Club talk

Rowland’s Pharmacy on Winter Road…and a spoonful of sugar

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.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Rowlands Pharmacy?

Hope the players are already enjoying that spoonful of sugar…

 

 

 

Categories:Club talk

9 replies »

  1. Enjoyed reading the blog again, and I would be interested to know what the situation is with the long term injuries.
    Will Sam be back for the Plymouth game?……How long will Alex Grove be out?…..
    Keep up the good work, and let the build up for the games before Christmas begin.
    Fasten you’re seat belts this is going to be fun….

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  2. Tim – very enjoyable game on Saturday – a great credit to both teams. The crowd reported in the Rugby Paper was slightly down on the previous OEs game with Rosslyn Park which slightly surprised me but RP is relatively close and they did bring a clutch of supporters for whom the travel would not have been much of a problem.

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    • It was great game and a good day out for those of us who travelled down from Coventry. On that performance OE has will be fine this season – a pried of consolidation as a springboard for longer term progress, especially with all the plans in the pipeline. I see Gavin Lach has had a few words to say on Rolling-maul about the misinformation that’s been appearing on the OE thread! Thought the crowd look slightly more than TRP reported, but it was a good atmosphere nonetheless. All the very best for the remainder of the season – hopefully see you when you come up to Cov later in the season.

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  3. Well, all being well, the Forster family, including my 11 year old son getting his first taste of Coventry Rugby, and our six month old daughter, too, will be there for Plymouth.
    Hopefully we’re bringing friends to add their voices, too.
    When I used to play, I was never really good enough but got a lot better. A big part of that was putting on the badge of whatever club I played for, remembering that plenty others wanted to wear that in my place, and the proud history that needed to be upheld.
    Sometimes, I’d wear my Fusiliers’ training shirt beneath for that extra impetus, in the big games of attrition.
    What I wouldn’t have given for an appearance in the Blue and White shirt.
    Hopefully, RW will understand that. Hopefully, the players will understand that. That they are upholding a proud history, but forging a new chapter of the club’s history. Special times. And they are the special ones, in possession of those special jerseys.
    This is not only Cov’s chance, but their chance.
    I never saw Harry Walker play, but his name resonates
    I only ever saw footage of Peter Jackson play – and wow – but for many, his name and legacy lives on. The same could be said with many others, and I’m sad that the Rugby Hall of Fame section on Cov’s website isn’t as comprehensive as it might be.
    What it must feel like for Stokes to be the modern day Rossborough, albeit without the kicking? What must Maisey feel to be kicking the points as Rossborough did, whose season record held for so long?
    Special.
    It has to be.

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    • Your lad should love it…big crowd, good atmosphere…if Cov win (and I think they will!), it will be a great first visit! Yep, there are players here who, if promoted, will have their names written into the annals of Cov history. Sam and I can still recite the team that won promotion back to the equivalent of the Championship when they beat Reading, and I can recall most of the team who beat London Scottish in ’74. In the same way, this current squad will become the heroes of another generation…and so it goes one, hopefully. Wheels turn…

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  4. Tim, how did you find out that there is a Rowland’s Pharmacy in Winter Road, Southsea? Can we accuse RW of that being his day job?
    I noticed too that, for the first time, Rowland referred to the “Cov Dog”. Clearly the tradition is getting into his psyche and he’s now aware of all that goes with it.

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    • Hey, Cliff! Welcome back! Happened to come across the Pharmacy when google something about Cov. Bizarre, really, but it was too good an opportunity to miss!

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  5. Hi Tim. Yet another very informative and enjoyable read on a cold Monday morning. I think your analysis is very relevant and although it must also apply to other clubs I think player unavailability has affected Cov more than might be immediately apparent. I’m thinking of centres here. I think Sammy T and Heath Stevens are significant absentees and although we have other excellent centres they are not quite yet in the class of these two for line breaking through strength and muscle. The others may be faster in broken and open play but in the first phase Sammy and Heath take some stopping and keep the ball well leading to good 2nd and 3rd phase possession. So we are missing those two more than others perhaps….. Interested in your views…..

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    • Yes…for me, Heath is the biggest loss of all. He’s made a massive difference since his return and what with Tom Wheatcroft’s move to Hinckley and Sam ban – we’ve been struggling to find the right pairing in the centres. Dingwall is going to be a fine player and Rob is, well Rob…but there hasn’t been that spark there since Heath’s injury…not for me anyway. The irony is, of course, that Tom would have been back in the side and playing a key role…but it is as it is! Neither Sam or Heath lose the ball in the tackle very often, off-load well and both break the gain line more often that our other centres.

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