Club talk

Yeah Coventry is a big game but they’re beatable, and we’re definitely the team to beat them and I believe we can…

If you start me up
If you start me up I’ll never stop
If you start me up
If you start me up I’ll never stop
I’ve been running hot
You got me ticking gonna blow my top
If you start me up, if you start me up
I’ll never stop, never stop, never stop, never stop

Rolling Stones – Start Me Up 

 

Yeah Coventry is a big game but they’re beatable, and we’re definitely the team to beat them and I believe we can

So spoke Plymouth Albion’s wing Matthew Crosscombe immediately after his team’s hard fought win over Ampthill at home last Saturday.

Crosscombe takes a very different tack, then, to the ‘nobody gives us a prayer’ approach that Gavin Lach used prior to Old Elthamians encounter with Cov’ last weekend. Lach’s use of reverse psychology at least in public, but presumably not behind the close door of the changing room, almost paid off.

As a  supporter, it’s not something that I would personally want to be hearing from my director of rugby, but fair play to him and his team – they came up with a game plan that very nearly beat us on the day.

Crosscombe’s very much is one I’d want to be hearing as the game gets ever closer though, were I an Albion fan that is.

As a Plymouth supporter making my way up to Cov, as a fair few will I’m sure, I’d want to hear plenty of optimism coming out of the Albion camp – anything less and I’d be caught in two minds as to whether it would be worth making the journey.

National One has always thrown up it’s fair share of surprises and cliché it might well be, but any team is capable of beating any other as a one-off game in this league. So when first meets third, yes, an average Cov display, such as those we’ve seen over the past couple of games, would make a Plymouth win that much more likely.

Robert Tunley, in his review of the Ampthill game on the NCA website suggested the win was an ‘important moral (sic) boost’ and Albion ‘will look to continue their momentum in a tough fixture away to league leaders Coventry in two weeks’ time’.

Both true, but in the three previous games, Plymouth had drawn two and lost one, so  it was a game that they had to win if they were to avoid the top three breaking clear.

The Cov v Plymouth game is probably the biggest game in National One so far this season. A Cov win would potentially see off one of the three chasing teams for a while at least, whilst a Plymouth win reels us back in and puts plenty more pressure on Cov who still have Ampthill and Darlington to play before Christmas.

Club Pld W D L F A PD TBP LBP Ded Pts Rec %
Coventry 11 11 0 0 460 150 310 9 0 0 53 96.36
Darlington Mowden Park 11 8 0 3 344 263 81 10 2 0 44 80
Plymouth Albion 11 7 2 2 368 214 154 8 2 0 42 76.36
Ampthill and District 11 7 1 3 309 167 142 7 3 0 40 72.73

But despite two of Coventry’s least convincing wins in the last two games, Cov remain favourites in my book. We’ve won four more games than Plymouth, are averaging nearly 11 points a game more, whilst conceding 6 points a game less. And against OE, at home, Plymouth only managed the draw, so our hard-fought win last weekend away from home perhaps looks a good deal better in that context.

Whilst no game is a banker in National One, Plymouth at home shouldn’t be anything but a win provided we play to our strengths. If Cov play as well as we have played at times in most games this season, but over 80 minutes, at home I really don’t think there is a team that can live with us.

But that is a big if…

Rob C made the astute observation on the Messageboard, one that was supported in the comments  Luke Narraway made earlier this week, that Cov have struggled to adapt to wet, greasy conditions and that is clearly going to be something  that will be a focus in next week’s training. That was certainly the case against OE last weekend where overnight rain had made conditions very damp and as a result Cov’s handling wasn’t great.

However, a bigger concern for me at the moment is that without Heath Stevens or Sam Tuitupou, Coventry seems to have lost some bite in midfield and our attacking options have subsequently been limited.

Cov has been in the fortunate position in a number of games this season of securing the bonus point before half time, so even if teams have come back into the game a little, there’s enough points in the bag for it not to be too much of a concern.

Rob Knox and Fraser Dingwall  did well defensively last weekend…but the backs didn’t really fire in quite the way we’ve been used to and once against it was down to James Stokes to provide that little bit of quality that can unlock opposition defences when it’s most needed.

In the last two games Cov hasn’t been as disciplined as perhaps we’ve come to  expect, with too many handling errors, a less effective set piece than earlier in the season and a higher than acceptable penalty count. Yes, we’ve still done enough to win both games, but the question is, will that be enough to beat Plymouth, and Rosslyn Park, Ampthill and Darlington?

Probably not if they prove to be more clinical than we are.

But the thing with Cov is, we tend to raise our game, especially at home, against the better sides. And the free weekend, whilst hopefully affording all players across all teams in National One some much need recovery time, should benefit Cov more.

A two week break and a chance in the first week just to take a break from the physical and mental pressures, the latter of which will become more and more demanding the longer we stay top of the league.

Robert Tunley talked about the importance of Plymouth looking to continue the ‘momentum‘ going into the Cov game, although whether one win following on from one defeat and two draws really counts as momentum, I’m not so sure…

For them, the break might not have come at the best of times following on as it does from that much-needed win against Ampthill. Indeed, for Tunley to call it ‘morale boosting’ suggests morale wasn’t too great going in to the game…???

For Cov though, perhaps a little tired and jaded after the heroics of the past 11 weekends, it’s come just at the right time and with perhaps Andy Brown and/or Phil Boulton due back in time for Plymouth, it could strengthen up the front row, although Nathanael Titchard-jones and Luc Jeannot have both done a sterling job in their absence. George Oram might also be back in the count, too, and he and Nile Dacres, playing for the first time against his former club, could be a real handful.

And Nile owes us, given the damage he caused to our line-out  down at Plymouth last season. Not only was he Man of the Match, he effectively won them the game in the last 10 minutes.  It would be great to see him have the same sort of game against Plymouth in the line-out as he had against Caldy.

The break also allows the coaches to rethink, if that is what’s needed, how best to use the backs currently available to their best advantage.

Ron Knox and Fraser Dingwall may have a little more time together as it looks like poor Anthony Fenner’s luck hasn’t improved when he limped off injured on Saturday…there are other options too, maybe Anthony Matoto moving into the centres or Ben Palmer at fly half and Will Maisey moving to 12, as he did last year for a number of games??? However, Plymouth is a big game, probably too big a game to be experimenting in that way.

For me, the Plymouth game isn’t really about worrying what Plymouth can bring to the Butts, it’s about how clinical we are. Last weekend’s win for Plymouth was a much needed boost for them but Coventry’s morale won’t be in question. In front of what should be a 2000 plus crowd, Cov will raise their game…as they will need to. Provided they don’t ever become complacent, and that’s not something I imagine the coaches would ever tolerate, then really it’s more about how we play than it is about how Plymouth do.

Don’t get me wrong, Plymouth are a very good side, but Coventry at home are better if we are on song. That might not be the case down at Brickfields but at home it’s a different matter entirely.

Coventry proved themselves against Blackheath at home earlier in the season – had Blackheath won (I just can’t bring myself to use the ‘C’ word), they would be in third place now and very much in the mix. It’s a really tough few games coming up, but nothing that Cov can’t deal with if they play as they did against Blackheath.

We know a defeat is going to happen at some stage this season and  given the calibre of the teams we are meeting before the Christmas break, it could well be sooner rather than later – how we deal with any loss is more important, in some respects, than the loss itself. This is a group of players whom seem very focused in all that they do.

Former Cov player Eoghan Grace captained Plymouth in their win on Saturday against Ampthill

 

The chance to play Championship rugby is beckoning and if Cov do get promoted, purely on attendances, we would be one of the bigger clubs in Tier 2 as well  – so it’s a golden opportunity for players to move onto a bigger stage without having to change clubs, with all the risks that involves. If motivation is needed, there isn’t much bigger than that. Plymouth is the next step to achieving that goal.

The players and coaches have done all that has been asked of them this season. Indeed, they’re probably overachieving if anything, given few supporters would have expected them to have been unbeaten going into their 12th game of the season.

Those involved with Coventry have got it right so far, so as a supporter I have the faith in them to get it right over the course of the remainder of the season given so little has gone wrong up to now. It hasn’t all been plain sailing by any means and injuries have caused plenty of headaches, but when Rowland Winter has needed to be reactive, he has made the correct decisions.

The players have won the respect of the supporters, too, and the increasing attendance figures should be giving them great heart.

Yes, we are beatable, but the only team in this league who will beat us will be Coventry Rugby Club. If we keep focused, stay disciplined and are more clinical than perhaps we’ve been in the last couple of games, then we have the beating of every team in National One.

Produce anything less than our best on Saturday and it will be tough against a resurgent Plymouth side.

Can they beat us?

Yes.

Are they the team to beat us?

Not at Cov, no.

But they were at Brickfields last season in probably the coldest Saturday of the year…..

A tough game… a tougher result.

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

hurrell

Will Hurrell in his Coventry days….

Like many supporters I was a bit disappointed to read that Will Hurrell has signed for Edinburgh next season.

A little part of me had hoped that were we to be promoted, well you know the rest…

Good luck to Will for the remainder of this season and for his move up north.

Happy to come up against Dom Lespierre all day long, but Will…no way.

Perhaps his move to Scotland might prove to be a good thing after all.

 

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

If the crowd can get behind the team and gee them up, even before the game starts…

I’ve been running hot
You got me ticking gonna blow my top
If you start me up, if you start me up
I’ll never stop, never stop, never stop, never stop

I think Jagger goes through all the moves in the first 60 seconds of the video…

Mick – you make a grown man cry….

 

 

3 replies »

  1. I will stand by my thoughts of the conditions st OEs. They made nowhere near as many handling errors as they did against Caldy,yet conditions were not mentioned aftter the game originally..

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    • True Mark, but it was really wet underfoot and when a 4*4 drove over the grass the wheels were churning out water. Certainly the wet conditions weren’t THE reason we were less effect but a do thing they were a contributory factor.

      Like

  2. Absolutely right, Tim. Coventry hold their success, or failure, in their own hands. On their day they can beat the best, but that also goes for other teams.
    Discipline, focus and a realisation that these guys could be playing in the Championship next season, having written themselves into the annals of our club’s history.
    But it’s a tough ask on the players. The weight of expectation is not always a positive force. Hopefully the crowd against Plymouth will stir the boys on, Twelve from 12 would be brilliant.
    Realistically, all good things come to an end, but Coventry have been about and giving the big boys of rugby a run for their money since 1874.There’s a lot more in us yet.

    Like

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