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And the sun shines all on the ground…and it seems like a brand new day

And the sun shines down all on the ground
Yeah and the grass is oh so green
And my heart is still and I’ve got the will
And I don’t really feel so mean
Here it comes, here it comes

And it seems like yes it feels like
A brand new day, yeah
A brand new day oh

Van Morrison – Brand New Day 

As Cov’s run of 16 games progressed, talk of how Coventry would react once the team suffered its first loss became more and more prevalent.

I don’t think anyone believed that we would remain unbeaten all season and the longer the winning streak continued the more concern was voiced as to how a defeat might impact on a group of players for whom defeat in a Cov shirt would be  new experience to some and a distant memory to most.

Had it been a much closer game, then perhaps little would have been said about today’s game, other than Esher are probably the ideal opposition to have next following Cov’s first defeat of the season.

Away from home, having already lost by 35 points at theirs, Esher should be something of a banker  – whilst, of course, accepting that any team in this league is capable of providing an upset.

However, the size of the defeat last Saturday and the less than convincing display just adds a little more uncertainty.

However loyal a Cov supporter I am, there’s just a little part of me that is still worrying as to  how much that Blackheath result might have knocked the team’s confidence. I want to remain true to the team and to the coaches and 95% of me says we’ll win comfortably, but there’s still that niggling doubt that if we don’t dominate early on, the game could be harder than it might otherwise be.

I feel guilty and disloyal even thinking that, let alone saying it out loud, but it’s there, niggling away.

However, I do believe Cov will win, but that 5% of uncertainty is the result of having watched Cov last week and seen what can happen on an off day, even to the best team by some distance in this league.

But there again. today is:

A brand new day…

Having seen the squad in training and listened to Rowland Winter talk through his take on the game, I’m otherwise confident that Cov will bounce back this afternoon. The players looked sharp and have trained hard and by the sound of it, everyone who played last weekend is aware of their own performance and is keen to make amends. RW has shown his trust in them by re-selecting most of those involved – the players must now repay the faith he has shown in them by putting in a performance to warrant it.

With Blackheath being the only team to have beaten Cov in 17 starts this season, it’s probably a fair bet that Esher will have looked closely at the recording of last week’s game to identify the weaknesses in that Cov side that Blackheath were able to exploit so effectively. If that is the case, then anyone who was at the game could probably predict what Esher will look to do today…give plenty of width to the ball, making runs from deep, hoping to find the  angles that will open up the Cov defence if the first tackle is missed.

One of the problems areas that RW highlighted from last weekend was that Cov missed far too many first contacts and once that happened, our defence was then committing two or more players as they scrambled back to bring down the ball carrier. Once the ball had gone through a couple of phases, we were left exposed.

Our defence had been outstanding all season up to then and if we make our tackles early on today as we know we can and keep our shape as we have done for so much of the season, then I think Cov will win with plenty to spare.

The only worry would be if we went behind to a couple of early tries – then it’s about how confident the players are to just keep doing the basics rather than try to chase the game – try too hard and that’s when the mistakes are made. And that’s where the crowd has such an important part to play – the lift that 17oo plus fans can bring to the team could be significant.

An Esher back undone by the Coventry defence making the most of the conditions…

The pitch was looking a little worn on Thursday and with the Bears v Rhinos game there last night, doubtless it will have cut up a little more. And that would work in Cov’s favour if Esher do intend to play a running game.

Keep the ball tight to begin with, let the forwards pick up and drive and provided we make a better job of retaining the ball today than last week, then Esher will be feeding off scraps. A good heavy down pour a couple of hours before kick off wouldn’t go amiss either.

Eric’s done a fantastic job all season with the pitch…just this once I wouldn’t mind a mud bath.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I see yet another Development Squad fixture has been called off, the sixth so far this season, this one against Esher, and if the Messageboard is correct, then its because the opposition can’t raise a team.

It must be a great worry to the coaches that so many games have been cancelled (although I think one of those was postponed/cancelled at our request to be fair) and despite the  best intentions of the club, the Academy players just aren’t getting the game time they would have expected when they committed themselves to Cov. There are some very able youngsters in the squad and it’s in no-one’s interests that they are having so many blank weekends, least of all the club’s.

It’s not an ideal situation and I’m sure there will be some very frustrated players watching from the stand this afternoon. They’d trained hard on Thursday both on their own and with the senior players when they all came together, and having had a comprehensive win last weekend, they must have been looking forward to another strong performance today against Esher Cardinals. I’ve no idea as to the reason Esher were unable to raise a side and am not blaming them at all as there is probably a very genuine reason, but the cumulative effect of so many games being pulled can’t be good for the development of the youngsters in our Academy.

It will never happen, but if clubs commit themselves to a competition such as this, then maybe there should be some sort of sanction in place if a game is called off, or if a club withdraws from x number of games in a season…?

Keeping hold of some of those Development players next season might well be harder as a result of other teams inability to fulfil their fixtures this season – and Matt Price and Brendan Burke might have a difficult job persuading them this is the right place to be next season when they are getting relatively few games –  10 games so far, two less than any other team in their league (in fairness Esher Cardinals have played 17, the most of any side).

I don’t think the problem lies with the club, but the solution probably will have to if the Academy is going to move players forward in quite the way it was intended…?

There are plenty of signs that some have made significant progress and  are already working alongside the senior squad, so it’s having the desired impact as far as we know, but can that be maintained if so many games are being postponed or cancelled.

Last week’s game is actually down as  ‘AWO’ (away walk-over?) on the official website, presumably because we had to lend players to Blackheath in order for the fixture to be played.

Strangely, today’s postponed fixture isn’t actually on the fixture list.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It will be really interesting to see whether last week’s result has any impact on today’s match day attendance. Esher won’t rank as one of the top attractions coming Cov’s way this season but even so, with average gates around the mid to high 1700s, I’d expect to see something similar this afternoon. With Cov still enjoying a good lead, top of the table and unbeaten at home for a some 15 months now, it shouldn’t impact greatly…but we’ll find out soon enough.

The Cov crowd being what it is, it will get behind the players today and we’ll see a performance from the team that will be worthy of the league leaders.

Although it’s unfortunate that Olly Povoas is injured and looks set to be out for some time, it does open the door for Brett Daynes to come back onto the bench. Today is exactly the sort of game where Brett could make a real difference coming on for the last 25 or 30 minutes. You know exactly what he’ll bring to the game – that he’ll take the game by the scruff of the neck and he’ll be prominent both defensively and when Cov need to make those hard metres before opening it up. If there is such a thing as the Covdog, and I believe there is, then he is the pitbull who just won’t let go. He’s tough as nails and a really good footballer as well, far more skillful than he sometimes gets credit for.

Again, it’s a strong bench and whilst its impact was lessened last week with so many being used early doors, this week the likes of Tolmie and Jeannot, both players who like to run with the ball, could well also cause Esher some difficulties in the final 30 minutes. It’s also great to see Dave Brazier back in the squad – he looked to be playing really well before he dislocated his wrist and he and Pete White must rate amongst the two best scrum halves in the league.

In their interviews with John Wilkinson, all the players seem to have commented about the comradery amongst the players and how well they all get on as a group. They will have had to dig deep individually and collectively this week and this afternoon will give everyone involved the opportunity to make amends.

A strong start is important today – not vital, but certainly it would help put any nerves to bed. I’m sure the crowd will sense this and be behind them from the start and there will be a fair amount of noise in those opening minutes.

Last week’s result adds some extra interest to today’s game and I rather imagine that there will be a fair few supporters from clubs elsewhere in our league tuning in to the various Twitter feeds from the ground in the vain hope that lightning will strike twice.

It won’t.

Up the Cov…and let’s hope we see something similar to this, taken from the home game against Esher 12 months ago:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

.

As always, I’ll be tweeting updates from the game this afternoon.

Cov has its own match day Twitter feed (@CoventryRugby) – mostly just the scores and the main moments in the game, although informative and of interest. Esher offer something similar on @esherrugby.

However, if you are interested in something slightly different, then I try and give a sense of the atmosphere/occasions as well and tend to tweet rather more, a lot more in fact, 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 – so if that is too much, mute me and use the club’s official feed.

Please bear in mind, I am a bit one-eyed when I tweet. I’ll certainly be fairly emotive I imagine, so be warned if you are tuned in!

I’m on @Cowshedtim

Apologies in advance for some of the typos that appear. For some though, deciphering the 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.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

And the sun shines down all on the ground
Yeah and the grass is oh so green
And my heart is still and I’ve got the will
And I don’t really feel so mean
Here it comes, here it comes

And it seems like yes it feels like
A brand new day, yeah
A brand new day oh

.

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