The Olney 7s – sh*t shirts and champagne rugby
There’s gonna be a day…
When your standing in the hall of fame
And the world’s gonna know your name
‘Cause you burn with the brightest flame
And the world’s gonna know your name
And you’ll be on the walls of the hall of fame
Be a champion, be a champion, be a champion, be a champion
On the walls of the hall of fame
Script – Hall of Fame
…and Coventry Rugby Club wins its first trophy of the season.
Whilst the opening couple of games weren’t of the highest quality, particularly defensively with Cov conceding the first two tries in each game, by the third the squad had ironed out a few of the early problems and started to play with a level of control that had begun to exude confidence.
In the final itself, Cov’s sixth game of the tournament, they tore Ilkley apart in the opening 9 minutes and although the Yorkshire side made a valiant comeback, a repeat of last year’s final, in which we were well beaten, the result had already been decided well before then.
And whilst Cov was probably the biggest name amongst the teams there, many of the other squads seemed geared to playing Sevens more frequently pre-season. Indeed, some teams, like The Bees, brought in ringers in the form of ‘specialist’ so Sevens players (none other than Dan Rundle), a Cov win was always more of a possibility than a probability.
Cov certainly didn’t have it all their own way, losing one pool game (to Bees) and scraping through a thoroughly enjoyable quarter final with a try in the final play of the game.
Rowland Winter suggested that preparation hadn’t been much more than ’10 minutes’ and, whilst that might be something of an understatement, training during the week will have surely concentrated far more on the 15 man game than on the build up for Olney.
It was a great performance by the squad and as a result the club has now qualified for the regional playoffs next month at London Irish.
No mean achievement.
Cov entered two teams into the Open competition, Coventry A (selected from the full squad) and what was listed in the programme as Coventry Nighthawks (the Development Academy, plus a three minute cameo in the final game from Brendan Burke).
Although the Academy lost all three of its games, the experience will have been invaluable, with the lads spending the whole day alongside the first team squad and the likes of Alex Grove, Will Maisey, James Stokes, Pete White and others and just being part of such a professional, wining set up.
Success breeds success.
There were some notable performances, too, with youngsters like Jake Byrne, Cameron Gray, Kailus Hutchinson, Kwaku Asiedu, Josh Palmer and in particular, for me, Max Titchener, all looking the part. Much of what was good came from Max and he certainly seems to have a real presence about him on the pitch.
Kwaku Asiedu was troubled by a dodgy hamstring, but he is immense for a wing, even by modern standards. He’s come from Hartpury where he was injured for much, if not all, of last season and I can’t help but think that before too long he’ll be making the odd squad appearance for the full side.
Certainly it was interesting from a Cov supporter’s perspective to see the youngsters in action and I thought they acquitted themselves extremely well.
Coventry’s A squad’s win was a fantastic end to a great day out, but in many respects more important than the win was the way the squad appear to be coming together.
Early days but nevertheless promising…
Coventry’s base camp was home to not just the two squads but a host of other squad members who had come for the day to support those involved, together with a few familiar faces and the odd (!) supporter.
The longer the day went on, the louder the noise emanating from that particular corner of the ground became and it was evident that players old and new were already clearly comfortable in each others company.
At one point, many of the players did a pretty tuneless rendition, and therefore probably a fairly accurate one, of Cov supporter’s ‘Coventry, Coventry!’, presumably preparing the likes of Dacres, Palmer, Makaafi, Grove and Oram for what they might expect at their first home league game against Moseley.
Nile Dacres certainly seems to be the extrovert amongst the newcomers and I imagine the changing room might be somewhat of a livelier place whenever he’s around.
I’m sure that the likes of Rowland Winter, Brendan Burke and Matt Price (in the light of his involvement in the Development Squad this season) will have been very pleased with the way the day panned out. A tournament win under their belt, a winning mentality clearly evident and a group of players who grew in confidence the more they played.
The newcomers can’t fail to have been impressed by the attitude and ability of the those in the Cov squad who remain from last season. Indeed, the standout performers for me were the likes of Tom Jubb, Max Trimble, James Stokes and Will Maisey. The success of the second half of last season and the confidence that it has brought to these players has clearly not been lost and if those coming into the club over the summer can feed off that and add their considerable experiences, and indeed abilities, to the mix, then this should be some season.
Will Maisey was rightly made ‘Player of the Tournament’ and in the last three games he exhibited a controlling hand in Coventry’s wins. But Stokes was electric at times and remains such an exciting player to watch – you never quite know what he’s going to do and, in space, Trimble was rarely stopped.
However, if I could have chosen to have a webcam on an individual player, it would have been Tom Jubb. He might not be the most silky of runners, but his work rate yesterday was phenomenal and his ability (as we already know) to win the ball from the restart often earned Coventry vital possession.
He chased everyone and exemplified the ‘Covdog’ that we hear so much about from those supporters who have been about that little bit longer than most.
All those the newcomers made impressive debuts – Alex Grove just did the simple things really well and he was able to unlock the sprinters every now and again and Nile Dacres was another Jubby, very mobile for a big man and clearly someone who enjoys a fast, expansive game. He look a real athlete.
Ben Palmer probably impressed me the most though…to look at, he’s very much in the Matt Jones mould, same physique and not dissimilar in appearance. He looked comfortable from the word go.
I know he was brought in as cover at 10, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see him leading the line at times this season. He certainly impressed me, anyway!
If they hadn’t realised it before, those new to the squad this season will certainly now be aware of the ability and character of those already here. You can’t buy that sort of experience and I’m sure what they learned about each other on Saturday is worth a couple of weeks pre-training.
On a lighter note, someone at the club decided that it would be ‘Sh!t Shirt’ day and many of the players took it very seriously, wearing some loud and particularly tasteful examples.
Andy Brown’s looked particularly faecal, a relaxed RW wore a lovely floral number, George Oram proved that only real men can wear pink and Latu Makaafi’s worried me slightly as it looked the kind of shirt he might wear by choice.
However, Olly Povoas and Phil Boulton excelled themselves with shirts of the tropical variety, clearly picked up for a few dollars on some tropical beachfront.
Perhaps not, although maybe they can get away with it in a way us mere mortals can’t.
Others, like Tom Poole, just looked dapper…
It certainly helped brighten up the proceedings early on before the clouds lifted (as they were doing all last season) and the sun shone on the Coventry righteous – so much so that I got home to find that I had burned like a lobster and showering was something of a painful experience. Mea culpa.
Good to see Darrel Dyer there, too…here’s hoping he can make it into the Hartpury team and enjoy a successful season in the Championship
It would be wrong of me to finish the post without mentioning my admiration for those at Olney who organised the event. 40 teams took part in the Olney 7, competing in 4 or 5 tournaments over four different pitches, 16 of them in the Open competition.
Logistically it must have been something of a nightmare, yet the day ran exceptionally smoothly. The odd referee was late to a game, or whole team in one case, but the day ran pretty much to timetable and everyone left very happy. Food and drink was there in abundance (I even tried the jerk chicken) and despite the heat from early afternoon onwards, water was in constant supply for those taking part.
Announcements kept everyone well-informed as to what was happening and we were made welcome from start to finish. There were a plethora of referees and touch judges on hand and all carried out there role with a smile and a jaunty whistle or wave of the flag.
Great fun…on top of which some of the rugby on display was of a really good standard indeed and certainly I left, later than planned, happy that Cov had won and my appetite whetted for the remainder of the pre-season.
Hopefully, those running the event were pleased too and, as a result, we can all look forward to a 12th year of Olney 7s in 2018…
…deo volente, I’ll be there.
U2 are forevcr Ireland but The Script are up there, too. Danny O’Donoghue is a great front man as the clip shows, although the version with will.i.am is the better one although it comes with the most awful video as I recall…
Should be another one of those Cov anthems – it would be great for the dressing room in the minutes leading up to the game,