I should be feeling pretty chipper today.
Tables don’t lie.
Not after over a third of the season has already been completed, they don’t.
12 games played and Coventry are well in front of their nearest challengers and seemingly in control of the league. They’re the top points scorers and have the meanest defence and last week comfortably saw off the threat of Plymouth Albion, the team expected to be Coventry’s main rival for the top spot.
The team has done everything asked of it.
Cov go into today’s game as clear favourites, with few expecting Rosslyn Park to present enough of a challenge over 80 minutes to overcome a Coventry side that is currently brimming with confidence.
A team that hasn’t won in its last four outings and is currently languishing in 12th place in National One, just two points clear of the bottom three and fully 35 points behind Coventry.
It should be a banker.
Goliath over at David’ place and ready for a rematch.
And yet it seems anything but that.
Part of my ill-ease is due to the remaining memories of last season’s visit to The Rock – a game in which Jack Willis and Tom Howe were both recalled by Wasps at very short notice, James Stokes was injured in the warm-up and Will Maisey had to go to 15 and James Pritchard ended up a late replacement on the bench.
It was a game that we had thought would suit Coventry’s running style, given the synthetic surface, and there was plenty of optimism as we travelled down that morning despite having already lost to Esher and Blackheath in the weeks preceding the game.
Lightening wouldn’t strike a third time, surely?
Coventry was repeatedly penalised early on and our scum, so strong in previous games even in defeat, struggled to compete with a fired up Blackheath pack and a referee that saw the game very differently to the Coventry players and coaches.
And supporters for that matter.#
…It’s got nothing to do with Vorsprung durch Technich.
Park weren’t a strong side, weaker than both Blackheath and Esher on that performance, but still too good for Cov on the day.
That was the last really disappointing performance on our travels under Rowland Winter, other than Fylde after Christmas, and we’ve looked an altogether different team away from home since then. Hartpury beat us convincingly, but almost every game Hartpury played ended in a convincing win for them last season; the game at the BPA being a notable exception.
This year, things are clearly very different, with Coventry looking to build further on their 20 game unbeaten run that started way back in February. The tipsters on rolling-maul.com have 97% (or 30/31 of the people taking part) opting for the Cov win, with 80% of them believing Cov will also earn the bonus point for the four tries.
Pretty damn conclusive.
But there’s always part of me that feels a little uneasy, even when the odds are stacked in our favour – it’s in my nature.
However, we know what to expect down there now and it’s a very different side to the one that looked so unconvincing last season. Players like Titchard-jones, Oram, Dacres, Preece, Narraway, Kessell, Matoto, Emery, Higgins, Tuitupou and Dingwall weren’t even at the club 12 months ago, let alone in the match day squad and. in fairness, there’s a bit of quality in that lot!
That’s over half the match day squad…
Which is an interesting one in itself. One of the big things about this second season under Rowland Winter has been the consistency in the squad, with so few players moving away from the club back last April. However, with a few injuries and a couple of key players in the shape of Boulton and Makaafi rested, there’s an opportunity for others such as Kessell, Dingwall Emery and Higgins to come in without the strength of the squad being significantly diluted.
On paper at least, this looks an altogether stronger side than the one that played at the Rock 12 months back, a clear indication of how well Cov recruited over the summer and the distance Coventry have travelled in terms of performance over such a relatively short space of time.
November 2016 December 2017
15 Will Maisey James Stokes
14 Dan Rundle Rob Knox
13 Corey Hircock Anthony Matato
12 Tom Wheatcroft Tony Fenner
11 Owain James Tom Emery
10 Tony Fenner (c) Will Maisey
9 Pete White Tom Kessell
8 Darrel Dyer Luke Narraway
7 Olly Povoas Jack Preece
6 Sam Harry (?) Brett Daynes
5 Brendon Snyman George Oram
4 Tom Jubb Nile Dacres
3 Jimmy Litchfield Jimmy Litchfield
2 Scott Tolmie Scott Tolmie
1 Andy Brown Nathanael Titchard-jones
Today’s starting line-up bares little resemblance to that of last season, with just 4 players in that team set to begin the game this afternoon (Tolmie, Lichfield, Fenner and Maisey). Four of the players from a year ago didn’t feature a great deal after Christmas , if at all (Snyman, Wheatcroft, Rundle and Harry), and we didn’t see quite so much of Owain James. Yet this was still the basis of the squad that performed so well after Christmas and took the team up 5 places (or was it six?) from its lowest position in the league with such a strong second half to the season when eventually finishing fourth.
The pack, in particular, looks altogether stronger and even with Phil Boulton fit and Andy Brown not yet ready to return to first team action, the coaches can still play Turkish (N T-J) and have a untried prop (in National One, anyway) on the bench.
I’m sure those making the trip down to Rosslyn Park today will see a very different performance to the one they witnessed a year ago, and Coventry has to be strong favourites to take the points. There will be plenty of Cov support down there and you just have to hope we have rather better luck this time around – hopefully, James Stokes will last a little longer than the warm up.too
Darlington Mowden Park take on Ampthill today in another one of those games that has such a bearing on the top of the table. DMP have an unbeaten record at home this season and must be favourites to beat Ampthill. With the away side at Coventry next week, two potential losses could mean Ampyhill will be cgaslhasong
chasing shadows after Christmas, although the same could be said of Darlington if they were to lose today and we win up at theirs in a couple of weeks time. All ifs and buts…
However, both Darlington and Ampthill have much to play for. We’re still not yet half way and it’s feasible that Coventry could slip up more than once in the next four games, in which case the door, presently just ajar, suddenly opens that much wider. I know I’ll be keeping half an eye on the scores from Darlington this afternoon given the importance attached to them for Cov. Quite what the best scenario for Cov would be I’m not altogether sure, but I think given all the various permutations, an Ampthill win would be my preference.
Good luck to the Development side who travel across to Cinderford for their Zoo Sports Shield game this afternoon. Sadly Luc Jeannot has picked up an injury and won’t be playing – hopefully it’s not one that will require him to be out for any length of time. RW spoke highly of him at the Fans’ Forum on Tuesday and despite the presence of Ben Palmer and Andy Brown in the side, Luc would have captained the team for the second week running.
It would appear that the club also feel that he has leadership qualities as well…
Best of luck to everyone involved.
It looks like it might not be quite so cold tomorrow down in London with only a slight chance or rain, despite a fair bit of cloud.
Hopefully, it will be warm enough to tweet updates without suffering from exposure to the hands by the end of the 80 minutes. There’s plenty of shelter at the Rock and there’s never been a problem with the signal, so it all looks promising.
I’ve struggled a little of late because I can’t tweet with my glasses on (for long sight) and without them it’s not always that clear what’s happening on the pitch! Fortunately, Sam’s coming along today so that extra pair of eyes will be greatly appreciated.
I expect both Rosslyn Park and Coventry will also give score updates via social media.
RP’s Twitter account is @rosslynpark also tweet.
If you’re looking for no more than score updates and the odd comment, then certainly both of those will provide what you’re looking for.
However, I tend to tweet far more, so if you’re at home and just surfing the net trying to find out anything you can about the game, this might be a different option. The tweets, when combined, make a crude ‘commentary’ of sorts. Be warned though, you might get well over a 130 plus tweets during the course of the game, weather permitting – so if that is too much, mute me and use the two club’s official feeds.
Please bear in mind, I am a bit one-eyed when I tweet, covering more than just the scores as they occur.
I’m on @Cowshedtim
Please do let me know if you are following them, if there are many than I’ll reduce the number, although it’s something that I enjoy doing!
Apologies in advance for some of the typos that appear. For some though, deciphering my tweets adds to the occasion.
If you aren’t familiar with Twitter or don’t have an account, then on the homepage of this blog (www.coventryrfc.me) all the tweets will appear in real time on the far right of the page, towards the top end. Click on it to increase its size.
Up the Cov!