To be honest, I fear for Newbold a little..
Well, didn’t the self-styled Village People make a village idiot out of me…?
What You See definitely isn’t What You Get with Newbold.
There’s nothing remotely WYSIWYG about the club that was promoted to National 3 at the end of last season. If that was the case and you’d watched them warm up before seeing them play, you’d be forgiven for thinking that they were a local pub side, such was the range of shapes and sizes on display out there on Saturday.
But appearances are deceptive and whilst one or two of their forwards might have been carrying a little extra timber than we might normally expect to see out on the pitch at the BPA, they caused all sorts of problems for our pack and the scrum was something of a mismatch at times. In was a question of whether technique couldn’t overcome sheer size and experience?
Well, in this instance, it was very much game, but not match, point to the seasoned ‘pros’.
Older and wiser, they made life very difficult for the Development side and early on Coventry had to rethink the front row, with changes to the original line-up being made as early as 21 minutes into the game in an attempt to shore up a retreating scrum. Phil Ackuaku came on to try and counter the size and weight in the front row and Matt Price probably ended up having to play more of the game than he might have expected when the side was originally selected.
And there was a familiar face in the front row for Newbold.
Ben Dawes had guested for Coventry several seasons ago. If I remember correctly, he’d had a couple of very encouraging outings for the Nighthawks and then made one, or at most two, appearances for the senior side, earning himself a sponsors’ ‘Man of the Match’ award in the process. At the time, I think a number of supporters had expected him to sign for Coventry, but as it was he never reappeared.
(I’ve just had a quick ‘Google ‘ whilst reading through this and come up with the following article relating to Ben’s call-up into the Cov side back in 2014 – Ben Dawes’ Cov Debut )
He was a good player back then, good enough to put in some very impressive performances in a Cov shirt, and when we saw his name on the team sheet we knew Cov were going to be in for a good workout up front.
I can’t imagine that too many of the Coventry Development forwards will have come across the type of players they packed up against at the weekend, even those coming from some of the local junior sides, especially those for whom this is only their first or second season in adult rugby.
It won’t have done them any harm at all.
The Newbold forwards combined plenty of brawn with a not inconsiderable amount of nous and that made for some testing times, but in the end the pack was able to provide enough ball for their talented backs to rack up the points. Credit should also go to scrum half Connor Adams who had a tough afternoon at the back of a retreating scrum. The lad don’ good…
Max Titchener probably knew more than most as to what to expect from the opposition as he was at Newbold last season and I’m sure he was happy being out on the wing and part of a backline that, unlike the forwards, had much the better of the afternoon.
Coventry might have possessed much of the skill and finesse out on display on Saturday, but Newbold relied on strength and experience and whilst they aren’t the athletes some of the Coventry lads are, in fairness they lasted the pace exceptionally well and arguably finished the better of the two sides. I’m still not sure how they managed to end so strongly.
It was very much a question of who could exert the most influence on the game, their forwards or our backs? When Newbold kept it tight, they caused us plenty of problems, but when the game opened up and spaces were there for the taking, the Coventry backs had just too much pace, skill and guile for the visitors. Some of the tries Coventry scored were excellent, with quick hands and inventive play creating plenty of space for Louis Roach, Joe Lane and Max Titchener to exploit.
The presence of Cliffie Hodgson, Tom Wheatcroft and Ben Palmer provided the opportunities for the youngsters to show how clinical they can be and the Development players benefited from their creativity.
Having mentioned how impressed I was with Lane and Roach last week (as I was again this week), I thought Max Titchener showed touches of real class, although I’m not convinced he’s at this best out wide. He is a smooth, silky runner, quite tall and rangy and has the ability to glide through spaces, not unlike Will Maisey. I’m not sure he has the natural out-and-out pace he’ll need to play on the wing, but there’s something about him that makes him exciting to watch with ball-in-hand.
He looks more like a full back or fly half to me and a couple of times he did get caught out of position…however, definitely another one for the future. With Cliffie and Ben both needed in those two key positions, it might be that Max will play most of his rugby out wide, but he looks like one to watch to me.
Two other players on the day were particularly worthy of a mention.
Tom Jubb made his first start of the pre-season campaign and from the opening whistle it was clear he was in a hurry to make up for lost time. He was prominent in much of the running rugby that Coventry exhibited in the 40 minutes he was on the pitch, linking forwards with backs, making telling breaks and getting himself into positions out wide to create chances for others to score and generally putting himself about.
He was a man on a mission, keen to make up for lost time having had a frustrating few weeks. With both Nile Dacres and Tom Poole suffering niggling injuries, it might be that there is an outside chance that he has played himself into contention for the Hull game, although that depends on whether one of the two injured locks will be back by then.
One thing in favour of a quick return for Tom J is that he can double up as cover for the back row, so it might be that with a 3:2 split on the bench in favour of the forwards, and 2 of those 3 needing to be front row specialists, he could be used across positions 4-8…? Just thinking out loud really…
The other player who attracted plenty of attention was Waita Setu. Although playing out of position at 8, he had a very lively opening 40 minutes. He saw a good deal of ball and invariably beat the first tackler and, like so many southern hemisphere players, looked to make the ball available rather than go to ground. I don’t recall him missing a tackle either. It was a very encouraging debut and he’ll be pushing hard for a place in the match day squad.
He seems to be a similar player to Jack Preece and from the look of him, he’ll provide Jack with plenty of competition for the 7 shirt, or even cover for Luke Narraway at 8. Definitely a very useful acquisition to the squad.
I certainly don’t mind admitting I did Newbold a disservice by suggesting they’d be overwhelmed by Cov. They are a tough, seasoned side and will be difficult to beat, especially on wet, muddy pitches when I imagine they’ll be in their element. They provided a really honest, entertaining encounter – a side very different in its make-up to Cov, but nevertheless a very effective one.
Humble pie duly served and eaten.
Good luck to Newbold over the coming season.
Very many thanks to everyone who took part in the two ‘Man of the Match’ polls over the weekend.
The results of the votes are as follows:
Waita Setu – 27%
Joe Lane – 20%
Ben Palmer – 20%
A good start for Waita then in his first game, one that bodes well for the future. I’m sure he’d be pleased to know that supporters were impressed enough to vote for him as MoM after what amounts to not much more than a cameo first appearance in a Cov shirt. Early days still, but the signs that Waita will settle and become a key member of the senior squad are promising.
Ben Palmer, who would almost certainly have walked a similar poll in the game against ‘Street last weekend, features prominently this week. He’s played well every time he’s worn the Cov shirt and is doing his best put pressure on Tony Fenner and Will Maisey for a place in the match day squad.
However, Joe Lane’s inclusion in the top three (with more votes than Ben, even though they achieved the same %) is probably the most significant result.
Here we have a one of the Academy players producing an eye-catching display, one clearly recognised by the supporters.
If the Academy is to be successful, it’s the youngsters who need to be dominating these sorts of polls, not the likes of Ben, Cliffie, Tom, or Matt.
For the second week running, Joe has impressed – I’m sure it won’t be the last time his name appears in polls in the blog this season.
Well done, Joe.
vs Rotherham Titans
The results of the votes are as follows:
Latu Makaafi – 28%
Jack Preece – 14%
Heath Stevens – 12%
Latu Makaafi’s uncompromising style of player is already a winner with Cov supporters and after such a strong performance, in every sense of the word, against Rotherham Titans on Saturday, his name at the top of the list doesn’t come as a great surprise.
He’s been a crowd favourite wherever he’s played and if there is a Christmas MVP poll this season, then he’s going to feature prominently in that, too. However, there are plenty of other players capable of capturing the imagination of the supporters and two of them feature in this week’s results – Jack Preece and Heath Stevens.
Jack is one of those players that you just wouldn’t want playing against you, someone who wins ball, tackles relentlessly and will gain you good metres in attack. He’s very much a Derek Eves sort of figure for me, the sort of player you want in those games where forwards dominate and there’s never much between the two sides – Plymouth and Moseley last season for instance.
Heath Stevens was a fantastic acquisition back when London Welsh folded. He runs straight and hard , but is skilful with it and he’s added some much needed flair to the centres since his arrival.
And boy does he tackle.
Well done to all three!
Finally, a few additional photos taken at the end of the Newbold game that weren’t included in Saturday’s post.