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On the defensive…a rash promise…Tom Jubb in the limelight

Great to see Tom Jubb get his couple of minutes in the limelight on the Coventry website this week.

Following his performances over the last few games, it is much deserved.

Whilst much of what he said was encouraging, both from the team’s point of view and his own, one thing he said about the game on Saturday particularly stood out and it’s something that’s worth developing.

Talking generally about Coventry’s performance against Darlington, Jubby (Tom just doesn’t sound right for some reason) mentioned that in the build-up to the game, the players

 set our stall out with some really good defence, winning the collisions and being really physical, and when you do that it gives you such a good platform to play off and do all the fancy things to score tries.

…which is precisely what they did.

Much has already been said about Coventry’s defence and rightly so, but what I haven’t seen so widely mentioned is that this was done in the absence, either on the pitch or in the dugout, of Coventry’s defensive guru, Luke Narraway.

Over the season we’ve all got used to seeing Luke marshal Cov’s defensive lines either as a player on the field of play or as coach from the side-lines. In fact few players are as vocal as LN in full flow.

But he was elsewhere on Saturday and in that sense the performance  was all the more pleasing.

In some respects, it was the game in which Coventry’s defence came of age.

I think we all believed beforehand that the game was going to be tough, but when the teams were announced on the Friday and Luke Narraway’s name was missing both from the starting  XV and from the bench, it suddenly looked that little bit harder.

Back in pre-season,  there were some supporters who were undecided as to the impact Luke Narraway might have this season and one or two even questioned his motives for coming to Cov. I was lucky enough to see some of the pre-season training and from the off Luke was leading sessions and having a clear presence on the training ground.

And when he spoke, everyone listened – standing on the touchline the respect was almost tangible.

And as the season got underway and supporters started to see his influence on the pitch and hear it from the technical area if he wasn’t involved in the game, then it became obvious that his appointment was a masterstroke  on the part of Rowland Winter and Jon Sharp.

Quite how they managed to persuade him to come to Cov is still something of a mystery – and no, it wasn’t because of an inflated salary, of that I’m sure.


Whatever the reason, Luke Narraway has helped turn Cov into one of the strongest sides in terms of our defence  to have played in National One since our relegation from the Championship in 2010…

…the statistics prove that to be the case.

Year                         Team                                Points conceded           Av. per game
2017                        Plymouth                         523                                    17.43
2016                        Blackheath                      488                                    16.2
2015                        Ealing Trailfinders         518                                    17.3
2014                        Rosslyn Park                   413                                    13.7
2013                        Ealing Trailfinders         612                                    20.4
2012                        Jersey                               363                                     12.1
2011                        Barking                            461                                    15.3

The above table highlights the teams conceding fewest points in each of the 7 completed seasons since Coventry joined National One, together with the total points conceded and average points conceded per game.

One of the things that stands out is that it isn’t necessarily a case of the promoted side having the strongest defence (in terms of points conceded) . In the two previous seasons both the promoted sides, Hartpury and Richmond,  leaked more points than at least one of the teams below them.

This season, Coventry have conceded far fewer points than any other team – 335 in 23 games, at an average of 14.5, which currently puts us behind Rosslyn Park and Jersey. If our current average points conceded per game is maintained until the end of the season, we could expect to concede a further 101 points, giving a projected total of just 438.

However, another couple of ‘nillings’ and it could be under the 400 mark which would certainly be a realistic target…

Jersey, the most parsimonious of all the teams since 2010, only scored 918 points for the season, at an average of 30.6 points per game. Cov, on the other hand, are up above 42 points per game which suggests to me that perhaps watching  Cov in 2018 is a little more entertaining than watching Jersey in 2012 would have been – as a neutral anyway.

And by the end of the season, should that average be maintained, then we’re looking at a  very healthy projected total of  1,220 points in all.

Over 1200 points scored and less than 400 conceded…I’ll settle for that.

There’s the target…and here’s the deal.

If Cov manage that…namely 1220 points scored and fewer than 400 conceded come the end of the season, then I’ll sponsor a match day ball next season.

I’ve no idea how much that costs and probably should have found out first before committing myself, but what the heck. Hitting the target would mean Championship rugby has been achieved, so it would be well worth it.

Although I guess sponsoring a ball in the Championship is going to cost more than in National One…

Damn…what have I done?

Should Cov confirm promotion sooner rather than later, I might be one of the few people in the BPA hoping Hull Ionians take us apart in the final game of the season.


That Coventry were able to prevent Darlington from scoring  is real cause for optimism. The second best team in the league, and having scored more points at home than any other team with the exception of Cov, well that’s some feat.

To do it in Luke Narraway’s absence is particularly pleasing.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I was more than a little concerned that without LN present to organise the players, should it be required, Cov might be a little more tentative in defence, but that wasn’t the case at all and when Darlington did press the Coventry line after our opening score, the players were immense.  The home side failed time and time again to break through, despite Cov conceding three penalties in our 22 and two line-outs and a scrum.

All in 10 minute period.

It was awesome to watch…

…one of the stand-out moments of the season for me.

However, whilst many of the players and other coaches have been quick to recognise the influence that Narraway has had this season, it’s also worth mentioning the work that Craig Newby did last season after the departure of James Pritchard in December 2016. Coventry had struggled defensively up to Newby’s arrival, having already lost 5 or 6 games by then (out of 9 in total for the season).

Along with Nick Walshe and the other coaches, CN brought some stability to the defence and his influence was mentioned by Rowland Winter as a key  factor in creating the platform for the run of 8 consecutive wins which Cov achieved in the run-in to the end of the season.


I’m nothing if not fickle…

When Nile Dacres and George Oram were so impressive in the second row earlier in the season, I couldn’t see anyway back for Tom Jubb.

George Oram’s  physicality and ability to carry the ball made him a key member of the team before Christmas. He featured a couple of times in the blog’s Man of the Match polls and he looked set to become the first choice lock alongside Nile Dacres.

Jubby had to sit it out whilst he recovered from injury and when he did return, he picked up another in his first game back which meant another period of recuperation and a spell out on loan. The signs weren’t promising. However, he’s nothing if not a realist and knew he had to bide his time.

And good things always come to he who waits:

I’ve just had to wait my turn because you don’t make changes just for changes sake – it’s got to be all about the team, hasn’t it?
It’s great that we’ve got options all over the place and the competition for places is so strong, because it does mean that coming down the final stretch we’ve got people ready and raring to go and not carrying the fatigue of having played loads of games

Meanwhile, George Oram continued to catch the eye and impress.

But Big George picked up an injury himself.

Enter Jubby.

And it’s as if he’s never been away.

4 tries in two games, two Man of the Match awards (one official, one unofficial) and suddenly he’s made the selectors’ task somewhat difficult should George Oram be fully fit next week (he came in for the second half against DMP).

I’m a big Tom Jubb fan as I’ve mentioned before – he and Tom Poole were immense after Christmas last season and Jubby is very much a crowd pleaser. I don’t know enough about the game to comment on the technical aspects of his play, but suffice it to say he puts himself about on the pitch, whether it be sprinting for the ball from the restart or putting in the big hits when defending.

But equally, George Oram is very much a team man. Not quite so charismatic on the pitch, but always putting in a big shift and seeming to relish the pick up and drives or just making the hard yards. He is very much a key member of this squad and, rather like Phil Nilsen, when he is fired up, the Covdog in him is unleashed. And how.

George Oram is another player I love to watch.

I’m hoping both will still be here next season, together with Tom Poole, if he is able to recover his fitness. All four second rows look as if they could do a job in the Championship, although it might well be that Rowland Winter will bring in a seasoned second rower, someone with proven ability at that level or above…another Narraway figure, perhaps.

There were rumours that Jim Hamilton might be on his way to the BPA for a short loan spell around October/November, rumours that certainly weren’t denied…and maybe it’s that kind of player to whom RW will turn should we make the Championship next season.

But I’d still like to see Oram and Jubb here, too.

I was pleased to see Jubby talking about next season and the possibility of Championship rugby in this week’s interview. When asked by John Wilkinson about a  return to the Championship, his reply seemed encouraging

The last year I played there was when I was at Plymouth, and it didn’t go very well at all. Since then I’ve had a goal to get back to the Championship and into that environment, and to right those wrongs….It will be a very tough year if we get there

If we get there…if we get there…

..promising, is that.

And as he mentioned in the interview:

you don’t make changes just for changes sake – it’s got to be all about the team, hasn’t it?

Jubby on the charge against Cambridge – courtesy of John Coles

And with Jubby back to the kind of form that made him such an important member of the side that finished the season so strongly last year, he’ll certainly make it difficult for the coaches to bring back George Oram into the side. If it is all about the team, then so longs as we keep winning and players like Jubby keep performing, then it’s going to be tough for  those not in the match day squad to get a look-in.

Rowland Winter seems to have the ability to make a couple of changes most games without it detracting from the overall strength of the side and maybe that’s the answer -giving players a rest and enabling the fringe players to get some much needed game time. But neither Jubby and Oram are fringe players, so I’m not sure how you square that circle when Dacres, Oram, Jubb and Poole are all fit.

Perhaps where there are three or more players available for one position, the likelihood is that one of them will be injured at anyone time – that’s pretty much how it’s been this season in the second row, back row and centres.

Such strength in depth, though, is probably one of the reasons why we have been able to maintain such high levels of performance when in the past we might have had spells in a season when we have gone on a decent run, but when tiredness or injury has set in, then we’ve been found out. That was very much the case when we went on the 18 game unbeaten run in 2014/15. only to lose six of the last 10 games.

As Jubby points out:

It’s great that we’ve got options all over the place and the competition for places is so strong, because it does mean that coming down the final stretch we’ve got people ready and raring to go and not carrying the fatigue of having played loads of games

Here’s hoping he’s back with us next season…in the Championship.




2 replies »

  1. It’s really good to see Jubby performing so well at this late stage of the season, and wouldn’t it be good to see Tom Poole get a couple of games before the season ends. Cov seem to be getting better and better as the season progresses, which is great to see.

    By the way Tim. Have you noticed that Elvis Costello is doing a few dates in the UK in June? Nottingham is the nearest venue. Cheers.

    • Agree about Tom Poole – I hope he gets a couple of games under his belt, although whether that is enough to get himself a place in the squad next season given the massive step up is unclear – I hope so though.

      I’m hoping to get to see Costello but I’m not sure if I’m going to be about – it’s a very limited tour which is a shame but that’s in the nature of the man these days. Will have to wait to confirm is I’m going to be around in June…thanks for the head’s up though, Much appreciated – very much a case of ‘Boy With A Problem’…

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