Love is all around at a Wet, Wet, Wet Butts Park Arena
Love is all around me and so the feeling grows
It’s written on the wind, it’s everywhere I go
So if you really love me, come on and let it show
You know I love you I always will
My mind’s made up by the way that I feel
There’s no beginning, there’ll be no end
Cause on my love you can depend
Wet Wet Wet – Love Is All Around
You could feel the love at the BPA yesterday.
It was all around the ground.
We can put the Blackheath result to one side now, it was what we’d hoped it was after all, just a blip. One of those inexplicable aberrations on an otherwise impeccable record.
We will lose again this season in all probability.
But not in that manner.
Pride was very much restored yesterday and the Cov faithful loved the performance, the team and all things Cov.
Love was indeed all around…
…and yes, it was wet, wet, wet.
And them some.
I suggested in an earlier post that a wet, heavy pitch might be just what Coventry needed against Esher. So it proved.
Last week, Cov had been undone by Blackheath’s pace and tempo and a game plan that centred on making use of the full width of the dryish, firm pitch.
And they ran holes through us.
Esher will have seen the recording of the game and taken note.
A damp heavy pitch would make that a far less likely scenario a week on.
The rugby gods had listened and liked what they heard – and how they delivered.
Sam and I arrived some 90 minutes before kick off and it became immediately apparent that much more in the way of snow or rain would put the game in doubt. Water was pooling on the surface of the pitch in several places and on the side lines and there had apparently already been an inspection some time earlier.
It didn’t look promising, the referee and his assistants walked the pitch again soon after our arrival and there were some brief discussions with the coaches from both teams, by which time the snow had stopped and Eric was out, forking the worst affected areas, with a helping hand from Louis Deacon and, I think, Max Hartman.
The drainage must be pretty good, however, because 15 to 20 minutes later the standing water was already dissipating and things began to look far better. It was muddy, and whilst no-one was quite sure what was lurking in the swampy area around the centre of the halfway line, the pitch was playable provided the players could keep their footing and there was no great risk of injury.
As the players began to go through their final team run before kick off, despite some excess water still visible, there was relatively little slipping or sliding (cue for a song, Peter) and any fears that the game might not start were promptly allayed.
The combination of a disappointing result and such atrocious weather, just at the time most supporters would be setting out to make their way to the ground, could have impacted dramatically on the attendance yesterday.
But in the end, neither seemed to make a significant difference and an attendance of 1626 in such miserable conditions is real evidence of the resurgence in interest currently surrounding the club.
That figure of 1626 was helped presumably by a few staying over from the Bears game against the Rhinos the evening before – which itself attracted a crowd of getting on for 1200.
That’s two good days as far as the club’s coffers are concerned – yes, there might be some rumblings about the excessive use of the pitch and the possible short term damage caused to it, but there’s another couple of weeks before the next game which should give it a chance to recover a little. And to be honest, come the final whistle the pitch didn’t look that different to the way it did an hour before kick off, testament I guess to the fantastic job Eric Richardson does every week to get the pitch in the best condition possible.
Whilst Rowland Winter was expecting a response from his players this week, he was also hoping for one from the crowd. He mentioned on Thursday at training what an important part supporters could play during the course of the afternoon, depending on the way the game panned out, so I’m sure he will have been encouraged by the ovation they gave the players when they left the pitch at the end of the warm-up.
It’s become routine now for the crowd to clap the players off, but yesterday I thought the response was the loudest it’s been so far under RW, so much so that several players looked up and acknowledged the fact as they made their way back to the changing room. In the final minutes before kick off as they waited to come back out, few words of motivation would have been needed after that reception.
I’m glad the club recognised the passing of Cyrille Regis in the final minute before the players emerged. As a West Brom fan I saw him play on a fair few occasions when Cov games didn’t clash, so it was a poignant moment for me, too. And a minute’s applause is so much better than a minute’s silence – celebrating and appreciating someone’s life that way somehow seems so much more appropriate.
I always get nervous before a game, always. In the moments leading up to kick off, the doubts and uncertainties are at their most consuming.
Yesterday was no exception.
Mostly I’m ever the optimist, but I do get a bout of the collywobbles just before the game starts. I played a fair bit of club cricket in my teens and 20’s and was never afflicted with nerves, but the final minutes before kick off has always been the same, pretty nerve-wracking…that, together with waiting for Sue to discover I’ve just raided the biscuit tin and eaten the last of the jammie d’s.
I needn’t have worried, though. Within two minutes Coventry had scored, nerves quickly settled and normal service resumed – it was as if we’d never been away.
From the kick off we gained immediate control, Pete White put in a great box kick to their 40 and we were promptly awarded a penalty. Will Maisey kicked to within 20m of their line, our line-out was good and Will Maisey found Anthony Matoto taking a great line and despite a couple of tackles the big centre, forced his way over.
It was simple and effective rugby…
…and that was pretty much what we played for most of the next 70 odd minutes.
Cov played the conditions really well. They kept the ball tight and kicked far more frequently than in previous games, as you would expect. Pete White’s box kicking was accurate, providing the height to allow the chasers a chance to put pressure on the opposition receivers. Whilst Esher made numerous errors under Cov’s aerial attacks, by comparison, Cov’s handling in such appalling conditions was excellent, with James Stokes once again showing how good he is under the high ball.
Will Maisey and Rob Knox also kicked effectively, and for me Cov’s best try of the game came when Will Maisey played the advantage and with a delightful cross kick that JS caught in full flight and from probably 30m out, the full back was able to run the ball in – given the conditions we probably had no right to be seeing tries of that quality. Unless Lespierre scored at the weekend, that try takes James onto 14 for the season, equal with the ex Cov
Nine tries in all and the more the game went on, the more control Cov enjoyed. In a 17 minute period in the second half Cov scored 4 tries, three coming from the forwards and despite their best efforts, Esher had no answer to Coventry’s relentless pressure. They worked tirelessly and deserved their final score for their persistence (scored by Devlin Hope, no less), but the visitors were well and truly beaten by the end.
Cov’s defence was so much better this week. By kicking the ball away as often as they did, Cov provided Esher with plenty of possession and that potentially could always backfire, but such was the accuracy of the kicks and the effectiveness of the chase, Esher were too often pinned back in their own half, unable to break the line of defence Cov spread across the width of the pitch.
The percentage of successful first tackles was high, especially given the conditions, and either Esher were committed to kicking the ball away, which proved to be far less of a weapon than it was for Cov, or Cov pressed so hard that eventually Esher were forced into making errors.
Rowland Winter had said earlier in the week that for once the focus in the run up to yesterday’s game had been on Coventry and not on the opposition. He must surely have been delighted at the way his players responded and also how they adapted to the conditions, something that must have caused a slight readjustment in both teams’ planned approach to the game at the eleventh hour.
The scrum looked solid, never went backwards and gained control as the game went on. Luc Jeannot had a good 50 minute run out and once again didn’t look at all out of place and showed just how mobile he is around the park, even in such heavy conditions as those we saw yesterday. The line-out was worked really well, too and it was good to see Nile Dacres on the score sheet, a try that took some finishing as well. The back row worked tirelessly again and made life very difficult for Esher at times.
Phil Nilsen was voted Man of the Match and whilst it remains to be seen if readers of the blog are in agreement with the sponsors, he had another excellent game – his work rate was phenomenal and he is fast becoming an extremely popular member of the squad with supporters who have clearly warmed to Phil’s obvious enjoyment at being here.
I thought Will Maisey had a really good game too, his tactical kicking was excellent – accurate and deep enough to give those chasing the chance to put pressure on the receiver – and his distribution, as always was, was sharp, and he read the game well. Rob Knox also had an excellent game, showing he, too, can kick effectively when needed. Stokesy was a rock under the high ball and put in a strong defensive display, as well as enjoying some good moments in attack, capping it all off with the try. Matoto bagged a brace, Trimble looked sharp and took his tries well and all-in-all we saw far more of the backs than we might have been expected before kick off – but much of that was down to the excellent platform created by the forwards who provided them with such good ball.
I though Alex Grove’s return made a difference this week. There’s nothing flash about him and often he just does the basics really well. But he and Matoto looked strong in midfield and little got past them – and whilst Matoto and the self-styled ‘three amigos’ took the honours, Grove was pivotal in a lot of the good work that was being done defensively in particular.
The Cov players did everything asked of them yesterday, probably more. It takes away a little of the pressure caused by last weekend’s dismal performance, but no-one is expecting the trip to Bishop’s Stortford to be anything but a tricky one and if they aren’t 100% focused on that game, then they could find it being even tougher. If complacency was an issue, that certainly won’t be a problem again and with few if any injuries from the Esher game, competition for places should be intense, with everyone wanting to make amends for the ignominy that was Blackheath.
Here’s hoping training next week goes well…
Up the Cov.
If you were at the game yesterday and haven’t already voted for the ‘Man of the Match’ award, please do so here.
Phil Nilsen was the sponsors’ MoM, will he be the choice of those voting via the blog?
The more who vote, the more representative it will be.
So if you haven’t voted, here’s where you do it…just click on the circle against the player of your choice. You only have the one vote.
All being well, I’ll include the results in Monday’s post.
Thank you in advance…
There’s no way I’m including Wet Wet Wet in this blog – but The Troggs did a much earlier, and better version of Love is All Around…
Not quite Wild Thing, but it will do.