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A black day at Blackheath – the reprise

Well I’m standing by a river
But the water doesn’t flow
It boils with every poison you can think of
And I’m underneath the streetlights
But the light of joy I know
Scared beyond belief way down in the shadows

Chris Rea The Road to Hell

Well, that didn’t quite work out as expected, did it…?

The 25th time unlucky, so-to-speak.

Although let’s make it clear from the start, luck played no part in Coventry’s defeat, whatsoever. We were thumped good and proper and got exactly what we deserved. I’d be surprised if anyone who was there will any offer any excuse other than on the day we just weren’t good enough.

We had done to us yesterday what we’ve being doing to other teams pretty much for the last 12 months. We were bullied all afternoon long – in the scrum, in the lineout, at the breakdown, across all areas of the game. We had perhaps 4 or 5  minutes of play, either side of the half-time interval where we looked anything like the Cov of recent months.

Other than that we were poor.

So poor we were down and out after the first 15 minutes.

We tasted our own medicine and it was a bitter pill to swallow…

The clichés will abound over the next few days…

It was another bad day at the office…

…except you’ve got to arrive at the office in the first place to have one of those days.

We never even got there.

Stuck on the road to hell.

And actually, I’m surprisingly philosophical about the whole experience; it would be a little churlish to be anything else. Still 14 points clear, which in effect gives us a couple of games respite, and with our destiny very much in our own hands. It’s one defeat.

A bad one admittedly, but it’s no more than that at the moment.

Yesterday was painful to watch, there’s no denying that, made worse by the opposition being Blackheath which is fast becoming my least favourite club to visit….

Maybe more on that later, although it might seem a bit like sour grapes given the spanking we got.

Perhaps not today, then.

And if you’re looking for reasons as to why we were quite so poor, then this is the wrong place to visit.

I’ve no idea…

I just pity Esher next Saturday, that’s all.

Because if I know anything about this group of players and coaches, then I know that they’ll be hurting and hurting hard.

They’ll be a reaction to yesterday’s performance for sure. Individually, by the time they all meet up on Monday they’ll have had 40 hours or so for the wound to fester and it will only start to close when they can get together and do something about it as a team. Players have  had a fair few Monday’s off  during the course of the last 24 games, and deservedly so, but that as  sure as heck won’t happen tomorrow. They’ll be in and made to work very hard, although it shouldn’t be too difficult to motivate them.

And fair play to Rowland Winter.

He knew how much the defeat last year down at Well Hall hurt everyone who was involved, including the supporters, and by his own admission he was hoping to be able to come on to the Supporters’ Coach just before it left for Cov after the game yesterday to say how much it meant to exorcise that defeat.

Instead he had to front up again and shoulder the burden of responsibility…which he did and did admirably.

Someone always comes on to the supporters’ coach prior to its departure, more often than not a player or two, just to thank the supporters who have travelled down for making the journey.

It’s a nice touch and much  appreciated, but yesterday it could only have been Rowland Winter or one of the coaches – ultimately that’s where the buck stops and in this instance the buck hadn’t just stopped, it had slammed on its breaks.

So how on earth was RW going to explain such a change in Cov’s fortunes?

Few expected the unbeaten run to continue for the season, but the manner and size of the defeat caught everyone by surprise.

Well the Coventry Director of Rugby was as he always is, honest and upfront. He said the players were ashamed and embarrassed by what had happened out on the pitch and that there were no excuses, and no answers either as of then.

The players had wanted to come and speak to the supporters but it was up to him to take responsibility.

There had been no inquest, there was no point in having a go at the players as far as he was concerned, it was a question of getting on with the job in hand…

He wasn’t worried unduly about the result, of far bigger concern was the test for the team over the coming few days and the game against Esher next weekend.

Cov, he said, had been well beaten in all phases of the game and whilst the referee’s performance ‘was just as good as Coventry’s’ on the day, it had no bearing on the result. And that was pretty much it.

He did shed some light on the Pete White sending off though…

The incident happened in the final moments of the game when it was very much in its death throes and it was over on the far side of the pitch from the main stand, leaving most supporters with little understanding of the events leading up to the card or the incident itself.

RW said he’d spoken to Pete who had suffered a broken nose as a result of what had occurred, following a stray forearm. The referee had seen nothing but on the word of the assistant referee, Pete had been given a red for throwing a couple of punches following provocation – the other player involved was yellowed. Pete denied he had thrown any punches.

The Blackheath player concerned confirmed he neither saw or felt any punches from Pete, which must help Pete’s cause – but Rowland Winter wouldn’t make a judgement until he saw the video evidence, although it’s not clear the angles involved would make it possible to determine exactly happened.

He accepted, though, that wherever there’s smoke…

Best case scenario would be a four match ban reduced to two given the provocation, although much depended on that video evidence.

I watched Pete walk off the pitch at the end of the game and he was clearly very upset about what had happened and was being given a comforting arm on the shoulder by Gully as he explained the incident to the Cov team manager.

His red summed up the day really.

Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse…

Anyway, I think everyone on the coach respected Rowland Winter’s honesty and despite having watched Cov get something of a pasting, his words were definitely appreciated by the supporters.

He also drew out the raffle numbers…

Thanks, Rowland  – ticket 617 got me a bottle of Jack Daniel’s Winter Jack – Tennessee Apple Whiskey Punch.

61(7) – 61 , eh, now isn’t that ironic?

And off the coach went, with supporters left to ponder on an afternoon that was anything but enjoyable.

I slept for most of the journey.

No point in doing my head in over the first loss in 25 games.


And what of the game itself…

Well it was a pretty one-sided affair, that’s for sure. There’s no doubt that Blackheath were quicker and sharper in almost everything they did and Cov ran out second best across all phases of play.

Blackheath played at a tempo that we just couldn’t match and they had a game plan that they stuck to and we couldn’t counter. They were happy to give the ball width at every opportunity early on and their runners ran at a pace and at angles that we just couldn’t cope with.

Our defence, so mean for so much of the last 12 months, suddenly became generous to the extreme and first tackles were broken with frightening regularity over the course of the 80 minutes. The defence didn’t just drift, it positively flowed out of position and Blackheath players found themselves with spaces to run into that must have surprised even them.

And if something could go wrong, well it invariably did.

We made an unprecedented number of unforced errors, dropping good ball, knocking on, passing it forward, telegraphing passes to be intercepted. It was a catalogue of mistakes and every error we made was pounced upon by a Blackheath side who grew in confidence as the minutes wore on. Even our scrum, so often the pillar on which we have built our success, struggled find any sort of form at all. I haven’t seen it go into reverse as often as it did yesterday.

There was even some show-boating as Blackheath player ran in the interception for try number 5, not that I blame him in any way – 33 minutes gone and five tries up against the league leaders. What’s not to celebrate?

Such was the hammering we took that the five tries we scored hardly registered, with four of them falling  either side of half time and sandwiched in the middle of what was something of a Blackheath try-fest.

That bonus point could yet prove significant (although, I hope to goodness it doesn’t ) and we shouldn’t neglect the fact that Anthony Matoto came away with a hatrick of tries, although the scorer of Cov’s final try  (probably Matoto’s third) was unclear as it came at the time James Stokes received a yellow and the world was coming to an end…

And after 80 minutes, most of the Cov supporters were just waiting for the referee to put us all out of our misery, such was the mauling we’d taken.

Rowland Winter wasn’t going to get drawn into making comments about the performance of the referee, but I think it’s fair to say that he failed to penalise Blackheath for persistent off-side all afternoon, with their fly half the main culprit…and if the fly half is up too quickly, he brings the other backs up with him.

It wouldn’t have made any difference on the day, Blackheath thoroughly deserved their win, but it certainly didn’t help.


One of the really noticeable things of late is the interchange of messages between supporters via Twitter, especially between those there and those following the game back in Cov or, indeed, around the country and beyond.

It was tough watching the game live, but following it via social media with the constant waiting for updates and hoping, as you do, that things will have improved by the time the next message comes through, must have been even worse.

After the game there were lots of supportive messages being made, to players, to the club and to everyone connected with Cov. It actually made things a lot more bearable in that everyone seemed to pull together for an hour or so after the game.

It was an impromptu self-help group and it provided some solace.

And if I am going to have a pop, and I am,  it’s not at the team or at the coaches, it’s that  post 4.50 pm and the final whistle had blown, there was nothing from the club’s Twitter feed.

Nothing at all.

Not even a thank you for all the support…and I don’t mean the travelling support as Rowland had covered that. An awful lot of folk follow Cov on an away day, other than those who make the journey down.

It’s now getting well into the early hours of Sunday morning and the last message from the club was almost 10 hours ago.

A few retweets of the messages of support from the fans, those there and those who followed from afar and indeed of the players’ own tweets, would have gone down well, especially as they showed the hurt that they have clearly felt as a result of the defeat.

When you suffer that sort of hammering, it helps to know others feel something similar and that everyone is behind the club and believes in it. Pulling the plug on any tweets after 5.00 pm on a match day doesn’t  look great, especially when so many others are offering support.

And it might be good for the players to see that sort of response too…

It’s not so bad when we win, but as the official mouthpiece of the club on social media and with 6000 plus followers, many of whom will be hitting the club’s account  to see its reaction to such a big defeat, well it seems a little indifferent.

Probably shouldn’t say it, but that’s how it seems to me.

If you only sing when you’re winning, well that’s not the most endearing of qualities.

It’s a shame, because Cov’s coverage of the match itself via Twitter is superb, as good now as any in the league.


This is the third year of the blog and I’ve never yet repeated a song in back-to-back posts.

Until today.

Yesterday we did, indeed, take The Road to Hell

And the perverted fear of violence
Chokes a smile on every face
And common sense is ringing out the bells
This ain’t no technological breakdown
Oh no, this is the road to Hell


I didn’t take many photos this week – the Captain’s Run wasn’t on the main pitch although the players went through their own warm up routines on it beforehand.

Little did they know what was to follow.






14 replies »

  1. Not at the game for obvious reasons but surprised by some of the alarmist reactions. I agree with your confidence in the group: They will be hurting and will respond.

    STATO: Take out the anomaly of Hartpury last year, in the previous 6 seasons (that we’ve been in this league) the team finishing top lost an average of 3.8 games per season. They actually failed to win 4.5 games on average when you consider draws.

    (Fun Fact, other than Hartpury again… the team who lost the fewest games in a National League One season was Barking who only lost 2 games in 2010- 2011 but finished second on bonus points to Scottish who lost 3. Barking are now in the 7th tier of English Rugby)


  2. It is no consolation but the development team won handsomely 61-19. It was a bit disjointed in that Blackheath couldn’t find 15 players so we had to loan them 2 of ours. Watching Blackheath 1sts warm up they did look intense as if this was the only game all season that mattered. If this is the same squad as in the previous 16 games it does beggar the question ‘What the hell have they been doing up to now?’

    I have never seen a penalty try awarded so quickly in a game so I really didn’t get that. Secondly they were all over our guys like a rash. I’m always very suspicious of that as in ‘are any of the officials looking at the offsides?’ Standing with Luc and his dad he did comment that ‘heath’ just looked like they always had an extra player. Finally, on a more basic level, I’m a human & like to use a toilet & not something that looks like a feeding unit for livestock. (No, I didn’t. I went upstairs in the clubhouse) Out of the dark ages. Maybe they need to divert some money to sorting out their facilities.

    Ok Cov still scored 5 tries in amongst all that. I’m sure it will be a busy week in training. Looking forward to Esher at the w/e.

    • Big consolation really! Strength in depth, youngsters pushing senior players for places…exactly what we need.
      You’ve anticipated tomorrow’s post re: the facilities at Well Hall. Dire toilets for starters…

  3. Lets put the “banana skin” in the bin and have faith that Roland and the team will discuss and address any issues arising from the game. We can also all get behind the team next week, which will give the boys confidence and get back on track.

    • Absolutely, Ian…fans have a part to play this week as well. Am sure that it will be a noisy welcome for the team on Sat. Hopefully, the attendance will be at least the average for the season .

  4. Unfortunately (possibly fortunately) I couldn’t make the game yesterday so I followed it on the score updates provided on the Message Board by Kimbo. I couldn’t believe what I was reading, thinking that (it would have been so unlike him) he was producing the scores the wrong way round and that it was Cov who were galloping into the lead. What a dreadful result.
    BUT, for Rowland to have come onto the coach himself and to have taken full responsibility for not only the debacle on the field but also for addressing the very disappointed supporters, shows the mettle of the man and his personality. That action must have taken some guts and shows his style, strength of communication and commitment to the supporters. To me, he has strengthened his already high pedigree.

    • Yes…saw Kimbo was posting the scores again. It was a poor performance and a very disappointing result but it was a reminder that we can’t be complacent…supporters or players. Some very good teams in this league capable of beating anyone on their day. Blackheath could still do us a favour when the meet Plymouth and Darlington, albeit away from home

  5. Exeter, English champions, were beaten by unfancied Newcastle this month. Saracens, so dominant for so long and champions of Europe, were undone by Ospreys.
    Hey, even New Zealand’s fantastic record had to be undone sometime, And it did.
    Good teams lose. We’ve had 24 league wins on the bounce. I’m not sure, but by Cov standards, that has to be a record?
    Always bloody Blackheath!
    Rowland Winter continues to impress me. I’ve never met him, but the very fact he is there, coming to say thanks and apologise to the supporters who made the trip speaks volumes.
    And from everything I’ve seen, this isn’t a Cov team who bullies the weaker sides and folds against the tougher XVs. Tony Gulliver should see to that. He was the epitome of the guy who never knew he was beaten.
    Defeat can go two ways. It put doubts into confident minds. Or the hurt can be so bad you never want to feel it again.
    We’re still 14 points clear of Darlo, although they have a game in hand. If they beat us with a bonus point up there, we would still be nine points clear.
    We’re top of the league, in a great position for a promotion charge.
    We’ve still got the best defence figures in the league.
    We’ve still scored more than anyone else by a country mile. We’re on 717 and no-one else has broken the 500-mark.
    We’ve still got the best attendances by far.
    We’ve lost one game.
    Darlington and Plymouth have each lost three,
    While the manner of yesterday’s defeat must be particularly galling for all concerned, if you’d have given me the position we’re in now, with the points scored and entertaining rugby we’ve played, I’d have snapped anyone’s arm off so quickly, they’d have probably ended up in A&E.
    Let’s hope that’s not where our season is headed.
    I doubt it.

    • That’s the Monday morning squad talk covered…wouldn’t disagree with anything you’ve said. Motivation won’t be a problem, will it. Whatever side is picked, the players involved will be keen to make amends in front if the home fans. All good still as far as I’m concerned.

  6. I an assure anyone who might doubt Rowland’s word that the players were ashamed and embarrassed that the dressing room was the quietist place at Well Hall after the game. Players with their heads in their hands – it was awful. The bus home was no more noisy.

  7. Now’s the time for the character of the club/ players to come to the fore. Next week is another game

    • Exactly so. Big week for the players and coaches…confidence will have taken a knock but we’re still 14 points up. Coaches will surely be stressing that…

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