In my defence, I don’t often resort to clichés but yesterday’s local derby between Moseley and Coventry definitely merits the use of one.
Yesterday was, very definitely, a game of two halves and the final 40 minutes left me feeling, well…sick as a parrot :), to be honest.
Several hours on from the final whistle and I’m still not altogether sure what to make of a game in which we completely outplayed a Moseley side that looked bereft of ideas or quality in the first half and yet, in the second, outscored us 14-5, during which time we were clearly second best.
Had the game not been out of sight by half time at 3-36 even the result might have been in doubt but, as it was, we were never in danger of losing despite Moseley’s dominance for much of the last 40 minutes.
As it is, a 24 point margin of victory on paper looks emphatic enough, even if the reality is that Moseley played the better rugby in the second half and we looked a shadow of the side that had handed out such a masterclass in finishing before the break.
Moseley had conceded far too many points early on to make a comeback a reality, but they did their damnedest and deserve plenty of credit for getting back into the game in the manner they did. I’ve no idea what it was that Richard Protherough said at half-time to turn things around as quickly and effectively as Moseley did, but whatever it was, it needs bottling up for use later in the season. I imagine there were one or two broken hairdryers scattered around the Moseley changing room after the game.
After the shocker that was the first half, I can only imagine a few home truths might have been uttered by the coaches and DoR. Based on their performance in the first half, there were probably one or two players out there in the second who might well have been playing for contracts. And if there were, then they did themselves some good by the time the ref blew the final whistle.
The Moseley players certainly manned up second half as, indeed, they needed to. Whilst they didn’t appear to possess the individual flair or skills of their Coventry counterparts, they certainly showed the kind of ‘dog’ that Coventry has become so synonymous with over the years. Buster Lawrence, someone who didn’t particularly endear himself to the Cov fans where we were sitting, led from the front and got into the faces of the Cov players – and full marks to him for doing so.
However, the game had already been won and lost in the 13 minute period between Cov scoring their first try in the 14th minute and their fourth, and bonus point try, in the 27th. Already a try to the good, Cov took full advantage of having an extra man on the pitch when Le Roux was yellow carded for what was apparently a late tackle, although that looked something of a harsh decision at the time, as did the penalty try. In a 13 minute blitz Cov scored four tries and Moseley had no answer to the power and pace of a Coventry side that seemed able to score from virtually anywhere on the pitch, with a couple of the long-distance tries being as good as any we’ve seen all season.
Our two wingers, Rob Knox and Max Trimble were making the most of the space they were being provided, and for the remainder of the half Coventry caused panic in the Moseley defences every time they got the ball. Another yellow for a late tackle on James Stokes meant Mose were down to just 13 players after 29 minutes and Cov scored another couple of tries before half time called an end to as one-sided a 30 minutes of rugby as we’ll see over the remainder of the season. Max Trimble, in particular, was back to his best and he revelled in the ball he was getting whilst Rob Knox just did what he does best, he ran hard and straight and looked to be full of confidence. Matoto had another stormer and was a powerhouse in defence.
Had it been a boxing match, the referee would have brought it to an end at that point, or more likely Protherough would have thrown the towel into the ring. 36-3 down and with the prospect of another 40 minutes of total dominance, Cov supporters were able to relax at the half time whistle, believing the second half would probably serve up something similar given Coventry’s tendency to get even stronger in the final 40.
But Moseley were the better side in the second half and territorially had far more of the play. Suddenly, Coventry were the team making the errors – passes went anywhere but to hand, we made numerous unforced errors, our discipline let us down, tackles were missed and the defence started to open up – allowing Moseley to take full advantage. There was something far more physical about the way Mose approached the second half and their back row started to dominate, having been noticeable by their absence in the first half. Young Sam Hollingsworth came on at 10 for the red and blacks and showed why he was so well thought of last season at Cov, scoring one try and having a hand in the second. Moseley played with pride and passion and there’s no doubt that if Cov hadn’t had such a comfortable cushion going into the break, the second half might have been a lot tougher to watch than it was.
Cov seemed to switch off a little after half-time, perhaps believing, rightly as it happened, that they had done enough in the first half to ensure the game was already safe by then. Having had a couple of problems early on, the scrum looked far more solid until Jimmy Litchfield was given a breather. His absence resulted in Coventry going backwards in the next couple of set pieces and it wasn’t long before he had to return to restore some sort of parity again. However, Moseley won a moral victory at least and deserve plenty of praise for not capitulating as so many teams would have done. Good as the victory was, there was definitely a reminder there that Cov still has plenty to do if it is to win the league over the remaining 15 games.
That final 40 minutes has tinged my celebrations somewhat and is exactly the reality check I probably needed – if Moseley can dominate us to quite that extent for such a long period, then there are other teams capable of doing something similar or better over the remainder of the season, so Cov will have to be focused at all times. The players can enjoy another week off and then it’s back to work as normal with the stakes getting that little bit higher each game.
The first double of the season and against Moseley, too. Plenty of cause for celebration then, especially with Coventry 13 points clear of Darlington in second place and with a run of games until the end of February that should enable us to be pretty close to where we need to be by the time we meet the top three teams again in the run up to the end of the season.
As a supporter, for those first few games in January and February, the closer we get to the title, the further away it will seem. It will be calculators at the ready to see how many games we have in hand, how many points are still available and which teams below us have still to play each other.
Still, I wouldn’t have it any other way though.
Moseley have a nice set up over at Billeseley and yesterday’s crowd, which seemed to get bigger as the evening went on but which was originally announced over the tannoy as 2096, provided a great atmosphere for what must have been a really good game of rugby to watch from a neutral’s point of view. Just how many Cov fans were there is hard to assess, but it must have been somewhere approaching 50% of the total crowd – making 70% of the noise. With their highest previous attendance being well under the 900 mark, hopefully it will have been a bumper pay day for Moseley and no one can begrudge them that (and how many times this season have club’s we’ve visited enjoyed their biggest gates?).
…and there’s always a but, isn’t there. ..(talking of which, did anyone else notice all the Moseley players had SOAR butts…?).
…to me, from a visitor’s perspective, on the day I do think the ordinary Mose spectator probably had a bit of a bum deal, or at least those wanting to sit in the main stand did.
I’m not sure how many the stand seats…between 500 and 700 at a guess? Half of them were roped off for the use of what I imagine was corporate hospitality and as the seats in the front half filled, none in the rows behind were taken until 5 minutes before the game started, meaning that the poor steward standing on the steps half way up had to deal with many, many frustrated and, at times, quite irate, supporters who were forced to stand in other areas of the ground because so many seats had already been reserved, despite remaining unused right up to kick off…
That in itself would have been fine – I imagine the pre-match dinners had brought in a lot of revenue for the club and part of the deal was a reserved seat.
However, at half time, all the seats emptied as you would expect, but as the game restarted they remained empty.
The photos above, of each side of the main aisle, were taken a good 7 minutes into the second half and already a few ‘ordinary’ supporters had drifted in to claim the unwanted seats by then. Most of those who had vacated the seats at half time stayed in the bar where the game was being relayed live. It’s not a criticism at all, at least not of the club, and I can quite understand why Moseley would guarantee to provide such good seats as part of any pre-paid package, but it does show how many ‘supporters’ on the day actually preferred to sit in the bar and watch the game rather than watch it live just a few metres away from where they were sitting, missing out on what was a good atmosphere on the day.
It’s an odd one for me, something of an anathema really, given that so many other people had been turned away from the same seats in the build up to the game, some of whom were getting on in age and for whom a seated position to watch the game would have been far more comfortable. It is as it is, but it shows how clubs have to manage their resources as best they can and how lucky we are to have such a large seating area at the BPA.
One real positive about the main stand though, and something that I really wish Cov had…at the beginning of every other row running up the length of the steps in the middle of the stand is a hand rail. It’s not obtrusive at all, but it does mean that those who are getting on in years or who have a bit of difficulty using step have something to help them ascend to their seats, or something to grab hold on if they have a wobble.
Full marks to Mose on that front…
Of the seats in the main stand available to the ordinary supporters, I would imagine 80% must have been taken up by Coventry supporters and most of the noise came during the game came from them.Those supporters sitting in the seats that had been reserved were incredibly quiet and their absence in the second half probably suggests they weren’t regulars to Billeseley. Certainly, with the players entering onto the pitch from the centre of the main stand, they will have been very aware of all the Coventry support as they ran out, so that worked in our favour somewhat.
And despite the announcer imploring Mose fans to get behind their team, which started to annoy me after awhile and was something Billy Bell took a lot of criticism over when he took over the PA at Coventry, the home supporters remained fairly subdued even with Moseley’s improved second half performance.
It will be interesting to read Rowland Winter’s comments regarding yesterday’s match – 7 tries (I think!) and another five points in the bag means a job done, but it wasn’t a job well done in the end given the ease with which Moseley seemed able to come right back into the game. However, that said, we sit astride the top of the league come Christmas by a distance – I’m sure there will be a stato out there somewhere who could tell us how many of the teams topping National One over the festive periods have gone on to gain promotion in the last 8 seasons.
At a guess…all of them.
It’s certainly ours to win now.
At least we’re not having to rely on any other teams as of now.
More of the same and we’ll be fine.
Up the Cov.
If you were at the game and haven’t already voted for the ‘Man of the Match’ award, please do so here. I was a little worried that there wouldn’t be so many taking part this week given this was an away game, but the numbers are pretty much as they would be for a home game, so many thanks to everyone who has already taken part.
So if you haven’t voted, here’s where you do it…all being well, I’ll include the results in Monday’s post, together with the first MVP result.
Something else to look forward to on Christmas Day then!
Thank you in advance…
And for anyone who hasn’t yet voted in the poll to determine Coventry Rugby Club’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) 2017, then here’s the poll for the very last time – it closes at midnight tonight. Over the following 12 days, always a quiet period as far as Cov news is concerned, I’ll be announcing the top 12 players you voted for starting at 12 and culminating on 5th January in the announcement of the winner of the poll and, in the eyes of those who took part, Coventry’s MVP.
Very many thanks to those who have already made their choices, it was always going to difficult given the quality of players we currently have at Cov and I know one or two people found it tough to narrow it down to just 4 in total. You’ll soon get to see how many others agreed with your choices.
For further details, please check:
Remember, you get up to 4 votes in total.