’ve lost we haven’t score 4 tries once. That must be a cause for concern, it’s bad enough losing but failing to score more than 2 bonus points away from home is, to say the least, disappointing.
Cambridge, on the other hand, have a staggering 24 bonus points in total, yet have won just 8 games all season. Despite having just those 8 wins, they’ve scored 4 tries or more in 18 of their games in total – so in 10 of the games they’ve lost, they’ve scored at least 4 tries.
Impressive and hopefully enough to ensure Cambridge live to fight another season in National One (which indeed it is, thanks, Tom…never very good at figures)…
And there’s definitely a lesson to be learned there.
Moseley’s record isn’t a great deal better than ours, if at all. They are currently just two points ahead of us in the league table…had we scored 4 tries against them at home and widened the gap to, say, 8 points instead of 3, we would be sitting ahead of them in the table, the result of a far better points difference.
It’s been a fantastic season to be a Cov fan, especially if you’re a season ticket holder who tends not to travel to away games. Die-hards like me have waited a long time to see someone like Rowland Winter come in and undertake a root and branch reform of the playing side of the club.
Yes, we finished higher placed in 2014/15 and probably 2013/14, but for my money the improvements have been more consistent this season and in 2014/15 the 18 game unbeaten run masked several concerns on the playing front that came to the fore the following season.
But the excellent form since Christmas shouldn’t hide the fact that one of the areas that probably needs addressing is ensuring we pick up more bonus points than we have been doing, especially in the games where we come off second best…and inevitably next season there will be one or two of those.
Losing 4-2 or 4-1, instead of 5-0, could make a huge difference come the end of the season. Whilst, according to Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson, the winner takes it all, in rugby it’s imperative that losing teams eke out as many points as possible over the course of the season.
In some respects the problem of not picking up enough bonus points away from home next has already been partly addressed through the recruitment of players as experienced as Luke Narraway, Jack Preece, Alex Grove, Latu Mafaaki et al. Old heads, sometimes on younger as well as older shoulders, have been lacking a little this season. That said, there has been a great improvement in our away form and given our performances over the last six or seven games, I really don’t think Coventry would capitulate in quite the way we did against Blackheath, Esher and Rosslyn Park were those games still to come.
Had the season started for us in December, I’m pretty sure we would be sitting pretty in second or third place in the league.
The coaches will have a far better handle on the importance attached to bonus points and they will have all sorts of additional stats from which to work, but as a supporter I just felt Chris’ table was an interesting one, not just because of the significance it held for those teams at the bottom of the table, but also for those nearer the top as well.
I appreciate a lot of people go away over the Easter weekend and the break in rugby gives the players and coaches the chance to enjoy a well-earned break and spend some time with their families, but purely from a personal viewpoint, I wish there was a game on Saturday to go to.
With only two remaining fixtures remaining until the season is officially over, a break now seems somewhat artificial and with so much interest at the bottom of the table, it would have been good to maintain the focus.
Also, with Cov winning six on the bounce, we are on something of a roll and the momentum is clearly there at the moment, especially with the announcement of players retained or recruited also being a part of the general excitement that is currently enveloping the club.
A forced break will surely have a negative impact on that degree of interest and for those who aren’t regulars at the BPA, will it feel as if the season has ended prematurely? A final home game this weekend would have kept things going nicely – as it is, a two week break might be enough for some to decide summer has started and Saturdays are for barbecues in the garden and not rugby at the Butts.
That said, hopefully, another big announcement to come on Tuesday (purely speculative on my part) will get tongues wagging and encourage a bumper crowd for the Darlington game on the 22nd, despite the Easter break. It certainly would be good to finish on a high with a big crowd showing its appreciation for everything the players and coaches have achieved this season, especially at the BPA.
Maybe breaking the record tries scored in a season against Darlington would be an appropriate way to end the season at home…?
In the light of the above, maybe it’s important to remember that actually the winner doesn’t always take it all and sometimes in rugby those losing bonus points can make all the difference…