When halibuts get in the way of a good game…
You make one small mistake…
Okay, maybe more than just the one, but even so…
A game defined by the presence of the odd Hippoglossus or two is one that tends to be remembered for the wrong reasons.
Cam seeing a lot of the halibut Cov defence strong as we win the pen— Tim Smith (@CowshedTim) February 17, 2018
No escaping that was one of my better ones – thanks to Paul Smith and Toothbrush Dave for retweeting it….not!
I have to admit, I was caught out hook, line and sinker on that one. I was certainly floundering for a while…and I’m not codding.
(Huge thanks to John Cole for providing the photos in today’s blog – they are stunning. He’s very much the main man…).
Saturday was a good day to be down at the Butts Park Arena, with Coventry winning yet again and everyone aware of what was unfolding down at The Brickfields.
Come the end of the game there were some very smiley faces as supporters and players mingled post-match. Cambridge had fought hard and given Cov a thorough test and it was a relief to have got through the game relatively unscathed in the end; the Plymouth result was the icing on the cake.
Pre-match it was all a little subdued and with minutes to go until kick off, the feeling from where we were sitting was that it wasn’t going to be the biggest of crowds. As it was, the attendance 1689 was a pretty decent one in the end, although still below the season’s average. A couple of months ago I was forecasting attendances to increase over the rest of the season, provided we remained in contention for the promotion spot, But that’s not quite the way it has turned out – and to be honest I’m not sure why. Maybe there are those who prefer to watch the Development Squad play elsewhere and then decide not to make the second half of the senior game at the BPA, although in reality I’m not sure that would account for such big a drop in numbers.
Coventry are still not certain of winning the league by any means and with the team playing some expansive rugby even in conditions that aren’t ideal, I’m surprised more haven’t come along to watch them. It’s not as if there hasn’t been a fair amount in the press of late, what with Harry Walker’s birthday celebrations and a couple of featurettes on the local news focussing on the club’s renaissance. It makes me wonder how many more we might attract next season should we be playing in the Championship.
Not quite so many as I’d originally hoped is probably the answer.
Despite all the rain that has fallen over the last couple of weeks, I thought the pitch stood up to the pounding it took on Saturday remarkably well. The photo to the left was taken well before the players had even come out to warm up and clearly illustrates how soft the pitch was in places – I think the senior squad had trained at the ground on Thursday evening and churned up the turf a little by the look of it.
Once again, Eric must have worked extremely hard to get the pitch to such a playable state and although it cut up a bit, the game was in no way the worse for it, other than a couple of scrums having to be reset as players presumably lost their footing a little. I have to say, I feared the worst before the game, but I needn’t have worried.
I think everyone appreciated the new scoreboard. It’s only a temporary one before we get the real deal next season (which includes a video screen as I understand it!) but it worked, and worked well, which makes it far more effective than its predecessor already. The fact that it’s possible to incorporate the badges onto the screen makes for a far more impressive display and if this is simply a stop gap, then you have to wonder what the final version will look like.
It is long overdue though.
By 2.30 pm it was still relatively quiet and nowhere near as many supporters had taken their places in the main stand as would normally be the case with 30 minutes remaining to kick off.
The adjacent photo shows the main stand looking somewhat depleted of supporters with less than 30 minutes to go and I did wonder if we’d even match the attendance of just under 1400 hundred for the previous home game, when bad weather and the first round of the Six Nations played a part in reducing the crowd numbers somewhat for the Fylde fixture.
However, whether it was a question of supporters arriving later than usual or the bars being packed out before the game, I’m not sure. Anyway, by the time the players were leaving the pitch to return to the changing room before the game, the stand had filled appreciably and the players received a rousing send-off as expectations increasing in the final few minutes prior to kick-off.
This might well be another one of those me things, but I always like to see a response from the players during these moments, or when they come off during the game. There are few times that the players and crowd ever interact positively – and when they do, well it guarantees loyalty from the supporters. Some players remain in the zone I expect and probably aren’t always aware of what is happening outside of their own involvement in the game, so it’s not everyone who does respond. Players like Makaafi are so popular with the crowd because not only do they wear their hearts on their sleeves out on the pitch, they also acknowledge the supporters too. It’s a symbiotic relationship really, the one feeding off the other.
The Coventry players are particularly good at responding to the crowd and I love the way that players are more than happy to stand and chat after the game not just with their own family and friends, but also with supporters who just wish to shake a hand or pat the shoulder of a player in acknowledgment of his efforts during the game. It has become more noticeable over the last couple of seasons, but I guess a winning team is always more likely to hang around after a game than a losing one.
One of my fondest memories is of watching a 10 year old Sam, autograph book in hand, dashing from one player to another during the Evesy era, asking players for their signatures or wanting a photo taken with one or more of his heroes. Several weeks running he’d get the players to sign something – his autograph book, a programme, a tatty piece of paper he’d had screwed up in his pocket for days in readiness for the signings. They must have known he’d had several autographs beforehand but they never once complained. Somewhere I’ve got a photo of Rob Hardwick standing one side of Sam and Julian Horrobin the other, each pulling one of Sam’s ears as he proudly holds the Division 3 winner’s trophy that the team received after the Reading game over at their ground.
Cherished memories for son and father both.
Such moments are treasured, so I was really pleased to see some of John Coles’ photos this week feature the players with some of the younger supporters:
It wouldn’t take much for someone at the club to produce a competition – a blank page in the programme other than for the numbers 1-30, against which children under the age of 12 have to gain the signature of 30 different players over the course of a season. When completed, the youngsters receive a fee pin badge or something of that nature…
…or perhaps it might be a competition to draw a picture of your favourite player (Latu and his hair would definitely be the most popular entry), or provide 10 questions you’d ask of one of the players (the winner gets to do the interview). It’s just a simple but effective way of firing the imagination of some of our younger supporters – and there are so many different ways it could, and possibly should, be done.
And once fired, the light remains lit for ever – just ask Sam.
I can see a post in the offing on that subject…
Anyway, as the final whistle blew there was a sense that this had been an important afternoon in terms of deciding the outcome of Cov’s season.
A win against a team more than capable of causing an upset and results elsewhere helping our cause.
Just how much of a help, though, remains to be seen
The results of the Man of the Match award for the game on Saturday are as follows:
Tom Jubb – 30%
Phil Nilsen – 16%
Alex Grove – 15%
Rob Knox– 13%
The sponsors opted for Rob Knox, but as far as this poll was concerned Tom Jubb, or Jubby as he is so affectionately known, was the clear winner.
Jubby is something of an enigma really…at times he looks out of sorts and just a few weeks ago he was playing his rugby with the Development Squad and it seemed for all the world as if he would struggle to get back into the side with Dacres and Oram looking to be the first choice pairing and Tom Poole set to return shortly. Yet here we are, just a couple of games later with Jubby winning the Man of the Match Award and looking to be every bit the player who finished last season so confidently alongside Tom Poole in that 8 game winning run.
Interestingly, the last two MotM awards, those of Brett Daynes and Tom Jubb, have gone to what are essentially ‘squad’ players. That might sound somewhat disparaging but it really isn’t meant to be – I just mean that they’re probably not the first choice in their particular position. It serves to emphasise that with the current squad, a first choice player can be rested and a new player brought in with little or no disruption to the team. There is so much strength in depth at the moment that even with the injuries we’ve picked up, other than at scrum half where both Pete White and Dave Brazier were out for lengthy periods, we’ve been able to field strong sides from our squad without having to rely too heavily of loanees or drs.
I guess that 4 and 5 are positions that Rowland Winter might well want to strengthen should we make the Championship next season. Much depends on whether there will be an increase in the size of the squad or whether it will remain as it is, in which case 5 second rows might be something of a luxury and one that Cov just can’t afford. Jubby has stepped up onto the plate these last couple of games and reminded us all of just what a good player he can be – he’s such a quick and athletic player to have in the second row and whilst he must frustrate the coaches at times given his desire to roam a little too freely, he also puts himself into attacking positions as we saw on Saturday.
He’s also a genuinely nice bloke who always has time to say hello – and if he gets to read this, he also has a very persuasive partner!
Phil Nilsen seems to be taken over the mantle of Mr Consistent in these polls, regularly featuring well in the voting of late. I think supporters warm to his no-nonsense, somewhat abrasive approach and the controlled physicality he brings to the game is something that we’ve needed at times in seasons gone by (I’ve even got used to hearing the odd ‘Twat him’ during the game now!) . His skills set complements that of Scott Tolmie really well and the coaches have the luxury of two Championship hookers at their disposal…and he clearly loves being at Cov which helps!
I think Alex Grove impressed most supporters watching on Saturday, me included. I was a little worried that the combination of Grove and Stevens might be a bit one-dimensional in attack and there could be a lack of creativity in midfield, although defensively there was never going to be a great concern.
However, it was Alex Grove who unlocked the defence for one of Jubby’s tries and all afternoon he looked what he is, a class act at this level. Albert Portsmouth is always a danger, but he and his fellow three-quarters got little change out of the Coventry backs which speaks volumes for the way they played. If we can do a similar job on the Darlington back division next week we’ll make life that much easier for ourselves in what is going to be a tough, tough contest.
Much has been said of Rob Knox’s resurgence this season…and I imagine a lot of that is down to the work that Max Hartman in particular, together with Hannah and her team, have been doing to provide additional strength and conditioning to ensure he remains injury free. For much of the last 12 months under Phil Maynard and Scott Morgan, Rob was playing with a series of injuries but over the last 12 months he appears to have worked hard in the gym and looks physically much stronger than he did.
The RW and the coaches obviously saw something in Rob that others had missed and whilst the decision to move him out wide didn’t go down too well initially, especially with supporters, that has now been vindicated with a series of barnstorming displays out on the wing that have made him such a difficult player to defend against and one of the leading try scorers in the league.
I’m sure he’ll love it in the Championship should we gain promotions in April.
Whilst there were some other notable performances on Saturday, I thought Pete White had another outstanding game. Jubby was my MotM, but Pete was up there alongside the other three for me. I think the arrival of Tom Kessell in his absence reminded Pete of just what it takes to be a top scrum half and since his return he has looked even sharper than before his injury. Pete adds real pace to the game and his quick pass gives Will Maisey or Tony Fenner just that split second of extra time to weigh up the options. He is another who plays from the heart as well as the head and he’s the kind of player who will always give his all, no matter what the situation.
Another two years of Pete at Cov is good news indeed.
He and Dave Brazier are another Nilsen and Tolmie, although at the moment Pete has the edge for me. I’ve not seen a great deal of DB but he’s always performed well in a Cov shirt when selected.
This week’s training should be all the better for last weekend’s results – here’s hoping there isn’t a halibut in sight.