Look out world take a good look
What comes down here
You must learn this lesson fast
And learn it well
This ain’t no upwardly mobile freeway
Oh no, this is the road to Hell
Chris Rea – Road To Hell
Okay, maybe not quite the road to hell, but Blackheath need to take a good look at what’s ‘coming down their way’ this morning. There will be lessons to be learned and learned quickly out there on the pitch come 3.00 o’clock this afternoon as Cov are determined to set the record straight following two defeats to Blackheath on their travels in the last two seasons.
The 40-5 loss last season was probably one of the worst under Rowland Winter and it was a long, long journey back for both players and supporters after the game. It was our own road from hell that day…
…but this time Cov are prepared to fight fire with fire.
And the M25 – this ain’t no upwardly mobile freeway.
Hopefully, a case of third time lucky for Coventry today, except such is the meticulous planning that will have gone into preparing for the game that by the time kick off comes around, luck will play little part in the proceedings.
On the two previous visits to Blackheath under Rowland Winter, Cov have come off second best. In fact last season Cov were in danger of finishing third down at Well Hall, so poor were they on the day. These are different times and Cov are a very different side to the one that lost so heavily in what was their first visit to Well Hall. However, this season they travel down on the back of 24 consecutive wins and with a group of supporters who will certainly make their presence felt during the course of the game.
Blackheath’s fortunes have been pretty mixed this season and they are currently in 5th position having won 10 games, drawn just one and lost 6. Compare that to Coventry’s – played 16 won 16 – and you begin to realise the current gulf between the two sides, a full 26 points in fact and Coventry have the added luxury of having a game in hand.
But Coventry will know that of those 10 wins, six have come at home and three of them have been against the three teams directly below Cov in the league (Plymouth Albion 32-31, Ampthill 16-5 and Darlington Mowden Park 39-24) , a point that Blackheath’s Head Coach, James Shanahan, will have been sure to have been reinforcing all this week in training. Admitted, the last of those results was back in late October and it’s not as if their recent form is anything to unnerve the rest of the league, but they have those wins to their name and must be seen as a team more than capable of derailing Coventry.
And Cov don’t appear to be taking any chances either by bringing Sam Tuitupou and Luke Narraway straight back into the side, and moving Jimmy Litchfield, Scott Tolmie and Jack Preece off the bench to add some additional experience into the pack. It speaks volumes for the strength of the side that RW can leave out last week’s sponsors’ Man of the Match’ , Olly Povoas, but with Jack Preece in such fine form such is the depth at Coventry Rugby Club at the moment.
I was certainly concerned at the start of the season as to how Rowland Winter was going to manage the players given the ability across the whole squad. But by carefully selecting his players for particular games, it has meant that he has been able to give everyone game time. Or at least nearly every one, although maybe Ben Palmer hasn’t had the chances he deserves.
If the home game against Blackheath in September was anything to go by, then perhaps we can expect another bruising encounter, and whilst no team has yet really tried to rile Coventry by intimidating them with a game plan that relies as much on physicality as it does technique, I really don’t think that it’s an approach that would work anyway, given the experience in the side now. Players like Narraway, Makaafi and Tuitupou have seen it all before and I’m sure there are leaders in the side who w0uld ensure Cov kept well out of trouble.
The NCA publish figures for the numbers of cards each club receives over the course of the season and they make for some interesting reading, especially in light of Coventry’s opposition this weekend.
Blackheath’s total of 14 yellow cards for technical fouls, substantially more than any other club in National One, suggests they are very much a team that plays on the edge of what the laws allow and this must be something that Cov will be looking to exploit.
If Cov can exert the kind of near constant pressure that we have seen them put other teams under for long periods of some previous games, then the pressure could tell in terms of infringements – and if Blackheath have any tendency to repeat offences, well Cov are the team to exploit that.
Blackheath’s numbers are so far in excess of the other teams that there must be a weakness somewhere and with all the thorough planning that the coaches put into their pre-match preparation these days, I imagine that the recordings of Blackheath’s last few games will have been watch ad infinitum, and probably ad nauseum, by the coaches and senior players.
After 5 days of careful planning from Monday to Friday, I’m expecting no weak end…
It’s late and it’s the best I could come up with,
Boulton and Litchfield don’t often start these days so I wonder if some of these technical offences are to be found in the set piece – if they are then Cov’s front 5 I’m sure will be up for the challenge. The forwards are just about the strongest 8 we can put out and with Nilsen, Titchard-jones and Povoas champing at the bit to have their opportunity, any weaknesses will be ruthlessly exposed; that’s the theory, anyway.
The Development Squad play the Blackheath Heathens today, too, with the kick off at 12.30 pm. I’m travelling down on the Supporters’ Club coach and with a departure time of 10.30 and a fair wind behind us, I might get to see the last 20 or 30 minutes of that game as well which would be something of a bonus.
The front 5 of Higgins, Priestley, Jeannot, Gray and Hutchinson is very much one for the future and I’ll be interested to see how they get on against what I sure will be a big and gnarly Blackheath pack. And in Daynes, Macnulty and Price, you have a back row that has plenty of physicality to it, will be quick around the pitch and look to link up with the backs as well. They might not have played together regularly, but it is a pretty competitive set of forwards who shouldn’t disgrace themselves against teams in the lower half of National One.
Outside them, the backs might be relatively inexperienced but they are certainly exciting to watch and have plenty of potential. too, with Titchener, Roach, Asiedu, Neal, all touted as being players to watch. Add to the mix Palmer and Brazier, two players who would stand out as beacons in most other National One senior sides and you have a team that should give a good account of itself, despite not having played for some time now. I haven’t even mentioned the presence of Wasps loanee, Jacob Umaga who has represented England for the U20s.
Up the Cov.
Hopefully, weather and fingers permitting, I’ll tweet updates from Well Hall which kicks off at 3.00 pm. There’s plenty of shelter and the signal has always been good in the past, so fingers crossed.
Both Blackheath and Coventry will provide regular updates, including the scores on the doors.
Blackheath’s Twitter account is @Blackheath_1858, whilst Coventry’s is @CoventryRugby.
If you’re looking for no more than score updates and the odd comment, then certainly both of those will provide you with 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, mine might be a different option. The tweets, when combined, make a crude ‘commentary’ of sorts., but 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. Mine tends to be a bit more emotive, and I do try and get across the mood of the game scores as they happen.
I can be found on @Cowshedtim
Please do let me know if you are following my tweets, if there aren’t many than I’ll reduce the number, although it’s something that I do 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 them to increase their size.
Up the Cov!
Today is the last chance to take part in the latest blog poll, this one being an attempt to determine where supporters would strengthen the current squad were we to gain promotion to the Championship.
In short, RW has said he’s looking to bring in 5 or 6 players next season to add to those who will be retained. The poll asks you to imagine yourself as the Cov Director of Rugby (!) – you have six players coming in, which positions would you look to bolster.
Someone kindly reminded me about the changes to the replacement bench in the Championship – no rolling subs and a full bench of 7, so that might impact on where the squad needs strengthening…?
The usual way of recording your choices is required, just click on the circle against the chosen position – you have up to six choices and once you’re decided, just scroll down to the vote button and click on that.
Remember, base your judgement on our current squad, not the players you think will be here next season. I’ve had a go at it myself and found it just about the hardest of all the polls that have appeared in the blog so far. But that’s exactly what the coaches are having to do, so there’s no harm in trying it yourself.
I’ll publish the results probably on Sunday or Monday.
Please do give it a go. There’s no right or wrong answer and it will be interesting to see how your choices marry up to those of the coaches should Cov earn the promotion that they certainly deserve on the basis of the first 16 games of the season so far.
Many thanks in advance for taking part
Ib the good old days of 100% GCSE English coursework, I once produced a 3 week unit on The Road to Hell – got a written unit and an oral out of it, too. I was pushing my luck as it was in an inner ring school in Birmingham and all the kids were from a Muslim background. No great cultural awareness from me in those days.
No parents complained fortunately…