I thought Saturday’s post-match comments from Keiran Hallett, Plymouth Albion’s Head Coach, and Rowland Winter were really interesting and revealed a little of the current gap in quality between the two sides.
Hallett was extremely gracious in defeat, recognising that although Plymouth went into the half time break arguably on top having scored the second of their two tries in the 39th minute, bringing them to within just single point of Cov after a sustained period of pressure, Coventry then…
…went to a level that, quite frankly, we’re not at yet. We’re not a million miles away, but I don’t think we can have too many arguments about today
Rowland Winter, on the other hand, whilst pleased to get the win, suggested that:
…the boys put in a big shift but actually didn’t ever really get going properly. We didn’t get into our full stride, so to still beat Plymouth with a bonus point is very satisfying
…in other words, there was still plenty more left in the tank.
And that must surely be good news with games against Rosslyn Park, Ampthill, Darlington Mowden Park and Birmingham Moseley looming large on the horizon. To beat Plymouth fairly comfortably in the end without having to play our best rugby is a real plus, given that there’s not a lot to choose between the three or four clubs immediately below us in the league.
If Saturday’s performance was a level above that of Plymouth’s, and one that they aren’t yet capable of producing, then if and when Cov do hit their stride, it’s going to be a tough, tough afternoon for the opposition.
Keiran Hallett hinted at the mental pressure that Cov seem to be exerting on teams this season when he said:
When they went down the field and scored twice, that was a 14-point swing that was hard to overcome mentally and put us under pressure
Coventry have made a habit this season of getting themselves in front and then defensively making it so hard for teams to score, or even to getting into scoring situations, that they often tend to lose their discipline and, with that, their technical accuracy. Pressure leads to mistakes and Coventry has been able to exert far more pressure on the opposition this season…in the second half we seemed to hold on to the ball for long periods, so when Plymouth did get possession they were rushed and made far too many unforced errors.
Even in close games, as was the case against OEs when a score would have either drawn or won the game for the home side, Coventry had that mental toughness to defend deep in their own half and with the confidence in themselves not to give the ball away or be penalised by the ref. That mental toughness wasn’t always there last season.
A lot of that is down to the experience we have brought in this season, together with the work done by the players and coaches to ensure they are ready for all scenarios. Half time came at just the right moment for Cov on Saturday – Plymouth had their tails up and would have been confident of really taking the game to us had there not been a break. By the time they came back out for the second half, Cov had re-grouped and within 12 minutes of the restart Plymouth needed to score three times to take the lead and the game was effectively over.
I would think the way Cov came out and dominated the game in those opening minutes will be one aspect of Saturday’s game that will be particularly pleasing to the coaches.
With RW also confirming that several players will be returning to the squad following injury almost on a weekly basis from now until Christmas, the coaches will be in the enviably position of having some tough choices to make in positions across the whole team. The depth in the squad has been a major factor in the team’s success this season and with even greater choice now available, players are going to have to step up their own individual performances as the competition for places grows.
And as a coach, I guess that is exactly as you’d want it to be.
I was disappointed to miss out on seeing the Development Squad against Richmond over at Broadstreet’s ground – with the pitch at the BPA already looking wet and ready to cut up when we arrived before the game, the decision to change venues seemed entirely the right one, irrespective of concerns over changing rooms and the sharing of match day facilities.
As I understand it, the final score was 27-36 ( or at least that was the last score I heard) with Coventry 2 points down at half time, at 15-17. I think they leaked a couple of tries early on in the second half and although they pulled a couple back themselves towards the end of the game, they were left with too much to do. From what I heard, Richmond, a Championship side anyway, put out a strong XV and so the Development Squad’s performance, although it apparently lack a little organisation especially in defence, had some encouraging moments in it.
It’s still very early days and given the club has no junior club section as so many of the teams in the Zoo Shield do, it will take time for the Development Squad to bed in. We know there are some highly talented individuals in there and some of them aren’t too far away from making their senior debuts, as some already have.
Below is a clip of one of the Cov tries from Saturday – a catch and drive that was straight off the training ground.
RW made it clear from the onset that the idea behind entering the Development Squad into the Zoo Sports Shield was not necessarily the winning of the league but more the exposure to competitive rugby against teams that would bridge the gap between U19/20 rugby and that of the adult game. Many of the teams have consisted of genuine 2nd XV players, often older and often with a greater degree of physicality, and whilst results wise it has been tough going, as far as experience is concerned, it has been invaluable.
Hopefully a few more of the youngsters will get some exposure in the senior squad before the season is out.
Quent Melhuish has asked me to mention that a second Supporters’ Club coach has already been booked for the trip to Moseley on the 23rd December and that there are only 8 seats left on that one.
Due to parking restrictions at Moseley, we are limited to just the three coaches, excluding the players’ coach! How good would it be if we could run a third Supporters’ Club coach? I’m still struggling to get to grips with that!
I guess a limiting factor would be whether the coach company concerned actually has a third coach available to the supporters.
Whatever the final number, it does serve to indicate just how much of an increase in support the club is enjoying these days, both home and now away, so it seems.
Even with a gate in excess of 1000 at Billesley Common, it might well be that Coventry has almost as much support as Mose on the day!
Ticket prices are as follows:
SC members – £6
SC junior members – £4
Non-SC members – £10
Non-SC junior members – £6
To ensure a place on the second coach (there’s no guarantee a third will run, although hopefully it will), please contact Quent via the Supporters’ Club email address – CRSC1974@gmail.com
(I don’t know why, but for anyone in their 50s and over, in the GIF Hugh Lawrie reminds my of Rik Mayall’s Kevin Turvey)
Very many thanks to everyone who took part in the ‘Man of the Match’ poll over the weekend.
The results of the votes are as follows:
1st – Scott Tolmie – 31%
2nd – Jack Preece – 16%
3rd – George Oram – 12%
The Sponsors’ Award went to Anthony Matoto and whilst he did pick up a number of votes on the poll, the three main contenders all came from the forwards.
With another two tries to his name and a performance that saw him back to his rampaging best, Scott Tolmie was always going to feature heavily. Since his arrival here, from Moseley of all places, Scott has been a firm favourite with the Coventry crowd.
I’ve spoken to Scott on a couple of occasions and I’ve been really impressed with how thoughtful he is about his own game. Up at Fylde he was really self-critical of his own performance…as I recall Phil Nilsen and Gabriel Oghre had been selected to play in the senior side a couple of weeks beforehand and Scott had been demoted to the Development Squad.
He said he’d found it a tough experience, he’d really enjoyed being the senior pro and being able to work with the youngsters, but whilst we talked about rotation and allowing players to gain senior club experience, Scott was adamant that he’d been dropped and that it was something that he would learn from.
And he clearly has, as shown by the fact that he has started more games than Phil Nilsen since his return.
Scott came across as being really passionate about his rugby and those who go to training on a Thursday evening will have heard Rowland Winter speak very highly of him, almost to the extent of Scott not really knowing just how could he could be.
For a big lad, he’s also unbelievably mobile and I know he worked really hard over the summer on his fitness to get ready for this season’s campaign.
I think Jack Preece has featured in every poll so far this season and whilst he was extremely prominent again in Saturday’s game, he seems to perform at a consistently high level in every game he plays and he has a phenomenal work rate. Was there a better signing over the summer?
I’m guess RW will be pretty happy with all his big-name signings this season, but Jack Preece’s name would surely feature heavily in a poll to determine the best as far as the supporters are concerned?
George Oram was probably the signing that went most under the radar at the time it was announced. I’d gone to watch some of the Coventry lads play for England Counties at Moseley last season, and was standing with Sam at the side of the pitch when Rowland Winter came up, said hello and said something along the lines of, ‘You might want to keep an eye on the England no 4 (or 5?)’…with a broad smile, and off he went.
George was playing alongside Nile Dacres, with Jack Preece in the back row, James Litchfield in the front row and Pete White and Dave Brazier at scrum half and James Stokes out on the wing. Preece was arguably the MoM on the day, along with the Hartpury centre whose name I can’t recall, but George had an absolute stonker of a game and carried the ball all night long, as well as being a colossus in defence.
It took a while for his name to be announced and for a time I wondered if the move had fallen through. I’m not sure many supporters saw him ahead of the two Toms, Jubb and Poole, originally but despite a couple of injuries he has shown himself as probably Nile Dacres no 1 partner at the moment. He brings that same physicality to the game as Tom P and perhaps is even more prominent around the pitch. When Tom P is fit again, there will be some real options at 4 and 5, especially with Cameron Gray and Jubby also available.