The King of Groove….
Everybody wants to be a star
Everybody wants to be accepted by the mass
Everybody wants to be raging fire
But their heat don’t last…
…He’s the king of groove (I can’t lose)
(summon the royal brass)
Earth, Wind and Fire – King of Groove
In yesterday’s post I commented on the trust that Rowland Winter had placed in what was pretty much the same match day squad that had lost to Blackheath two weeks before, other than for some enforced injuries and the decision to rest Jimmy Litchfield and give Luc Jeannot a place on the bench.
In so doing, come the end of the game I asked the question as to whether the Coventry Director of Rugby would walk away a fool or a king?
Well, I’m delighted to report the coronation is still on for April.
In the meantime:
Everybody wants to be a star
Everybody wants to be accepted by the mass
And down at the BPA, Rowland Winter is both.
He is the King of Groove…
The squad repaid his vote of confidence in them by producing a strong performance in wet and windy conditions, a performance that was built on a defensive display that for 78 minutes looked very much as if it was once again going to nil the opposition in terms of tries, despite Bishop’s Stortford having a good deal of possession during much of the game, some of it deep in our 22.
Bishop’s Stortford are a good side and presented Coventry with a really stern test. They made Cov work hard for the win and, over the course of the two fixtures against us this season, they are certainly one of the stronger teams we’ve faced.
But Cov were in no mood to be as generous away from home as they were against Blackheath, the last team they played on their travels, and even though the game lacked some fluency and we made too many unforced errors at times, in just about every area of the game Cov had the upper hand and they were good value for the five points.
Something that maybe wasn’t quite the case when the two teams met at the BPA back in October…
It’s a lovely set up at Bishop’s Stortford.
At least 4 rugby pitches, a football pitch, a newish clubhouse (that might be a little small for National One) with a very welcoming set of supporters and, going by the number of blazers sitting down to dine before the game, a club that is well-backed.
And judging by the starting prices of the gourmet pizzas, well-heeled as well (I’d like to promise that’s the last reference to the pizzas, but such is the profound impact they’ve had on me over the last 48 hours, I’m afraid I can make no such guarantee).
It’s also the most dog-friendly club I’ve ever visited – at one point even Sam Tuitupou was walking a pooch on a lead, although I have no idea if that was his or he was just doing a bit of moonlighting on the side given he is currently injured.
So, all-in-all something of an upwardly-mobile looking club.
But in the cold, wet conditions that the game was played in yesterday, it was all a bit soulless out there on the pitch.
The crowd certainly didn’t seem to number more than a few hundred at best and spread out as they were around the perimeter of the pitch, well the game lacked any atmosphere and the only real noise came from the Cov supporters cheering their team on in the quieter moments of the game.
Arrived…two pitches side-by-side. Both games kick off at two…Will update scores from Dev squad hopefully as well pic.twitter.com/StUT2X08uw
— Tim Smith (@CowshedTim) January 27, 2018
It was exactly the sort of place that visiting sides could find a tough place to visit. No stand, exposed to the elements on days like yesterday and with no real noise…
…in games where there isn’t much to play for, or teams come to Silver Leys a little too complacent and players aren’t completed focused on the game, then it would be easy to be overrun by a team that is nothing if not tenacious in the way they play their rugby.
And in that respect, the Blackheath result might well have done us a favour.
Coming as it did just over half way through the season, it was a reminder of how even the best sides can be caught cold – or in Cov’s case, ice-cold, on the day. There was no chance that Cov wouldn’t be anything other than fired-up yesterday, ready to avenge that defeat that hurt everyone involved so much.
The whole Blackheath debacle has clearly been a lesson well-learned by players and coaches alike.
And by a few of us supporters too, if the truth be known.
The warm-up certainly suggested that Cov had come down in the right frame of mind, with players showing plenty of motivation out there. The Development Squad played on the adjacent pitch, so it was really interesting from a spectator’s point of view to see the whole of the Coventry family at work together.
Whenever the youngsters had a water break, or there was a pause in their pre-match routines, there would be a group of players casting an eye over what the senior squad was doing – not quite an envious eye, but one that suggested they had rather more than just a passing interesting in what was happening on the pitch next to them.
It wasn’t a distraction, the reverse really, almost motivational – it looked as if there was a desire to be there. That was the goal.
There was a brief scare on the main pitch as the players left to change into their shirts just before kick off when Max Trimble went down injured.
For a couple of anxious moments everyone looked on as Max seemed to be in some real discomfort, but Hannah’s healing hands (Yay – Triple H as she’s now known 🙂 ) soon got to work, and Max was able to run it off fairly quickly, although not before word had gone out to the Development Squad to have Tom Emery on stand-by.
As it was, Max put in a strong performance over the 80 minutes and is playing with real confidence at the moment. He’s one of those players who you feel might make an impact in the Championship should Cov win promotion this season, someone who hasn’t been tried and tested at that level before, but who has done enough in National One to suggest he should be given the chance. Another two tries yesterday.
Anyway, he was soon back on his feet…
…and everyone let out a sigh of relief.
And so to the game itself.
Being newbies at Silver Leys, we opted to stand in just about the worst position possible…next to the Cov dugout on the far side of the pitch. Cov were attacking left to right in the first half and unfortunately (in a selfish sort of way) much of the attacking play (from Cov) was down in the far left hand side of the pitch which was obscured by both the dugouts and both sets of players and officials from the two teams.
Yes, we could have moved but I was too busy tweeting to be fair and it did mean we could keep up-to-date with what was happening in the Development Team’s game that was taking place behind us. Many thanks to Matt Titchener for the score updates, by the way.
The opening couple of minutes was a reminder of just how strong a side Bishop’s Stortford are…from deep in their own half they found space to run at Cov and following a well-placed cross-kick, Cov were suddenly having to defend in numbers in their own 22. A couple of times their backs were able to open Cov up with some real pace.
However, Cov performance was built on a really impressive defence and a set of forwards whose work rate was exceptionally high all afternoon. As has happened many times this season, Cov didn’t worry overly when BS had the ball, even in our red area…they pressed up and forced the home side to move the ball laterally across the pitch, giving them little chance to move it forwards. On several occasions, BS had some decent periods of possession and the ball went through a number of phases of play, but eventually they were frustrated by the Cov defence and either kicked the ball away, or made a handling error that gave us the put-in at the set piece.
Blackheath slipped tackle after tackle two weeks ago – yesterday Cov missed very few.
Our lineout for the second week running was totally dominant, helped by a couple of BS overthrows, one of which led directly to a try (again). Despite the (slightly) better conditions, Cov weren’t able to play the attacking rugby that we saw at times against Esher and the forwards had to work hard to get the basics right at the breakdown, which they did to good effect. As always, our back row put in a strong shift, winning some good ball and ensuring that BS had to work even harder to do the same. There was turnover ball on both sides, but I’m sure the conditions were partly responsible for that – but I thought Oram and Dacres stood out, not because of the effectiveness of the lineout, but because of how hard they worked in the loose.
The scrum seemed to function well and got stronger as the game went on. Luc Jeannot had another impressive 30 or so minutes. Sam said he reminds him of Ethan Waller a little when he was here on loan, particularly with his speed around the pitch and his general support play. By the end of the game, the BS scrum started to look decidedly wobbly and had conceded a number of penalties.
Referee seemed to frustrate the Coventry coaches for much of the game and the second half saw RW prowling the touch-line at times with arms characteristically outstretched and demanding of the officials ‘How many times?’.
The backs didn’t see the amount of ball that they’ve been used to in many games this season, but when the opportunities came their way, they looked sharp and there was some clinical finishing at times – another gorgeously weighted Will Maisey cross-kick gave James Stokes a try, Alex Grove opened up the BS defence in the 6th minutes for Max Trimble to score, Rob Knox ran through a number of players using his strength and speed to set up another for Stokes and Trimble then turned playmaker after scoring again himself to open up the BS defence to eventually give Scott Tolmie a very well worked try – the best of the bunch for me.
The other two tries game from good work from the forwards, the first to provide Rob Knox with a relatively straight forward finish and the other from a catch and drive – third time lucky in this case after the first two attempts had been illegally thwarted by a desperate BS defence.
Anthony Matoto was replaced fairly early on, before half-time, and looked a little out of sorts – whether it was an injury or concern from the coaches or just a loss of form wasn’t clear, but Tony Fenner came on and worked hard alongside Alex Grove, putting in some characteristically strong tackles.
Another six tries in difficult conditions against a team that never once stopped working hard was a very good effort indeed. In fact it’s one of those game where the more you reflect on it, the better the performance becomes. Another stuttering 80 minutes from Plymouth, or more likely a fantastic one from an in-form Cambridge side, effectively rules them out of the running for promotion now, unless something goes horribly wrong for both Coventry and Darlington – possible but improbable given the current form of both teams.
And then there were two
In the article on Coventry Rugby Club in the Daily Telegraph this week, Luke Narraway had alluded to:
some away days (as being) proper grassroots rugby
For me, this was one such day – and that’s not meant in a condescending way. Bishop’s Stortford have come up the hard way and are certainly punching their weight, if not above it. For Cov players who have played in the biggest stadia in the country, and beyond, against some of the best sides in the world, then Silver Leys poses a very different set of problems – of which arguably over-confidence and motivation are the two biggest. But the players were well-prepared yesterday and they did all that was asked of the them.
55 points left to play for. Just 11 games left and a two game advantage over Darlington. It’s more than we could have really hoped for at this stage.
A quick shout out for the Development team – there were a number of late changes – Ravai Fatiaki had to pull out with an injury, the Saints youngsters were summoned back and so on.
As a result, it was a young and fairly inexperienced side that beat Bishop’s Stortford, for which they should be given plenty of credit. I didn’t see any of the game really, other than to watch Max Titchener successfully convert from the touchline in awful kicking conditions. (Will Maisey also kicked a couple of stonkers, too).
The DS game was a first for me in that it was overseen by a female ref. By all accounts she did a good job, too – although any female ref at this level is probably going to be exceptional given the scrutiny she’ll be under.
Anyway, it was great to see – and I think some of the younger players quite enjoyed it, too.
More on the Development Squad midweek.
Earth, Wind and Fire…
Remember the flares and the glitter balls?
Even as I type, Sue’s off to find her boob tube and mini.
I might be groovin’ tonight….
Life back then was very much a boogie wonderland…a couple of years ago we had Phil Maynard and Scott Morgan, but after the love was gone along came RW:
The King-elect of Groove: