I close my eyes and count to ten
And when I open them you’re still here
I close my eyes and count again
I can’t believe it but you’re still here
I close my eyes and count to ten
And when I open them you’re still here
Dusty Springfield – I Close My Eyes And Count To Ten
All this evening I’ve been closing my eyes and counting to 10.
Only in rugby clubs, not numbers…
Hull Ionians, Birmingham Moseley, Old Albanian, Blackheath, Esher, Bishop’s Stortford, Fylde, Loughborough Students, Cambridge and now Caldy…
The Perfect 10.
Cue The Beautiful South…
…but with lyrics like ‘When he’s at my gate, with a big fat 8/You want to see the smile on my face’, I’m not altogether sure I’ll get away with it…
Another 5 points, another 6 tries and the gap between us and the chasing pack widens yet further.
It’s now 10 points.
Effectively 11, given our current points difference of 306.
A two game advantage.
And who’s to say that won’t yet be needed?
Building up a decent lead so early in the season is a real plus for me, especially with a difficult run-in to Christmas, starting as early as next week with a very tough test away at Old Elthamians.
Yet I don’t think I was alone in leaving the ground feeling that this hadn’t been the most convincing of performances, especially when set alongside some of those we’ve seen in the first 10 games of this campaign.
We were the better side certainly, but Caldy don’t deserve to have slipped into one of the relegation positions on this display. They had plenty of possession in the second half and they gave us some uncomfortable moments during the course of the 80 minutes.
Rowland Winter has said that he always aims to come down to the touchline from the main stand for the final 10 minutes(ish) of each half; any earlier and it’s an indication that there could be one or two concerns.
Well, Cov’s DoR was pitchside way before the 20 minute mark in the second half, a sure sign that Cov weren’t having it all their own way.
And they weren’t.
That said, Coventry were in control for most of the game and at 26-7 after 40 minutes, it looked as if we might pull well clear in the second half.
That we didn’t was down to the determination and tenacity of the Caldy team who came out of the changing room pretty much as they had done at the start of the game, dominating play for ten minutes, much of it deep in our 22, and in the end coming away with a well-worked and well-deserved try for their efforts. Even after that, they continued to press and but for a probable try saving tackle from new boy Tom Kessell, Caldy might well have got even closer.
Cov scored two late tries, the last by James Stokes was right out of the top drawer with the ball travelling through several phases and many hands before the prolific full back forced his way over – hopefully, when Rugby Tryline show some highlights of tries scored in National One this weekend, Stokes’ will be Cov’s offering.
A 38-14 scoreline flattered Cov a little in the end, but they were well worth, even if the performance fell below their usual high standards. Cov are always going to have off days where things just don’t quite click in the same way as they often do. We’ve seen it a couple of times already this season, most notably against Bishop’s Stortford. Once again, though, even when not playing as effectively as they would wish, they were able to score 6 tries and put themselves clear of any Caldy comeback after scoring 4 tries in the first 30 minutes.
Scoring so regularly when not playing that well is a sign of a good team. It’s another indication of the team’s quality to me – you only have to look at the results of the other top four teams today to see that is the case…Plymouth, Darlington and Blackheath all dropped points, with Plymouth only avoiding a defeat in the dying seconds of the game.
Some day, probably sooner rather than later, this magnificent run will come to an end – yesterday showed how it could happen. Cov just weren’t clinical enough in much of what they did – when they got it right they looked very good, but on the occasions when Caldy put pressure on us, we did exactly what they’d hoped we’d do, we put pressure on ourselves.
Caldy did what so many teams do when they come to the BPA, they raised their game. And they caused Cov some problems. But we didn’t help ourselves at times and we lacked our recent discipline, giving away far too many penalties and, in doing so, taking the pressure off Caldy. In the first half, immediately after the fourth try, we looked as if we might run away with the game, but it was almost as if we became a bit too over-confident and we started to over-complicate things at times. We dropped good ball and instead of finishing them off with another try or two before half time, we failed to take our chances and allowed them the opportunity to regroup at the break.
Even though I’m being somewhat critical, there were some really pleasing aspects to the game.
Rowland Winter had said at training on Thursday that the Caldy scrum had been dominant in pretty near all of their opening nine games and had given Ampthill something of a hard time last weekend. Yesterday, I thought our scrum got stronger as the game went on, winning several penalties and giving their scrum half a tough time as their scrum went into reverse on a number of occasions. The sponsors’ Man of the Match was Nathanael Titchard-jones, reflecting how well the forwards played in the set pieces and was a nice touch given the significance of the occasion and NT-j’s army background.
He certainly caught the eye with one barnstorming run in the second half and for the 50 minutes that he was on, he continued to show exactly why he was brought into the club – with Andy Brown’s injury keeping out for so long, Titchard-jones has shown he is a more than capable replacement. He’s also quickly become popular with supporters.
Matt Price seems to be more involved with Coventry’s senior side at the moment…even when the Development side were playing over at Cambridge, Matt was working with the senior squad in the warm-up and looked to be keeping a close eye on what was happening both at training on Thursday and yesterday. That would seem to me to be a good move if he is. In the absence of Boris Stankovich, Matt’s experience is going to be a real plus I would have thought..
However, good as the scrums were, for me it was in the line-outs that we really excelled, with Cameron Gray and particularly Nile Dacres making life extremely difficult for Caldy. Louis Deacon is obviously doing a great job, even if he is rarely mentioned by supporters.
We must have won 6 or 7 line-outs on their throw and as a result we were able to take a little of the pressure off ourselves in our own 22 a couple of times. It was a very impressive display from the two second rows and I’m sure Cameron Gray will have been delighted with his own performance. Both he and Dacres worked hard around the pitch.
I thought the back row did well, especially Olly Povoas in the first half – I’m not sure if he got a knock as he was replaced by ‘Supersub’ Brett Daynes at half time. Latu Makaafi again had another strong game, as he seems to have had in every game he’s played so far this season. Unlike both Tuitupou and Narraway, Latu has been used in most games, making 9 out of the ten starts and is going to be a really important player in the run-up to Christmas.
I thought we missed Jack Preece a little today and as good as Olly and Brett wer, when Latu, Makaafi and Narraway start we look as strong in the back row as any team in the league.
Preece’s speed at the breakdown is so important to Cov, not only does he ensure we get good ball when we are in possession, he also has the ability to steal what looks like good ball from the opposition. Yesterday, we seemed to lose our ball more in turnovers than I can recall for some time which suggests maybe we weren’t quick enough to support the tackler? Given he was rested for yesterday’s game, I hope we’ll see him back for the OE game.
I thought Tom Kessell had a promising debut…he’s a player who likes to get on with it and it was good to see us taking quick penalties and running the ball back at the opposition. He has a huge boot on him and I’m sure the ball was coming down with ice on it from one or two of his box kicks. He covered well in defence and made one or two very important tackles, too. He also has a bullet pass, perhaps a little lower than Will Maisey is used to and on a couple of occasions it seemed to reach Will almost before he was expecting it.
Will had another sound game and was unlucky not to have scored – from the main stand it looked as if he’d been impeded on the way to touching the ball down, although after a lengthy discussion with the assistant referee, play was brought back for a previous offence near the half way line.
Anthony Fenner and Rob Knox looked what they are, both very good players but not used to playing together and out of position. It was tough for both, and whilst they defended well, neither had the impact in attack that I’d hoped for. There were moments, but they were relatively few and far between. Rob K’s powerful running caused some problems but the final pass was missing on a couple of occasions and Anthony Fenner but in some big hits and certainly looks to have got over his injury problems. He also scored a good try, having been on hand to receive Matoto’s pass after his searing break.
One of the big, big pluses for me, other than James Stokes’ ability yet again to break defences and create panic in the opposition, was the form of Coventry’s two wingers.
Trimble and Matoto scored three tries between them, with Matoto also making that try for Fenner – his acceleration in doing so was awesome. Matoto is beginning to look a fine signing, defensively very strong and increasingly a real threat in attack. Max Trimble took his try really well from a position where nothing seemed on; he looked up, saw the gap and scythed through the Caldy defence which was caught completely by surprise . Cov are lucky to have Matoto, Trimble and Knox fit and competing for two places.
Lean and mean springs to mind.
For all the positives though, one shouldn’t gloss over the fact that we struggled at times. Our discipline was poor and we didn’t keep the pressure on the opposition as much as we have done in some games this season. The penalty count was high, far too high really, and against sides that might carry more of a threat in attack than Caldy did, a repeat of this could be costly. The defence was good for the main and we managed to hold Caldy off for a full 10 minutes at the start of the second half, but their discipline was rather better than ours and eventually they got the ball over the line, and deservedly so.
We did miss a few more tackles than we have done in the past three games and on occasions we let ourselves down with the final pass, with at least two tries going begging as a result.
12 months ago, the crowd would probably have settled for the win and the performance, but we are setting ourselves such high standards these days that expectations have become that much higher and on this occasion Cov’s performance fell a little short.
There will be a bit to work to do in training this week but the really good news is that there didn’t appear to be any more injuries of note, other than perhaps to Olly Povoas.
Anthony Fenner’s return is a bonus and with George Oram and Andy Brown soon to reappear, things are looking a little more positive on that front. Sam T has only three more games to see out before he is back, so for me there is still a slight concern over the right combination in the centres – Maisey and Fenner could swap (as was the case at times last season) or Frazer Dingwall could start? Options are there, but it’s having the time to try them out that is the problem. I’d be tempted to keep Rob at 13 as he’s played there before and is more than capable of opening up defences, he just needs a couple of games under his belt.
If you were at the game yesterday, and you haven’t already voted in the ‘Man of the Match’ poll, then please do give it a go… all being well, I’ll include the results in Monday’s post.
Thank you in advance.
Meanwhile, ten games, ten wins…
I’m off to bed and to close my eyes…
…and count to ten again, again and again.
Dusty Springfield’s voice was unique, soulful and sensual – one of the all-time greats. She would have been another Amy Winehouse with a similar tendency to self-destruct, although not quite to the extent of Winehouse’s.
Sue is forever eulogising over her and whilst I’m a new wave, Costello sort of guy, she’s very much a blue-eyed soul, Springfield sort of girl…
And she knows all the words as well…
Me, I’m definitely no son of a preacher man.