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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…

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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. 

Here’s hoping…

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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.

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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.

Thanks, again.

Tim

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To Beelzebub, Satan, Lucifer, Prince of Darkness, Diabiolus, Old Nick, Old Harry et al…

…and, of course, the Devil in Disguise:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

41 replies »

  1. What a pleasant surprise to come home from work and see your blog back,great to read and unwind with a beer. With you on the Cambridge game,the further we get,the more the nerves jangle.Lets keep the faith,and cheer them to victory Saturday.

    • Hi Keith…the beer sounds better than the blog to be honest! Squeaky bum time again but as long as we’re on our game we should be ok! I am indeed keeping the faith…many thanks for your kind comments, as I’ve said before, it really does make writing the blog so much more worthwhile.

  2. Great to have you & the blog back, Tim. I don’t know if it’s linked, but my enthusiasm for the club seems to have waned just a fraction in the last couple of weeks. The fact that I missed the last home game (my first in a couple or years) and that I wasn’t at LS means it seems ages since I last saw Cov play (at BS). Your blog ‘Stokes’ my enthusiasm (and I’m sure many others) and I’m already really looking forward to Saturdays match.

    • Hi Graham…I’m sure It will be ‘all-White’ in the end…thank you for kind words and support, it makes writing the blog that much more enjoyable.

      Here’s hoping for another 5 pointer on Saturday.

  3. Delightful surprise this morning Tim, the Cov day is complete again. In fact as Professor Stanley Unwin would have said, “Deep joy on the returning of the goodaly blogyode. Oh yes.”

    • Hi Peter! Stanley Unwin – Sue is always ‘quoting’ him! Am chuckling even as I type. Thank you as always for your kind words as always…hopefully, see you on Saturday.

  4. Hello Tim, great to have something to read about Coventry Rugby again this morning, I’ve missed the blog over the last few weeks! I share your nervousness about the game on Saturday, lets hope the coaches and the lads get things right and we get what we need to move on!! Thanks agin!

    • With Cov’s home record as good as it is, you have to believe that they’ll have too much in the tank for Cambridge, fired up as they will be.

      I hope we’ll all be reading about a Cov win on Sunday! Thanks, for your kind words, Darren…and thank you for taking the time to come across and leave a comment.

  5. Tim I found your blog for the first time just as you said your were taking a break, so pleased to hear from you again.
    Reference this Saturday’s game: I too am looking at it with statistical Championship hopes. If we win against Cambridge then with just eight games left we have a cushion of two, or even three, defeats to play with and even if we lose at DMP it’ll be one or two and with no more than three away games left the odds must surely be …… That means especially the home fans have a big role to play in securing the remaining home wins.
    Bill Rumball

    • Hi Bill! A win on Saturday certainly moves us a step nearer but Plymouth could do us a huge favour as well – momentum continues to build but the Cov camp continues to take one game at a time and whilst excitement is growing all the time amongst supporters, the players won’t be getting so carried away.Good job too – in my head we’re already pushing the top teams in the Championship!

  6. Hi Tim, good to have you back and to to have something worthwhile to read in the mornings. I’m not one for correcting others – I put my teacher’s red pen away a long time ago, but I do feel the compelling need to alter this one sentence to be more accurate, if you don’t mind:

    “Occasionally, there are those who take exception to it, but that’s their problem and not mine.”

    Cheers

    • Lol…I know what you mean but better not! I know I’ve said it before, but thank you for your support and for sharing your thoughts on the blog.

  7. Tim, early mornings in the last few weeks have been a little mundane, however it is now a lot brighter with todays blog. As always it is interesting and informative and I hope you can keep us hooked as and when you see fit.

    • Hi Ian – many thanks for your kind words – it means a lot when people take the trouble to come across and leave a comment, it is always vert much appreciated. Let’s hope Cov come away with a bonus point win…a Plymouth victory would be an added bonus

  8. Lovely surprise to see your blog back Tim, (very subtle!) concur with your thoughts on Cambridge, for me the butterflies are increasing as each game approaches but I have faith in all the team and staff to take it one game at a time and achieve the targets they have planned for. #UpTheCov

    • I’m glad you thought it was subtle…! It is all about faith and belief – as much from the players and the coaches as from the supporters. Each game is becoming that much more important. I don’t have nails at the best of times…

  9. Tim – such a pleasant surprise! Love the analogy. They’re not always in disguise! Rather nervous about this one. It should be a cracker.
    Richard.

    • You’re right, they’ re not always in disguise! The drier it gets the more confident I become! Here’s to a great afternoon’s rugby…

    • Hi Dave…many thanks for coming over. As a long time reader of the blog I am hugely grateful of your support. Many thanks!

  10. Great to see another post from you Tim.
    I agree with you that Cambridge will be a test although as long as we are on our game, one that we can win with 5 points.

    • Agreed, Paul – at our best we should beat all-comers. However, some of the results this season have shown just how much teams can up their game if we’re not on ours. Thanks for the kind comments and support, as ever…

    • Hi Mick – lovely to hear from you – see you on Saturday, hopefully. Every game is becoming more and more significant…squeaky bum time again

    • Hi Pilsbury – many thanks for taking to time to pop over. It is what makes the blog for me. Many thanks!

  11. Very much welcome back, Tim. A very pleasant surprise to see the post this morning, my early morning coffee somehow tastes better again this morning 🙂

    • Thanks, Roger…actually having a coffee in Costa whilst waiting for Sue to have her hair done! Win win for both of us!

    • Many thanks, FTS – your support is really appreciated and it’s comments like yours (and the fact that you take the time to come over to leave one) that makes writing the blog so worthwhile…

  12. Systems back to normal, great blog as always Tim. Always look on the bright side of life, and you have brightened my day already. 🏉🌹🍾🍺🍻

  13. A good read as usual. Trust you will just post as and when you can in future. It should be a pleasure, not a chore! Thanks

  14. A very welcome return … and made my morning coffee, waiting for my class to arrive, a pleasure again! THANK YOU! Roll on Saturday afternoon.

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