|2) Darlington Mowden Park||2||2||0||0||60||38||22||2||0||0||10||100.00|
|3) Bishop`s Stortford||2||2||0||0||68||39||29||1||0||0||9||90.00|
Top of the shop.
Only two games gone and Coventry are already beginning this season to look like they’re genuine promotion contenders.
Early days yet, but the gauntlet was clearly thrown at the feet of a Moseley team that, on the day, just weren’t up to the challenge,
I don’t think many Coventry supporters expected such a one-sided affair in which, other than probably the opening 10 minutes or so, Coventry were completely dominant and rarely troubled by a Moseley side that struggled to compete in most areas of the game.
Coventry v Moseley encounters are usually passionate and physical affairs where no quarter is given whatsoever, as we saw in the two derby games last season where only 2 points separated the two teams over 160 minutes of nerve-wracking rugby.
Those games were full of incident, characterised by an intensity and physicality that left supporters drained and exhausted but satisfied that, no matter which team you supported, honour on both sides was upheld.
Nine months on from the last meeting between the two teams and how things have changed.
It was as one-sided an affair as I can remember for a long time…well at all, if I’m honest.
Moseley were out-scrummaged, out-jumped and out-mauled in the forwards, and out-thought and out-played in the backs and the mood of the two DoRs come the end of the games must have been poles apart. On the basis of this performance, Richard Protherough must be wondering just how effective his summer recruitment has been, given the ease in which Cov brushed aside a very limited Moseley performance. Rowland Winter, on the other hand, must have been extremely satisfied with a job well done.
It was summed up for me around the 60 minute mark when Rhodri Adamson, the former Cov scrum half from last season and now at Richmond and following the game via several social media sites, sent me the following tweet:
Kind of says it all really…
(Rhodri is contracted to the first team squad but is currently undergoing some rehab on an injured knee).
But here’s the thing and it is something that every Cov supporter will have to consider over the next couple of weeks if we continue to put in these sorts of displays. Is it that the opposition are really that poor, or is it in fact that Coventry are far better than we are presently giving them credit for?
Following the Hull game, the consensus was that Cov put in a decent shift against pretty weak opposition and we wouldn’t really know where the team was in terms of potential until after the game against Moseley, as they would be a step up in terms of ability and a club likely to be in the mix at the top end of the table come the end of the season.
And whilst not wanting to hammer yet another nail in to the lid of Moseley’s already half-closed coffin, but actually Hull were certainly no poorer than Moseley and probably had more opportunities in attack than the black and reds.
So here we are, approaching Week 3 and it’s back to…’Let’s wait until Blackheath in two weeks’ time and see how we get on then, before passing judgement.’
To do so, though, would be forgetting that even against Championship opposition Coventry didn’t look out of place and in all their other games they haven’t scored less than 48 points. Maybe, and whisper this quietly, just maybe Coventry are beginning to fulfil some of the potential we knew they would have with the introduction of so many quality signings in the summer.
Players who completed so well against Tier 2 opposition are beginning to look a class apart in National One, as you’d expect to be fair. Tuitupou and Grove have added real steel to the Coventry back division and in 160 minutes, Coventry have conceded just three tries and one of those was in the final minute of today’s game with Coventry down to 14 men and everyone waiting for the final whistle, the game long gone as far as Moseley were concerned.
A consolation try…which always sounds a little patronising to me.
Sammy T put in a couple of his already trademark thunderous tackles and when that happens, more often than not, the opposition spill the ball. He caught Callum MacBurnie with a huge hit at one point which many in the crowd seemed to feel. I felt sorry for Callum, there’s was little ball to play with and the speed and handling of the Coventry backs meant that at times Moseley were left chasing shadows. Callum is a good player at this level and I’m sure he’ll have better days to come.
But hey, this was Moseley and if we can’t be just a little bit smug having put 50 points on them, well when can we be? It was a Cov performance that left supporters smiling and happy in the knowledge that this is a team that is very much on the up. They did everything that was asked of them…
And yet I can’t help but feel there’s still a lot more gas available in the tank should it be required.
I’m certainly not suggesting this is the squad that really is going to get us out of this division after 7 previously unsuccessful attempts, but what I am saying is that it is a squad that is beginning to look as if it is capable of doing it…and there’s is a world of difference between the two. I don’t think Coventry ever had to get out of third gear yesterday and we have yet to see how they will react when a team puts them under the kind of pressure we faced from Hartpury at home and Plymouth away last season; close games where we had the chance to win but hadn’t got the experience on the pitch to see us past the post.
There’s definitely more to come from this squad, though.
Yesterday we were more clinical than we’d been against Hull, but we still could have had another three tries from forward passes, a foot in touch and a knock on. The backs looked really sharp at times with two tries, one from James Stokes and the other from Ben Palmer looking to have come straight off the training ground. I thought Alex Groves was impressive out on the wing and, as he always seems to do, he did the simple things so effectively.
We did lack a little pace at times, other than from James Stokes of course, but when you’ve got players like Stevens and Tuitupou ruling midfield, the off loads and inside passes create spaces for others to exploit. Will Maisey led the line really well, although he had something of an off day with the boot for him and probably took the wrong option a couple of times when we had overlaps but he decided to go it alone. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but he is such a key player in this side now and even with the absence of Anthony Fenner, Cov aren’t at all compromised, such is the ability of Will.
Dave Brazier had enough strong game but he is benefiting from a scrum that remains dominant at this level. The Boulton, Brown, Litchfield rotation seems to work really well and there is absolutely no respite for opposition front rows, especially with Phil Nilsen and Scott Tolmie at 2. How we will cope when one or more of the props is rested or, heaven forbid, gets injured, is something that remains a slight concern. We haven’t really seen much of Harry Morley as yet; this is a long season and Morley and Nathanael Titchard-jones are definitely going to be called upon at some stage. I think we might well see one on the bench before too long.
For me, Nile Dacres and George Oram had their best games so far in a Cov shirt. The lineout was again very solid and whilst we did lose two on own throw, Moseley lost four, with Dacres in particular putting great pressure on the Moseley jumpers. Both Oram and Dacres always put in decent shifts in the loose, but Dacres seemed to lead from the front, winning good ball and making some useful metres. He looks a natural athlete and if he’s in space he’s happy to go on the charge, something he did to good effect yesterday. Moseley’s ploy of putting Buster Lawrence into the second row didn’t pay any dividends at all and he and the Moseley back three had very quiet games by their standards.
In the back row, I thought for the second week running Luke Narraway put in a really good shift. He’s not going to catch the eye as much as, say, a Jacques Le Roux as he doesn’t carry the ball quite as much. But defensively he is the proverbial rock and the combination of Narraway, Makaafi and Preece is one that is going to cause plenty of other clubs problems this season. Preece is a spoiler and is able to slow the opposition ball as he’s so quick to the breakdown, and invariably he’ll win some opposition ball, too. He’s the terrier that every team needs and complements the out-and-out power and brute strength that Latu Makaafi brings to the park.
Cov were able to silence the Moseley support very early on and I don’t think I heard one ‘Moooooooooooooseley’ the whole afternoon. The Cov support was at times loud and appreciative, but the game was lacking in real competition to make it the cauldron of noise that we have known it to be in the past. Incidentally, I was surprised the attendance was as low as 2100, given the main stand holds almost 3000. Whilst there were gaps, I wouldn’t have thought there were 900 empty seats and there were a fair few over on the other side and at the railway end as well…still, shows what I know.
In each of the last two games the coaches have been able to bring on players from the bench with no obvious drop in performance, something which gives us a really big advantage over teams that don’t have such strength in depth. Brown, Tolmie and White will be regular starters this season and Brett Daynes is getting to be something of a super-sub, a tag he might not want but nevertheless he is ideally suited to the role, being probably the quickest of the match day back rowers. He covers the ground well and can be a destructive runner at times, as well as tenacious in defence. Ben Palmer had something of an eventful 15 minutes of so, scoring a memorable try and then getting yellow-carded in the final couple of minutes. He has great acceleration and he found just about the perfect angle to score from a good 30 metres out, using his speed to break the defender’s tackle.
This was a highly competent performance against a Moseley side that failed to rise to the occasion and, in the end, proved something of a disappointment. In any context, outside of a Cov/Mose derby, I want Mose to do well. They are a local side and one that has provided many happy memories in the past, but this was definitely a game they’ll want to forget and I should imagine next weekend’s home game against Hull can’t come quick enough…but, on this performance, even that could be a tight game if Hull play to their strengths.
For the second week running I find myself unsure as to what to make of Coventry’s performance. Are we as good as the last couple of results might suggest or are we just flattering to deceive against weaker opposition. I’m beginning to come round to the former, namely that this is a side that is going to be a serious contender for a top two finish this season. It’s far too early to tell if we can go the distance, especially as we have four really difficult away trips to Moseley, Blackheath, Plymouth and Ampthill in the second half of the season. We’ll need to have some points in hand by Christmas if we are to make things a little easier for ourselves in the run in.
But Cov has done exactly what we all hoped for, put down a marker for the rest of National One. If they hadn’t realised it already, then clubs will now know that this season Coventry look to be the real deal. The experience it has across the spine of the team, combined with its strength in depth, mean that Cov is unlikely to implode as it has been known to do in the past.
If you were at the Moseley game and haven’t yet voted for your Coventry ‘Man of the Match’, all you need to do is click on the circle next to your chosen player. The software only allows one vote, although you can change your mind provided you do so before clicking on the ‘Vote’ button.
The more people who participate, the more accurate an indication it is of who supporters would probably have voted for…
The poll will end on Sunday evening.
Please give it a go.
Will you agree with the sponsors’ choice of James Stokes?
Result in the post tomorrow!
A blog factoid – yesterday saw the highest number of views in a single day since the blog started in July 2015 – 3722 in all, some 500+ more than any previous 24 hours period.
To put it into some sort of perspective, the Saturday before there were just 2453 views which would be about the average for a match day, with figures on a Sunday dropping to around the 1700 mark.
Since August, numbers have been steadily rising, although nowhere near yesterday’s figure (weekdays now average around the 500-600 mark).
The summer recruitment, together with some encouraging pre-season results, have whetted the appetite of many closet Cov supporters, including overseas, and the blog has been read in 122 countries over the two years it’s been running.
Cov is a big name and with an even bigger potential fan base…if the club maintains its current momentum, support in the stands and further afield will only continue to grow.