In ev’ry job that must be done
There is an element of fun
You find the fun and snap!
The job’s a game…
A Spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down
The medicine go down-wown
The medicine go down
Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down
In a most delightful way
Julie Andrews – A Spoonful Of Sugar
I kid you not, there really is a pharmacy in Southsea, Portsmouth, that goes by the name of Rowlands Pharmacy and it’s on Winter Road…
I only mention it because we enter into a week 0f rest and recuperation, with players having the next 7 days off from any club training – a well-earned break and a chance to recharge the batteries after what has been a tough and challenging first third of the season.
Top of the table we may be, but in the course of those 11 games there have been some pretty intense match-ups, none more so than Saturday’s, a game that must have taken a lot out of the players and coaches and left them both physically and mentally exhausted.
It’s been tough watching at times, too
So a week off and then back to training.
A case of Rowland’s Pharmacy handing out a spoonful of sugar one week to make the medicine go down the next, perhaps?
Pharmacists dispense medicines that hopefully improve the well-being of their patients – which is no more than Rowland Winter is currently doing by cancelling all training this week, a prescription that is sure to go own well with a group of players who have consistently trained had in the week and put bodies on the line at the weekend for the last three months to maintain that 100% record.
The games against Ampthill, Blackheath, Bishop’s Stortford and Old Elthamians were all big, bruising encounters and I think in the last couple of games Cov haven’t look as sharp as in some of the earlier games, part of which is definitely down to the quality of the opposition and part, I imagine, down to the rigours of such a demanding league.
RW has rotated his players extremely effectively, resting players to prevent over exposure, whilst also ensuring that the effectiveness of the team isn’t compromised. However, having been fortunate last season to have had relatively few injuries, this season Cov have suffered somewhat and there are players who have perhaps played more than they might otherwise have done because there haven’t always been players of sufficient experience and quality available to replace them .
A quick tally (which might not be 100% accurate but will be close…) shows the following players have made at least 9 out of 11 appearances so far this season and at least 7 starts:
Player Appearances Starts
James Stokes 11 11
Jimmy Litchfield 11 11
Will Maisey 11 11
Niles Dacres 10 10
Scott Tolmie 10 6
Latu Makaafi 9 8
Jack Preece 9 8
Luke Narraway 9 7
Tony Fenner’s injury at the back end of last season has meant that Will Maisey has started all eleven games and whilst he certainly has claim to the 10 shirt on the form he’s shown since his return to the club, Tony Fenner would surely have started in some games?
Jimmy Litchfield is another who has been an ever present, a result presumably of the injuries to Andy Brown and Phil Boulton. His ability to switch from tight-head to loose-head has been invaluable this season and although he has been able to go off and come back on as required, it is still asking a lot of him. But needs must.
Nile Dacres has also probably played more than he might have expected given the injuries to Tom Poole, George Oram and Tom Jubb and, like Litchfield and Maisey, he’s going to feature prominently in the final 5 games leading up to Christmas such is his importance to the team. He’ll be one player who will really benefit from the week off.
For all three players, you’d hope the break will be a chance to rest aching bodies and mentally relax in that first week, ready then to return and focus on the crucial Plymouth game in the second. Maybe not crucial, given we have a healthy 11 point lead over them at this stage, but it’s certainly an important game and one where we’ll want to put out our strongest side, whilst remembering there are still five tough fixtures to follow.
The exception to all this might well be James Stokes. He comes across as being the kind of player who would do anything to play and I’m not even sure whether he’d take a game off to rest were it offered to him. Last season he took some big knocks one week, hobbled off with what looked like the kind of injury that would put him out for a couple of weeks or so, only to reappear in training on the following Thursday strapped up but looking otherwise ok. It would be a tough call to leave James S out, such is his influence on the team at the moment and whilst there at are players who could cover him at full back and do a good job, players like Ben Palmer, Tony Fenner, Will Maisey and so on, they aren’t natural replacements for him in quite the way that, say, Cameron Gray or George Oram would be for Nile Dacres.
Had we not suffered quite so many injuries, I guess the table would have better reflected Scott Tolmie’s appearances this season – 10 in all – but with Phil Nilsen and Gabriel Oghre also available, he has only had to make 6 starts.
Much more manageable and presumably far more likely to keep a player hungry.
Many of the Championship sides are currently in favour of an extension to the 22 games they currently play, but feel 30 is too great a number, with the preferred option being, not unsurprisingly, 26 (with less emphasis on the seemingly doomed British and Irish Cup).
The National One season is pretty much relentless, with only the very occasional weekend free to rest. I’m not sure the coaches would necessarily agree, but the in last couple of games Cov seems to have struggled to get its full game going and at times has had to rely on mental strength to keep the opposition at bay, which was certainly the case against Old Elthamians.
RW made the point in his post-match comments that:
Not many other teams in this league have got that much strength to put up with lots of things that didn’t necessarily go our way, and to defend our line with that much pride and passion is important and a good quality for us to have in the team…
which is absolutely as it was. Those who witnessed that final 10 minutes, whichever team they supported, can’t have failed to be anything but impressed by the pride and passion of both teams. It was immense, but Cov’s performance for most of the previous 70 minutes had been well below par, and the week before it probably fell short of what it should have been. It was gutsy and exactly what top teams need to be able to do when things haven’t necessarily gone their way.
But the fact that we had to rely on that pride and passion suggests maybe the break has come round at just the right time…the players will be exhausted after all the emotion of Saturday’s win and the pressure that builds up when you’re top dog and everyone wants to bring you down.
And talking of dogs, Rowland Winter referred to the Cov Dog in the same post-match interview with John Wilkinson which I thought was quite telling:
OEs put everything into that final passage of play and it needed a team with bags of character and energy, and some of that Cov Dog as well, to stand up to them and dig it out as we did. That’s four points won rather than one point lost
I say ‘telling’ because I have a vague recollection, soon after his arrival, of RW being a little sceptical of the mysterious Cov Dog that he’d heard so many supporters and people connected with the club talk about. I remember him saying that if you ask Cov folk what Cov Dog means, no one really knows and you’ll get a series of different answers – or something along those lines anyway.
A year or so one and he’s now referring to it himself – a real indication that he understands exactly what it means for Cov supporters and players to wear that shirt.
I know it’s the same at clubs all over the country – pride and passion aren’t unique to Cov.
But the supporters here are and when the crowd and the players somehow react to each other in a game, when that noise rises from the sidelines as the players show that grit and determination we saw on Saturday, then the Cov Dog is unleashed. Against OE we saw players make the hits, hard hits too at times and just get up and get on with it. They fed off the atmosphere of those last few minutes and played as a team, with everyone playing for each other. And the Cov supporters loved it – to us, games like Saturday’s are just as much appreciated at the wins by 50 points. Respect is truly won in moments like that.
OE attacked our line time and time again, pushing us deep into our 22. The Cov Dog definitely made a welcome appearance – it snapped and snarled and manifested itself in a group of players who just wouldn’t give up however much pressure they were under. They’re proud to wear the shirt and have a spirit and passion coursing through their veins.
For me, South Sea Islander he maybe, but Latu Makaafi typifies the Cov Dog – the man is relentless, whether taking the short ball and powering into the opposition line or hitting the receiver and then picking himself up immediately to do the same again. He just doesn’t know when he’s beaten…and when he walks off to loud applause, he’s all smiles and is appreciative of the crowd. Just as it should be.
It won’t be the last time we see the Cov Dog this season – this is a group of players who get what it is to play for Coventry.
Meanwhile, Rowland’s Pharmacy remains open for business this week…
It’s a good job we didn’t lose on Saturday.
That would have been a bitter pill to swallow.
At the last home game, against Caldy, John Cole took some stunning action photos, the sort that really capture the moment. There are others from the game on Coventry Rugby Club’s Facebook Page…and well worth a look they are, too.
John very kindly agreed to let me use the one above showing Cameron Gray winning the lineout in front of a packed main stand.
I’ve often wondered what a good sized crowd (1570 odd?) must look like to the players and perhaps this one gives us some idea. The crowd is focused, with many supporters having to shield their eyes from the sun. Gray is mid-air, supported by Dacres and probably Titchard-jones. Looking at the photo, it’s not hard to imagine how supporters in such numbers could produce a wall of sound that would be very audible to the players standing, as they are, so close to the touchline.
As Cov continue to win, the crowds will grow and in a couple of weeks time I’m hoping for something close to, or even bigger than, the 2242 that watched us demolish Moseley back in September. Plymouth are always a big draw and with them being one of the two or three other teams with a real chance of promotion this season, there aren’t going to be too many more important games at the Butts over the remainder of the season.
Another 700 on top of the Caldy crowd, most of them packed into the main stand, and the atmosphere should be fantastic. To be fair, the Plymouth Albion supporters generate something similar down at their ground, but never in such numbers.
It’s going to be a tough game, so a big, loud and passionate crowd could unsettle Plymouth a little, whilst also lifting Cov. I’m sure the club will be ramping up the promotion of the game as the days go by…
…the Cov crowd in full voice is special.
Here’s hoping it’s a bumper one, too.
Hope the players are already enjoying that spoonful of sugar…