The devil in disguise…?
You fooled me with your kisses
You cheated and you schemed
Heaven knows how you lied to me
You’re not the way you seemed
You look like an angel
Walk like an angel
Talk like an angel
But I got wise
You’re the devil in disguise
Elvis Presley – You’re the devil in disguise
Over the centuries, the Devil has acquired many different names; Beelzebub, Satan, Lucifer, Prince of Darkness, Diabiolus, Old Nick and even Old Harry (although at 103 he probably deserves a break to be fair).
Whatever the name, the intent is the same…
…to tempt us from the chosen path, to question our faith and resolve.
Enter Cambridge Rugby Club – potentially a devil in disguise, for this weekend at least.
Whilst even the most fervent of Coventry supporters are still some way off suggesting that Championship rugby is anything approaching a certainty next season, many would accept that promotion is ours to lose as much as it is any other team’s to win. An 11 point lead (taking into account any games in lieu) definitely gives us a healthy advantage with only 9 games left to play, five of which are at home. If we can remain unbeaten at the BPA until the end of the season, which of course includes the game against Darlington Mowden Park, then we wouldn’t have to do much more than win one of those away games…
…and that’s definitely a possibility given that fortress BPA was last overrun as far back as 1st October 2016 (by Hartpury College, as was)
Or put it another way, that’s:
- 502 days
- … or 71 weeks & 5 days
- … or 1 year, 4 months & 14 days
So going through the remainder of the season unbeaten is definitely achievable, but there are still one or two significant hurdles between now and the end of April. And if you go on the statistics alone, then it is Cambridge that poses the biggest threat to Cov’s home record, not Darlington, strange as that may sound.
Purely on away form, Cambridge would be third in the table, behind Coventry and Plymouth – and having already disposed of the latter, it is Cambridge that present us with perhaps are biggest challenge at the BPA over what remains of the season:
Hence, the ‘devil in disguise’ comment.
If we are going to be tempted from the path that leads to the promised land, then Cambridge could well be a stronger contender to be one of the more likely teams to make us question our belief. We’ll find out whether or not they do indeed lead us into temptation in two days time…
As an aside, the Away League Table is an interesting one as it also highlights just how much Darlington Mowden Park have struggled, in relative terms, on their travels. Purely on away form, they are currently barely above mid-table. Their overall position of second in the league is very much based on their 100% record at the Northern Echo Arena, emphasising just how hard it will be for Cov to come away with anything in just 10 days time.
Saturday’s fixture against Plymouth Albion will be a tough ask for them but if results go to form, then it could be that Darlington come away with little from Brickfields at the weekend. Were that to be the case, a win for Cov against Cambridge would be a massive step towards the Championship.
There are few supporters at Cambridge who don’t want to see Coventry go up. The close links that have been forged between the two clubs over the past couple of seasons have ensured that they feel a certain pride in knowing that they have helped nurture a fair amount of the talent currently on display at Coventry, both on an off the field. Many of their supporters and officials follow Cov every week and having kept in touch with some as a result of the blog, I know that they genuinely want Cov to go up at the end of the season…
…and that they also have every intention of being party-poopers on Saturday.
For all their support and good wishes, for the 80 minutes Cambridge are on the pitch, they will be playing the part of the Punch-Clock villain – the anti-hero who, instead of being actually wicked, is doing evil merely because it is their job so to do. They’ll want to do what no other club has managed to do for the last season and a half – beat us.
And here’s the worry, Cambridge genuinely believe they have the team to do it. And if we aren’t somewhere near out best, maybe they can.
Cambridge could indeed be the devil in disguise.
Trips to Darlington Mowden Park and Caldy will be challenging, but arguably Cambridge’s visit to Cov presents us with almost as many problems. They are a big side with a strong set of forwards, forwards who more than held their own against Ampthill last weekend:
… but it will perhaps be a surprise to those not present that it was the Cambridge pack that had superiority.
Led by Darren Fox, the Cambridge forwards dug deep, stifling the attempted pick and drives from the visitors to leave them trying to battle away in the middle third of the pitch.
According to the report in The Cambridge Independent, the front row was ‘immense’ – with Harry Morley, the erstwhile Coventry prop, getting a mention by name. Another former Coventry player, Rob Conquest, was also started for Cambridge.
Their tight-head, Shane Moynihan appears to be the cornerstone of their scrum:
There was no platform for Ampthill, a side do not forget that prides itself on its forwards, as they were either driven off their own put-in or forced backwards, with no ability to get quick ball.
Moynihan has come from nowhere to be a real force in National League One, never letting his side down and proving to be a key cornerstone at tight-head prop.
And, according to Ross Stewart:
I think all of the front row were outstanding…People are very quick to criticise scrums when they go backwards, but the impact they’ve had there, I don’t think Ampthill had one solid scrum the whole game.
So, game on.
With Coventry’s pack probably being the strength of the side at the moment given the present state of the pitches (3/4/5/6 Gs excepted), it could make for an interesting afternoon’s rugby. Cov’s backs have looked threatening at times, but they’ve been inconsistent and they haven’t always hit their early season form. Our kicking game has also needed to be reined in at times when it’s proved somewhat ineffective.
Fortunately, Cov’s pack have been pretty dominant all season and I’d back us to win the battle up front, although it might take 50-60 minutes for us to dominate. Even if it remains dry over the next 48 hours or so, it looks as if the pitch will be heavy again so we might expect to see a game plan based on the pick up and drive rather than a more expansive one that we’ve grown used to since RW’s arrival.
Their backs are more than capable of doing us some damage and Albert Portsmouth, who played alongside some of the Coventry players for England Counties last season, seldom fails to score against us.
And then, of course, there’s the influential Darren Fox…
With Sam Tuitupou back and Latu Makaafi probably returning, everything is set of an intriguing re-match. , Seconds out-Round Two.
Selection will be interesting.
With George Oram limping off during the pre-match warm-up last week, it looks as if Tom Jubb will retain his place, although Cameron Gray will surely be champing at the bit if he’s not with Wasps this weekend. Brett Daynes was outstanding last week, but I imagine Latu will return and Brett revert to the bench with Pete White also starting, too.
And somewhat controversially, I know Scott Tolmie is one of the more popular players amongst supporters, but I’d start with Phil Nilsen. He’s rather more abrasive in the loose than Scott and probably has more experience of the tougher, more attritional, games which is very much what this weekend’s match up against Cambridge threatens to be.
And he scores a few tries himself…
Anyway, I’m kind of expecting an old-fashioned, ‘ball up the jumper’ sort of game on Saturday, although I doubt whether we’ll see a hatrick of penalty tries as we did against Fylde two weeks ago!
Hopefully, the crowd will be back up above the 1500 mark again this weekend, with the prospect of some slightly better weather, no Six Nations distractions and a fair few supporters making their way over from Cambridge. I thought the drop in the attendance for the Fylde game meant the atmosphere was a little more subdued at the last home game and it might well be that the crowd will need to get behind Cov in the early stages of the game if Cambridge are as fired up in the opening minutes as I rather expect them to be.
Having beaten Cambridge three times now since Rowland Winter left them for Cov back in the summer of 2016, the fixture probably doesn’t hold quite the significance for the home side that it once did, but I’m certain that’s not the case for Cambridge.
Current direct of rugby at Cambridge, Ross Stewart, is an old friend of Rowland Winter and in his final few games with the Blood and Sand before he moves on to pastures new, he’ll want nothing more than to put one over RW having lost all his previous encounters in charge.
For most teams in National One, the away visit to Coventry is their FA Cup Final equivalent; for Cambridge it means even more.
They have nothing to lose and everything to gain. From 4.45 pm on Saturday, they’ll be rooting for us over the remainder of the season, but for those 80 or so minutes beforehand, well they’ll be giving it their all to knock us down a peg or two…and rightly so.
I can well understand why so many supporters are focusing their attention on the away trips to Darlington and Caldy, and perhaps rightly so given our current home record. However, I do think Cambridge present a clear and present danger and whilst I’m firmly in the ‘we will get promoted camp’, I’m realistic enough to accept that Saturday’s encounter with Cambridge is far more than just a potential banana skin – to think that would be doing Cambridge something of an injustice.
Cambridge represent a real threat away from home and one that I don’t think anyone at the club will be taking at all lightly.
Finally, a big thank you to those who have been so generous in their comments during my absence, both publicly and privately. I’m not a great one for the limelight, but I have been overwhelmed by everyone’s responses.
There does appear to be a misconception elsewhere though that writing a blog is for those who have plenty of spare time, something which certainly isn’t true in my case – the writing is usually done after most have gone to bed and well into the early hours and I’m always up earlyish to post around 7.00 am, leaving the rest of the day for all things ‘non-blog.
I have five children and six grandchildren in addition to all the other commitments, professional and otherwise, I have and I’ve always tried to ensure that the blog takes little or no time out of my normal day – and that still remains sacrosanct.
Being retired certainly isn’t a pre-requisite for writing a blog…
…just thought I’d make that clear.
For the most part, I have loved every minute of my involvement in this blog. Occasionally, there are those who take exception to it, but in retrospect maybe that’s sometimes their problem and not always mine.
I’ve certainly never seen it as being all about me, or indeed all about the blog…
…but it is all about Coventry Rugby Club.
To Beelzebub, Satan, Lucifer, Prince of Darkness, Diabiolus, Old Nick, Old Harry et al…
…and, of course, the Devil in Disguise: