Ice-cold Winter proves too hot for Ampthill
It was a scoreline to warm the hearts of every Coventry supporter fortunate to be at the BPA yesterday afternoon.
Cov dominated every area of the game and come 4.45, Ampthill hadn’t just been beaten, they’d been dismantled, piece by ineffectual piece.
Harsh if you’re an Ampthill supporter, but I’m just saying it as it is. Ampthill didn’t seem fired up at all despite what should have been a competitive game between two teams in the top four.
And to some extent Ampthill’s management must take some of the blame.
The game had been lost for the visitors well before kick off.
Sam and I arrived at the ground a little later than usual, at around 1.40. When we got there Phil Boulton and one of the Ampthill team (I imagine the Ampthill captain?) were looking carefully at an area of the ground, central and around 5-10m from the touchline nearest the main stand.
It was pretty clear Ampthill were questioning whether the pitch was playable.
I took a couple of photos as for a moment it all looked a bit worrying, although the surface appeared quite wet on the surface.
Shortly afterwards, Rowland Winter came out, together with the Ampthill management (Paul Turner, I think?).
Back they went and out came the referee…together with RW and Turner…but whilst the Ampthill head coach was grim-faced, Rowland Winter was all smiles.
Whatever had been said, it was obvious that the outcome had gone very much Cov’s way.
Ice-cold Winter wasn’t going to have any of it and Ampthill could have no complaints – although by the sound of it, they gave it their best shot even then.
Eric and co came out, forked the ground (which offered no resistance) and then poured something onto the surface of a very small area of the pitch (it was steaming – surely not hot water?).
And that was it as far as I was concerned.
But by all accounts even after referee had given the go-ahead, there was still plenty of chuntering from the opposition that went on well into the final minutes before kick off and beyond – if the rumours are to be believed.
Player safety must always be the prime consideration. No argument to be had on that one. But from what we saw and what was said by those who were definitely in the know, the pitch was perfectly playable.
And had been since the early pitch inspection in the morning.
Despite the cold, there was no chance of it freezing during the game, so it all smacked of desperation on the part of Ampthill really – or at last that’s the way it came across to those of us watching the events unfold.
And here’s where I think the Ampthill management were at fault. By labouring the point and appearing to want the game cancelled, doubt was cast in the minds of the players, too. The players should have been focusing on the game and nothing else, but they were well aware of what was happening in the background as they went through their pre-match warm up. If your management doesn’t want the game to go ahead and they keep on stressing that to the match officials, well it’s not the most ideal of preparations.
Once the decision had been made, that should have been an end of it, but it wasn’t.
It was as poor a performance from Ampthill was we’ve seen all season. Worse than that really – in other games that we’ve won by a big margin, teams have at least taken the game to us, have made us work for the win.
Other than probably 5 minutes in the first half and perhaps a generous 8 minutes in the second, Cov weren’t really tested. Yes, Cov were ruthless in attack and when Ampthill did have the ball, we were up so quickly and tackled with such ferocity that the visitors invariably were forced into making mistakes. It was relentless…
Ampthill were made to look ordinary…
…because on the day, that’s exactly what they were.
We did to Ampthill what we’ve done to a few of the weaker sides this season, we took them apart. Ampthill seemed to show little fire for the contest and despite one piece of individual skill from Kevin Barrett and a well worked team try in the second half following a spell of 5 or so minutes of possession, Ampthill had nothing to show for their efforts – which is what they deserved.
And if you think I’m being harsh, then how about this from James Pritchard:
Hard to sum today up really. Can’t play a game when no one wants to be there. Individually we need to go away and have a hard look at if we really want to be here. Extremely disappointing day for @AmpthillRufc
— James Pritchard (@JPritchard_21) December 9, 2017
James Pritchard, last year player coach at Cov and yesterday stuck out on the wing for Ampthill…
If someone with the experience of James P questions the attitude of his teammates in public, then you know it’s been a very bad day indeed at the office.
For the record, aside from the desire of the Ampthill management to postpone the game, I also think Ampthill got found out big time yesterday. I don’t care how good individually the players are, or were, in this league against sides that are as fit and well-prepared as Cov, you just can’t have a third of your starting team aged 36 or over, with three ranging between 39 and 43. When the pitches start to get that much heavier as they are now, it’s going to take its toll on those senior players and that’s exactly what happened.
After the first 20 minutes, Ampthill were already looking short of pace and it was always going to be an uphill struggle from thereon in.
An opinion, I admit. But backed up by what I saw out there on the pitch.
The only danger as far as this result for Coventry is concerned is that we are lulled into a state of over-confidence prior to next week’s game that really could, and should, be the defining game of the season. It just was all too easy yesterday…
Surely it won’t be up at Darlington? A team unbeaten at home this season against a team unbeaten this season.
And what of the game itself?
A big factor in the game was Coventry’s exceptional discipline throughout the game. We gave away just three penalties in the entire game, (and an extra 10m as well!).
Compare that to Ampthill’s 11…
I spoke briefly to RW after the game and it was certainly something he was particularly pleased with. If Cov can repeat that next week, they’ll make a difficult job that little bit easier.
A number of readers of the blog have already commented how difficult it was to come up with a ‘Man of the Match’ given it was an all-round team performance (and if you haven’t yet voted, give it a go – see below).
And indeed it was, although, as always, there were players who stood out.
I thought the two props, Nathanael Titchard-jones and Jack Higgins, both relatively inexperienced at this level, more than held their own and the Ampthill scrum, normally such a force especially in the first 50-60 minutes, were unable to put our front three under any sustained pressure. Indeed, as the game went on, they began to take control, winning a couple of penalties and negating any threat whatsoever from the Ampthill pack.
The decision to play Phil Nilsen was exactly the right call and he had a storming game. When he tackles, he tackles hard and he set the tone with a crunching hit in the opening minutes that caused the opposition player to spill the ball and Cov gain the momentum. He carried the ball well and his aggressive, physical style was exactly what was needed against a side that likes to intimidate the opposition with their own physicality.
Again, the line-out held firm and although we lost a couple on our own throw, more our mistakes than Ampthill’s effectiveness against our ball, we caused their line-out plenty of problems with a number of steals. Both Dacres and Oram were superb and the consensus around where I was sitting was very much that George O is something of an unsung hero in the Coventry side this season.
Behind them the back row were immense. Makaafi was a rock in defence and there was only ever one direction he was going to go with ball in hand. Straight.
Narraway is such a good player to have in the side, he leads by example and plays to his strengths, doing the basics well and is a leader both on and off the pitch.
And as for Jack Preece, well he had another barnstormer. It was another hugely influential performance and he just doesn’t seem to stop – even the Duracell rabbits would have been forced to give up if matched against JP yesterday.
Tom Kessell – three tries, excellent in attack and so often on the shoulder of the player breaking the gain line. If the rumour that we’ve got him for the season is true, that’s excellent news, although probably not quite so good for Dave Brazier and Pete White.
Will Maisey? 19 points (I think) and as good a performance from him than we’ve seen in the last 7 or 8 games.
For the second week running, Sammy Tuitupou showed exactly why Rowland Winter brought him to Cov – he made several stunning line breaks, two of which led to Kessell tries and little got past him. He was a colossus out there.
Matoto seems to be relishing the move into the centres and seems to already have an excellent understanding with Sammy and the wings, Emery and Knox; both had solid games, although they didn’t see a great amount of ball.
James Stokes made at least one try and was excellent under the high ball.
The ‘finishers’ did their job, too. Brett Daynes again had an excellent 25 minutes or so, scoring a brace of tries and showing the kind of commitment that was so lacking in the opposition. Cov even had the luxury of taking off their captain and No 8, Luke Narraway, and playing hooker Scott Tolmie there in his place.
If ever there was a case of adding insult to injury, then surely that was it?
Tony Fenner carried on from where Will Maisey left off and Trimble looked sharp, too.
It was a really impressive performance – a couple of lapses let Ampthill in for tries and I guess that is something that the coaches might want to focus on in training next week, but otherwise it would be pretty petty to find fault elsewhere. There were plenty of smiles all round come the end of the game and with three out of this run of five games leading up to the Christmas break now successfully over, Cov are very much in the driving seat.
Worse case scenario and Cov lose the next two games against Darlington and Moseley, they will still be top of the league by a minimum of 3 points.
The crowd are loving life at the BPA at the moment and another decent gate of 1776 was there to watch a scintillating Cov performance – 9 converted tries. Does it get any better than that…?
Cov supporters are certainly appreciative of such dominant performances that have lit up the Cov ground a few times this season. A lone trumpeter made his way onto the Cov pitch at half time and led the main stand in several Christmas favourites, even managing to get the supporters to sing along.
Great effort from him…in keeping with the team’s performance, I thought.
By my reckoning, I think that’s 18 consecutive home games won under Rowland Winter now and he’s only lost one in the 22 league games that have been played at the BPA since he arrived here. It’s a phenomenal record and one that is worthy of a promotion-winning side. However, there are plenty of potential pitfalls still to be negotiated, with next week’s game against Darlington being arguably Coventry’s biggest game in the last 7 or 8 years.
Perhaps that’s an overstatement but I’m struggling to think of what that beats it in terms of its significance to Cov’s future in this league.
There are still seats available on the coach up to Darlington. It’s a long trip, but the more that go, the more we can get behind the team in what is a pretty lonely place to play – and we know how Cov respond to support.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested and check out:
for more details.
Up the Cov…
If you were at the game yesterday and you haven’t yet voted in the ‘Man of the Match’ poll, then please do give it a go…all being well, I’ll include the results in Monday’s post.
Thank you in advance…