Hull 20 – Coventry 63…a good performance but there still so much more to come
Coventry’s performance today will have done nothing to lessen the excitement that has steadily been building over the summer, especially following some encouraging performances in the pre-season friendlies.
Coventry were simply too strong for a determined and resolute Hull side that in the end just couldn’t cope with the speed and power of a Coventry side that became increasingly dominant the more the game went on.
The most pleasing thing about today’s performance was that it wasn’t a particularly polished one by any means. There were a lot of rough edges there and at times we showed the odd frailty too, allowing Hull to score twice early on from what was, in all honesty, some poor defending.
An uncut diamond…that when cut and polished will sparkle and shine, a beacon for the rest of the league to follow…
…or maybe not,
Phil Boulton, speaking to the supporters on the coach before they left after the game, confessed that it had taken a half-time roasting, (presumably from the coaches and himself as captain) for the team to really step up a level – but fair play, Cov nilled Hull in the second half, scoring 38 points in the process. As he himself said, very much a reversal of what often happened last year.
We also conceded one or two penalties in the second half that allowed Hull into the Cov 22 and meant that we had to work hard to defend our lines and only a well-timed interception from Rob Knox prevented them from scoring.
63 points and yet we could have had what, 3, maybe even 4, additional tries had it not been for passes going astray, knock ons or just not quite getting it right on the day? Without ever really hitting overdrive, Cov were dominant, but I can’t help but think that there is a lot more in this team still to come once the players get more time out on the pitch and providing confidence remains high.
Today’s was the kind of performance that had this been last season, after having gained the bonus point within 50 minutes, we would then have allowed the opposition back into the game and, in the end, the final score would have been a lot closer.
The difference this season is that there is far too much experience in the squad now to allow that to happen, with players like Luke Narraway, Phil Nilsen and Latu Makaafi controlling the game so effectively, with the luxury of having a scrum that by the end of the game was in complete control. It’s what these players were brought in to do and they did it exceptional well yesterday.
In fact, it was very much a victory forged on the basis of an exceptionally strong pack that won quick ball which allowed the backs plenty of time and space to use to good effect, although they didn’t always make the best of some golden opportunities.
Coventry had clearly learned from last week, with little ball kicked away and in fact it was Hull that was repeatedly forced to kick deep because our defensive line, after the first 10 minutes or so, was seldom broken.
The Cov lineout, such a problem the week before, was a strength this time round. Cov were able to rely on good ball from our throw-in all afternoon, other than one lost lineout midway through the second half.
With the catch and drive working extremely well all afternoon, Cov posed Hull all sorts of problems in their 22 and when Cov got it right, it was almost unstoppable.
The game started off with Coventry breaking out of their 22 as a result of a surging run from Latu Makaafi. A series of plays took the ball deep into Hull’s 22 and, despite a long advantage, Cov weren’t able to cross the Hull line and in the end opted for the three points.
Hull then rallied and scored twice in as many minutes, benefitting from some poor tackling for the first try and racing on to a high ball that was allowed to bounce by the Coventry defence – straight into the hands of a Hull attacker who raced 30m to score.
At 14-3 down in as many minutes, Cov could have panicked, but they just played their normal game. There were no obvious adjustments and it wasn’t long before Hull began to concede penalties and the boot of first Fenner and then Will Maisey pushed Hull back deep into their own 22.
Three tries came Cov’s way as a result and despite a couple of long range efforts from Hull, Cov went into the break 20-25 up, help by a late Cov pen on the half time whistle (thanks for that PP) and were beginning to look increasingly dangerous. Cov made a number of changes, some enforced, but there was no obvious loss of shape or form, something that must have particularly pleased the coaches. Both Pete White and Tony Fenner were forced out of the game early on, White with a dead leg which shouldn’t be too serious and Fenner, more worryingly, with a injured rib.
However, both Will Maisey and Dave Brazier had strong games and there were several supporters who felt Brazier had done enough to get the MoM award. He is a strong runner, snipes around the fringes and is generally a very busy scrum half and he’ll put pressure on Pete for a place in the starting 15 all season, something we didn’t really have last year. He scored two tries and his partnership with Will looked established from the word go.
Brazier is a really astute signing, by no means a big name like some of the others but a really competent no 9, good enough to play for England Counties and certainly good enough to be a first choice scrum half in any National One side. To have both him and Pete West at the same club is a huge bonus.
However, good as he was, and he was very good indeed, Dave Brazier wasn’t my MoM.
That honour belongs to Jack Preece.
Preece is as good a number 7 as we’ve had at the club for many, many a year. His work rate is phenomenal and he’s regularly the last to get up at a ruck or the first there at the breakdown – and on a number of occasions he won us good ball when it was needed. Not only that, he pops up just at the right time in attack and yesterday he scored a couple of tries where he appeared seemingly from nowhere. He’s a marauder, and with a low centre of gravity he is able to stay on his feet when others can’t and his strength is such that he is a hard man to dislodge when he is over the ball.
There’s nothing fancy about him, nothing showy, he’s just gets stuck in from the first whistle. Others, Like Latu and Sammy Tuitupou will get noticed more, but I maintain that of all the signings to join us this season, Jack Preece’s will be prove to be the best.
A word to for Phil Nilsen. He’s another of the recruits who does a job and does it really well. He’s slotted in so well and his experience is going to prove invaluable in those tight games where a couple of mistakes will change the course of the game.
The backs looked sharp but weren’t able to make the best use of the plentiful supply of ball they enjoyed from the forwards. Part of that was down to being a little ring rusty but there were glimpses of the potential that is there.
I thought Alex Grove had his best game so far and he and Heath Stevens have the makings of a very solid pairing. Stevens is strong and physical and likes to run straight and hard and he complements Grove’s more instinctive, approach. Grove is going to make tries as much as he’ll score them but with Stokes, Knox and Asiedu to work with, there’s plenty of pace and power around him. He also looks to be a strong tackler and he and Stevens aren’t going to let much through this season.
Neither of the wings saw a great deal of ball yesterday, Knox had a try scoring break called back for a forward pass and Asiedu made a couple of excellent tackles and what he did, he did well. On one occasion, having put in a strong tackle he was up on feet to win the ball back before the next defender had arrived.
Cov have been guilty in the past of taking the foot off the gas and letting the opposition back into the game, but if yesterday’s performance is anything to go by, there is the beginnings of a ruthless streak there now. Players showed good early season fitness and as Coventry maintained their energy levels, so Hull began to look more and more tired.
It’s hard to say just how good a performance this was…Hull narrowly avoided relegation last season, but they finished the season strongly and can’t have expected the game to have been quite as one-sided as it was.
Coventry are doing everything that is asked of them so far this season. Despite losing against two good Championship sides, they made the gap appear very narrow and against National One opposition yesterday, they took Hull apart without ever really looking to be out of third gear. It’s hard to know what more they could have done at this stage.
The big test, the acid test, will be next week and the game against Moseley, a team tipped to be one of the sides in the running for promotion this season. Coventry will be looking to prove to the rugby world that they are going to be the team to beat.
Everyone at Hull yesterday was wondering after the game about just how many supporters will make it to the game next week. There were guesstimates of anything between just under 2000 to over 3000, but if there are still people undecided as to whether they should come along, then reading some of the reports of today’s game should add an extra couple of hundred onto the gate.
It could well be a bumper crowd and that will certainly be in Cov’s favour.
Heath Stevens made it clear on the coach after the game that the Cov supporters make a real difference to the team’s performance on the pitch and so if that is the case, then it is vital the supporters come to the game and urge Cov on. We need to take any advantage we can over a Moseley side that will be disappointed in the end to have drawn 21 all against Ampthill and will want to kick start their season with a win against Cov.
It all adds up to another great afternoon’s rugby in the making. If it is a big crowd next week and they get behind the team, then Moseley will do well to silence the Cov roar. Few teams can cope with a Coventry side at home with their tails up, so plenty of loud noise as the team leave for the changing room just before kick off and again when they come back out, and I’m sure Cov will respond accordingly, as they did yesterday.
Yesterday, Cov made just the start expected of them, but without actually playing as well as you might imagine, given the scoreline. They are going to score a hatful of tries this season and if and when it does all click into place, then even the very best teams in this league are going to struggle. At the moment, it’s a question of whether a side with the obvious potential that this one has can be consistent over seven or eight months in all sorts of different conditions and on different surfaces. But there’s experience there in abundance and I wouldn’t bet against them being in the mix around April.
This was a good start, a very good start, but next week will be a test of a very different kind. Like all sports, rugby is a game where teams that are confident will excel. This Cov team clearly believes in itself and another win, against stronger opposition in the form of Moseley, will make everyone else sit up and take notice.
Today was but one more step in the right direction…almost a stride in fact, but not quite. Hopefully, the injuries won’t be too serious and we’ll be able to field another strong side next week for what should be one of the top games at the Butts all season.
Mose will be back in town…