Coventry have 8 games of rugby left to play this season.
Just 640 minutes.
With effectively a 16 point lead over nearest challengers, Darlington Mowden Park.
Yet again, not only did Cov do everything that was asked of them, results elsewhere went our way with Plymouth doing what we all hoped they would and beating Darlington, denying them even a losing bonus point.
The rugby gods continue to smile on us.
It is really beginning to look as if it is indeed our turn…
Yet in reality that there’s little about Coventry’s performances this season that is reliant on some sort of divine intervention. Whilst as a supporter I continue to spend time looking at what is happening to the teams below us in the table, Coventry just focus on the task in hand. Week after week, win after win…
Cov just aren’t in the business of having to rely on other teams to win promotion.
They’ll win it and win it well…no favours needed, none asked for, thank you very much.
Twenty one games won this season – already more than we won in the course of the whole of the last season. This year they aren’t leaving anything to chance…it’s relentless.
If you keep winning your own games, well it makes no odds what happens elsewhere. It might take a little longer, but there’s only ever going to be one outcome over the course of the season…you’re going to end up topping the table.
Me, I’m getting impatient. The quicker we can finish this the better. Another Darlington loss, another game nearer promotion, another games less to have to worry about. Fortunately, whilst that is an understandable attitude, it’s not one that the players or coaches share – at least not publicly anyway.
They know they are masters of their own destiny.
I’m sure they will have been delighted with the news that DMP lost, but they know that whatever the result from Brickfields, all they need to do is keep winning. Stay calm, be professional in all that they do and let everyone else do the worrying. I think most supporters are happy to fill that role for the club.
8 more games. 5 more wins.
No need to worry about what is happening elsewhere – although that won’t stop the likes of me, Eeyore that I am.
Such is the position that the players have got themselves into now, all they have to do is believe in their own ability as a squad to do what is necessary…no one else comes into the equation anymore. The coaches have got the mentality just right, the pressure doesn’t seem to have phased the players at all.
In a way, the result down in Blackheath, tough as it was for everyone connected with the club, was crucial. It was the test that the players needed. Had they the mental toughness to bounce back, or was that a sign that the cracks were opening up and the squad would struggle under the nerve-crumbling pressure a team topping the table for so long is always under?
In the weeks that have followed that result, the players have proved that they have that ‘bouncebackability’ factor, a word that originates from the round ball game and was first used by Iain Dowie, when he managed Crystal Palace. It’s a word he created to describe a degree of mental toughness; the strength of character to come back from a defeat.
How the team would respond after the Blackheath result was going to be crucial to the outcome of the season. Another six consecutive wins since then says it all and the coaches must take a lot of the accolades there for ensuring that the ethos of the club is one that very much promotes self-belief and faith in your own abilities as a player and in those around you, even if results go against you.
One poor game doesn’t make you a poor team…we’re all entitled to one bad day at the office.
In yesterday’s post I wrote something to the effect that if Cambridge were to win yesterday, it wouldn’t be because they were the more skilful side – performances over the course of the whole season show Cov are the best side in the league, of that there is little doubt. No, it would be that Cambridge wanted it more, that they were mentally the tougher side…
…it’s what all those teams we have yet to play will be hoping for. A mental frailty that sees us implode, as was the case back in the first half of the 2015/16 season.
And fair play to Cambridge yesterday.
The came here to test us and did exactly that, showing signs of the kind of performance that has seen them beat teams like Ampthill and Plymouth – and with Darlington still to travel down to Volac Park in March, they might well be adding them to the list as well on this showing.
At 19-12 going in to half time, Cambridge were still very much in the game. In the final 10 minutes of that first half they had started to show that not only were they a tough team to break down defensively, they also had the potential to create difficulties for Cov in attack as well and fully deserved their try just before the break.
Although territorially Coventry had much the better of the opening 40 minutes and limited Cambridge to only a couple of spells in our half (both of which they scored from), the visitors were resolute in defence and for all the ball we saw, we failed to make great use of it at times.
Coventry were 14-3 up after just 10 minutes and at that point it looked like the floodgates might open, but this Cambridge side are nothing if not tenacious and despite leaking two early tries I thought their defence was well-organised and made it tough-going at times for Cov. The home side had to be patient after that initial start and all credit to Cambridge for only conceding the one try in the remaining 30 minutes of that first half. We didn’t always help ourselves, giving the ball away unnecessarily on occasions but that was partly down to the speed and ability of the Cambridge defence.
At the breakdown, Cambridge looked noticeably quicker and managed to win a decent amount of turnover ball and they didn’t look phased by playing the league leaders in their own backyard at all.
Yet again, despite a number of kicks to the corner from penalties, we weren’t able to get our catch and drive working and credit to Cambridge for doing their homework there. What was such an effective weapon before Christmas now seems to be misfiring somewhat and it’s something we might well need when scoring opportunities become even more of a premium when we visit the likes of Plymouth and Darlington in the coming weeks.
Despite having a lot of territorial dominance in that first half, Cambridge still saw a fair amount of the ball and one of the real positives for me was that on several occasions we pinned Cambridge back in their own 22 for long periods and our defence, up quickly, put increasing amounts of pressure on the opposition. I’m not altogether sure Cambridge got their tactics quite right, often choosing to try and run the ball out of their own 22, even when the Coventry defence was seemingly impenetrable at times.
On several occasions, having gone through phase after phase and making little ground, the pressure built up on them and when they did kick, they found little distance. Maybe clearing their lines and finding better distance earlier might have been the better option for them?
Cambridge did seem wary of kicking deep though, and James Stokes saw far less of the ball than he would normally expect. Cambridge will know James from old and be fully aware of the danger he can create from anywhere on the pitch, so that might have been a factor in Cambridge’s decision not to kick as much as we might have expected, given the pressure they were sometimes under.
When we had the ball, Cambridge battled hard and were able to compete effectively at the breakdown. I thought we moved the ball well for much of the game, but Cambridge defended well, too.
After Tom Jubb’s opening try, it took a moment of magic from Cov to unlock the Cambridge defence again, with Rob Knox finishing off a training ground move that saw the ball shipped out quickly from the lineout through a flurry of hands before Rob dotted the ball down. From where we were in the main stand it all unfolded incredibly quickly – it’s one of those that you’d have to see again to know exactly what happened, but it was a move right out of the top drawer and, in fairness, it needed to be to unlock the Cambridge defence.
Cov’s backs looked sharp but perhaps did miss the pace of Max Trimble out on the wing. However, when they moved the ball out wide, they looked dangerous and were able to run angles that caused Cambridge increasing problems when the play inevitably opened up as they fell behind and were forced to chase the game. I thought there were signs that Alex Grove is beginning to find the form he was showing before he suffered his injury earlier in the season and it was a great break of his that led to the second of Tom Jubb’s tries – and didn’t Jubby have an encouraging game?
Cov’s lineout again was impressive, winning its own ball and stealing Cambridge’s on probably 3 occasions. The scrums were pretty even in the opening 40, although they seemed to take an inordinate amount of time to settle and several were reset.
Both teams were penalised initially as they tried to find each other out, but in the final quarter Coventry’s scrum gained the upper hand and by the end of the game the Cambridge pack was going backwards and Cov, in the end, were rightly awarded a penalty try.
Andy Brown seemed to pick up an injury to his leg which meant that Phil Boulton stayed on for the full 80 and he and Luc Jeannot clearly got the better of the much vaunted Cambridge front row as the game went on. Phil is a real workhorse and seldom gets a mention in post-match reports but he is such an important cog in the well-oiled Coventry machine. I know he is often recognised for his qualities as a leader, but he is one heck of a scrummager too.
It was a convincing victory in the end, but Cov had to work hard to get themselves into that position. It was a step up from the Loughborough performance and there were plenty of encouraging signs and some notable individual performances, but with the man of the Match vote still running, I’ll leave that for another post.
Despite the presence of Darren Fox and Latu Makaafi in the starting line-up and Sam Tuitupou’s entrance into the game early in the second half, there was fortunately no follow-up from that first encounter earlier in the season which saw Sam given his marching orders. Sam had a fairly quiet game but he did put in one crunching tackle which provided turnover ball (and might have led to Luke Narraway’s try but I’m a bit hazy on that one!)…
All-in-all it was a really solid performance from Coventry yesterday. They were made to work hard for the win by a determined Cambridge side that can take plenty of positives away from the game as well.
That said, Coventry certainly passed the Cambridge test…
…although perhaps with a 2:1, rather than a First.
A good result made even better by the score down at The Brickfields…
Roll on next Saturday..
Bring it on.
If you were at the game yesterday and haven’t already voted for the ‘Man of the Match’ award, please do so here.
Rob Knox 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…