Club talk

Fylde (in the top drawer)….

The coaches had asked for a response to last weekend’s somewhat lacklustre performance against Bishop’s Stortford.

And boy, did they get one.

Ten tries, the opposition nilled.

It’s hard to see what else the coaches could have expected.

There will doubtless be some sceptics who will try to argue that the result is a somewhat meaningless one, given the quality of the opposition, a team lying bottom of the league and with an average age of under 23.

But I doubt whether they’d be amongst those who travelled up to Fylde yesterday.

Cov were ruthless on the day and although Fylde isn’t the side it was a year or two ago, having lost so many of its senior players, the players showed glimpses of what they are capable. For 15 or so minutes of the second half Cov was on the back foot, it’s defence stretched to the limit. Only a couple of last ditch tackles prevented what looked to be certain tries; one particularly from Anthony Matoto will stay long in the memory.

With little to lose other than their pride, having conceded 38 unanswered points in the opening 40 minutes, Fylde then went a further 5 points down in the opening 3 minutes of the second half. But from then on, for a quarter of an hour or so, Fylde began to play with greater confidence. For a few brief minutes it was the Fylde of old – they started to throw the ball around, players found gaps and offloads began to stretch Coventry’s defence.

Steve H enjoying a chippy dinner. Just in case Sue (my wife) reads this, I had the salad, followed by a bowl of muesli. Very health conscious club, Fylde

Cov had to work hard, very hard, to prevent Fylde from scoring and although our defence was tested, once Fylde got into our 22 we held firm. A scrum on our 5 when Fylde had been pushing for several minutes and looked for all the world as if they would score, typified the resilience of this squad.

Coventry attacked the opposition and drove their pack back a good five metres before the referee awarded us the penalty and Ben Palmer (having replaced Will Maisey at half time) was able to relieve the pressure.

And a relief it was.

Even after that Fylde came back again and, but for a loose pass, would have doubtless scored.

It certainly wasn’t all one way traffic and, in some respects, the most pleasing aspect of Coventry’s performance yesterday was that the defence was so impressive. Time after time the pressure we put Fylde  under when they were in possession resulted in them losing the ball, either in the tackle or through an unforced error.

Fylde tried to change their game plan, using the chip over the defensive line to turn our defenders. But Cov was wise to it and all it did was provide Coventry with possession and a further chance to attack. Fylde started to throw the ball around far more and had some of their final passes and offloads shown a little more accuracy, they would have come away with the some points on the scoreboard.

And they would have deserved that.

In the end though, Fylde crumbled and following that 15 minutes of much more promising play, Cov scored in the 59th, 61st and 63rd minutes and for a good ten minute period, Cov were rampant.

64 -0 up after that last try, Cov eased up a little, Fylde regrouped and the last 17 minutes saw a couple of chances for either side, but no further score, before the final whistle.

Fylde merited something from the game, even if it was just a 5 pointer and on the basis of their second half performance they could create problems at home for most sides, as Rosslyn Park found out a couple of weeks ago. They are young and inexperienced, but not without ability – whether there’s enough time this season for them to turn things round is a difficult one.

All that is a long-winded way of saying that the final score was more about the power and pace of Coventry, than it was about Fylde’s inability to cope at this level, although their learning curve is going to have to be pretty near vertical if they are to survive.

‘I’ll have the prawn crackers, followed by the chow mein, please’. I think the gentleman next to JW is the guy who is overseeing the club’s social media…doing a good job, too, on match days.

In seven games so far this season, Cov has passed score 50+ points 4 times and yesterday’s was the third score above 60. At some point, hard as it is for Cov supporters so used to their club’s underachievement  over the past 20 years or so, we’ll have to acknowledge that we are witnessing the very real emergence of a potential promotion-winning side. Yes, we’ve had a couple of blips along the way, against OA and Bishop’s Stortford, but even there we held firm when in previous season’s we would have lost.

I do have one worry though, even if the game against Blackheath has already gone some way to alieving it.

It’s all very well scoring 8, 9, 10 tries against the teams in the bottom half of the division, but the real test will be if we can take that sort of form into the games against Plymouth, Darlington and Ampthill.

Please forgive the cricketing metaphor here, but it’s a bit like Graeme Hick. He’d was something of a flat-track bully on the county circuit and he could single-handedly destroy any bowling attack in just a session of play. Put him in the test side and for whatever reasons, be it poor technical ability against left arm spin, a lack of confidence, or whatever, and he became something of a liability at times.

Great player against weak opposition.

That certain fits the bill with Coventry at the moment – but will we be a great team against great opposition?

It will be another few weeks before that particular question is answered but, in the mean time, all we can do is keep piling on the tries. If nothing else, that puts uncertainty in the minds of the opposition and when Plymouth coming a-calling on the 25 November, hopefully they’ll have dropped a couple more bonus points and we will have continued as we left off today.

If I were Cov, I’d be advertising the game already…if we don’t get 2500 in the BPA that day, I’ll be disappointed.

Sticking with the food theme, I think James Stokes was checking his meat and two veg were still intact. Looked more than a little painful at the time. Hannah was there surprising quickly…

So much of the game yesterday must have pleased the coaches. We finished the game with three of the front 5  being Development Squad players – Oghre, Jeannot and Gray.

Cameron Gray had his best game in a Cov shirt for me yesterday and was very noticeable tidying things up in and around the breakdown and he made some good yards (metres just doesn’t sound right), including one run down the right wing that would certainly have led to a try had the final pass been a little more accurate.

Luc Jeannot came on for Jimmy Litchfield with around 25 minutes to go and did well – I’m not sufficiently knowledgeable about the dark arts of the front row to know how he did technically, but the scrum remained solid and he certainly put himself about in the loose. I expect that once Andy Brown and Phil Boulton return, Luc will be back with the Development side for a while again, but he did more than enough against Fylde to suggest that he’ll be back in a Cov shirt at this level again before the season is over.

Young Gabriel Oghre, on loan from the Wasps Academy, is another in the lengthening line of highly talented young Waspsettes that Rowland Winter has called upon in the last 16 months. Like Willis, Howe and James before him, he slotted into the side extremely well and although he wasn’t called upon to do a lot, he made one or two strong tackles and in the set piece was very solid. I think we’ll see more of him when the opposition is that much stronger…as we did when he came on against Rotherham.

Elsewhere there were some notable performances but it was very much a team effort. Whilst I’m sure it must have happened in the past, and the chances are the last time I was there to witness it, I can’t for the life of me remember when we last saw two Cov players score two hatricks in the same game.

It’s a rarity, that’s for sure.

Or is it…?

Maybe John Butler can answer that one for me.

Yesterday, it was Tom Emery and Scott Tolmie who achieved this feat.

Emery, looks very quick and had we not known he was by trade a natural 9 or 10, no one watching yesterday would have queried the fact that he was playing out of position. The lad is electric and his third try was probably the best of the afternoon – a move that started in our 22, was made by James Stokes and finished from 50 metres out by Tom E who still had a lot to do – his raw pace took him past a couple of defenders who seemed to be going backwards such was his acceleration.

Whilst Dave Brazier had another excellent game, I would really like to see one game where Emery plays 9, even if only as a cameo. He could cause real problems with his speed, especially if he attacks round the fringes and few can fail to recall (and I, for one, wish I could) the damage Harry Randall caused us last season when Hartpury came to the BPA – his pace and vision were arguably the difference between the two sides in such a tight game as that.

Scott Tolmie is a natural try scoring hooker and must relish games like yesterday when Coventry’s  catch and drive and maul are so effective. He’s still only 24 and yet has scored 34 tries in 111 games. Compare that to Matt Price, who in recent seasons has scored a fair few himself – according to Statbunker Matt has scored 27 in 280 games. Scott was Coventry’s ‘Man of the Match’ and it’s hard to argue against that.

Cov’s discipline was so much better than we have sometimes seen in the past. They kept the penalty count down well below double figures, probably no more than 5 or 6, and their speed at the breakdown meant that Fylde regularly incurred the wrath of the referee. Even when Coventry were defending, they kept their line and their discipline and for the first 40 minutes at least, I don’t think we gave away a penalty in our own half. In fact, it wasn’t until the 39th minute that Fylde broke into our 22, such was our dominance in that first 40.

Fylde had some decent possession, but Cov defended well across the middle third of the pitch and, more often that not, play broke down as Fylde succumbed to the pressure.

We didn’t seem to suffer too many injuries…Ben Palmer got a knock on the eye and looked as if he might have something of a shiner this morning. He came over to say hello to the supporters after the came and the red badge of courage was already beginning to show.

Ben came on for Will Maisey at the start of the second half and made a couple of telling breaks, but for me he was most noticeable in defence. He’s not the biggest of players and you couldn’t get much of a greater difference in height between Will and Ben – but he is a ferocious tackler and he put in a serious of big hits when Fylde were pushing forward. It’s an element of his game I hadn’t really appreciated until yesterday, but he certainly doesn’t hold back.

As you can imagine, the mood In the supporters’ coach on the way back was certainly upbeat. This was a good performance. Never mind the strength or otherwise of the opposition – too many times Cov has played poorly against weak opposition. This season, though, Cov has scored more points than Hartpury had at the equivalent stage last season, and that’s despite the low scoring (by current standards) game against Old Albanian. All we can do is enjoy the moment and whilst it’s very hard not to get carried away by what the future could offer come April, there’s much to savour right now.

It must have been tough for Fylde supporters to sit through yesterday’s game – their team was outplayed for most of the game. When they needed a little bit of luck it didn’t come their way and there was a good contingent of noisy away supporters who probably added salt to the wound.

Been there, done it and declined to buy the t-shirt.

Fylde is a great club – the epitomy of what grassroots rugby is about.

Whilst Coventry is coming to terms with professional rugby, fortunate to be city-based and with a board who have generated a lot of additional monies to move the club forward to where we are today, Fylde hasn’t been so lucky. It’s always a very welcoming club, with so much going for it…one can only hope that it survives the challenges of the next few months and begins to rebuild, whilst never losing sight of its community focus.

Those who oversee the club have a difficult task ahead of them. I wish them well.

 

 

 

 

 

7 replies »

  1. Tim spot on with your summary of the game, given a season or two the Fylde team will be a formidable side, hopefully they will turn the corner this year.
    After the game we went into a local, Taps in Lytham and the sense of dispondency was there amongst the locals. Fylde deserve better support from the community and one can sense that there is no one with the push to spark some enthusiasm into the locals.

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  2. Tim, another excellent blog. You just about nailed it. I have to say I was a little surprised at some of the post-match comments. Comments such as ‘ boring’ just go to show the fickleness of some Supporters. To have won at Fylde, the first time in, I think, 7 years and to have ‘nilled’ an, albeit young Fylde side, shows how much we are progressing.
    I have lost count of the number of return journeys from Fylde after another depressing defeat. Yesterday was different. The side performed well, there were some excellent, as you so rightly put it, “ some top drawer tries”. The team can only beat the team they are facing and did so. There will be harder opponents to come we know, but yesterday was another bogey side/ground overcome. Have a good week.

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    • Thanks, Paul – I’m not sure how any game where a team scores 10 tries could ever be ‘boring’ – a nightmare if you’re an away fan, perhaps, but certainly not boring! Have a good one too, maybe see you on Thursday evening.

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  3. Tim, it’s always interesting when I phone the away club in advance of our game to negotiate discounted ground entry charges. Fylde is among the majority of clubs who are very open and friendly and, although they declined to make us an offer, they automatically meet the objective of extending the hand of friendship and of good relations with rugby supporters.

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    • Yes…it’s a lovely place to visit and it looks like they’ve got a young squad, which, if they can keep everyone together, might be very competitive in a year or two even if it means having to go down to come back up

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