This is the happy house…and we’re happy here

14Apr - by Tim - 0 - In Uncategorized

This is the happy house — we’re happy here
In the happy house — oh it’s such fun
We’ve come to play in the happy house
And waste a day in the happy house
It never rains

We’ve come to scream in the happy house
We’re in a dream in the happy house
We’re all quite sane
This is the happy house — we’re happy here

Siouxsie And The Banshees – Happy House

 

Dillingham Park hasn’t been the happiest of hunting grounds for Coventry since Ampthill’s promotion to National One in 2015 and we have yet to win there on our travels. And even despite Cov’s record breaking season, a win at Ampthill today is no formality.

But it’s a happy house here at Cov these days. We’re happy here.

And confident, too.

Ampthill’s strength lies very much in their forwards and it could well be pretty attritional in the opening 30 minutes or so, with the home side’s experienced pack (and some might add ageing) likely to cause us some difficulties.

However, if we win the sort of ball that we’ve enjoyed for most of the season, once we start giving the ball some width, my money is on us exposing Ampthill’s less threatening three-quarters, with the obvious exception of Nigel Baker, the ex-Coventry wing man, who is always a danger.

However, with James Pritchard also playing out on the wing for much of the season, good as he is, Coventry might have the pace on the wing to cause the former Coventry player/coach a few problems.

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The walk from the clubhouse to the pitch at Ampthill is certainly different…

Ampthill is one of a number of grounds in National One at the moment that has no sheltered area whatsoever for supporters. It’s also one of the most picturesque and the walk from the club house to the pitch is probably the most memorable of any in all the years I’ve supported Cov.

But despite it’s natural beauty, the pitch and surrounding area, reminiscent of an amphitheatre of old, is extremely exposed. On a warm summer’s day it must be a sight to behold, but when the wind is blowing and there’s rain in the air, well it’s something of a leveller.

Memories of last season still linger, especially the injury to Olly Povoas which was potentially so very serious. With no apparent direct ambulance access, or a lack of ambulance support, Olly had to lie strapped to a stretcher for the best part of 40 minutes, protected only by a Perspex bus-style shelter used as the bench for the coaches/replacements.

Facilities aren’t great pitchside, but to be fair there is a kiosk that sells hot drinks as I recall

I’m sure the safety procedures will have changed since then, but it did leave an indelible memory and one that has since made me question several times whether there should be minimum requirements for a club to meet before promotion into a semi-professional league is allowed.

Coventry’s away day form, other than at Blackheath, has been impressive this season. The away day blues that befell the club in the first half of last season have long since been banished and the club will rightly fear no one at this level.

The performance a few weeks ago against Darlington up at the Northern Echo Arena was the best I’ve seen from a Coventry side for many a long year. Whilst today will be another tough encounter against the side sitting third in the league having only lost three games at home all season, another performance of that quality will ensure Cov bring home another 5 points on their travels.

Indeed, should Coventry repeat that display against Darlington next season, well there could be one or two Championship sides who will be in for something of a surprise,

And here’s the thing for me. How many of the side selected to play Ampthill today will be first choice selections next seasons?

I’ve seen it written in recent weeks that the current Coventry squad could probably survive as it is in the Championship even without further recruitment.

With little experience of watching any Championship rugby over the last 8 seasons, that’s not something on which I can comment BUT if that is the case, then the club’s cause will undoubtedly be strengthened with the addition of the first 5 new players announced for next season.

Good as Brown and Boulton are, the arrival of Beech and Gibbons, together with the presence of Jeannot, Litchfield, Titchard-jones and Higgins (although the last three names have yet to be confirmed) is going to create some real competition for places among the props. Phil Boulton has been there, done it and outworn the proverbial t-shirt at Championship level, but for the rest of the current crop of props, regular Championship rugby is something rather less familiar.

Jack Ram is certainly going to be a major force next year but with Jack Preece the current holder of the no 7 shirt, it will be really interesting to see how  RW and the coaches square the circle to allow both players to impact on Coventry’s Championship season. Jack P is clearly a Championship quality player as is Jack R obviously, so there are plenty of options to rotate the two to ensure that neither is overused. Like Ram, Preece has also made the Championship Dream Team (on two occasions) so it looks like we might well be competitive in this area, with Latu Makaafi still a presence despite being on the wrong side of 35 and Luke Narraway also likely also to be involved. I still think we need another big specialist no 8 as Narraway is unlikely to start every game, but we’ll have to wait to see if the coaches have prioritised cover for LN as well.

Andrew Bulumakau is another who looks as if he’s going to have a big part to play next season. Injuries and absences have meant we haven’t had a consistent pairing of centres pretty much all season. Sam Tuitupou has unfortunately played far fewer games than we might have expected, Heath Stevens is only now enjoying a decent run after his unlucky break and Anthony Matoto has been swapped been centre and wing and has since moved on.

Today’s pairing of Fenner and Stevens probably wouldn’t be the first choice option in National One, in the Championship even less so. Stevens and Bulumakau at the moment would appear the best fit, with Sam available in the final 30 to be the wrecking ball if needed. If no one else is brought in at fly half (although if the rumours are true, there is someone pencilled in already) then Will M and Tony F would share the no 10 shirt. Grove might well be the one to miss out, although he’s been Mr Consistent for me this season.

Will has had another very impressive season but I am a little concerned that at ‘only’ 68% accuracy (77% last season), his place kicking hasn’t quite been the dominant force it was last year…in tight games, and there will be a few of those next season I imagine, the importance of an accurate place kicker can’t be overlooked. In fairness to Will though, kicking conditions in many of the games post-Christmas have been awful.

Out wide there seem to be fewer options. Alex Grove has been switched from centre for today’s game, with young Kwaku Asiedu on the bench. I’d like to see Kwaku given more game time, but whether he’s ready for the step up to the Championship is a different matter. With Matoto no longer at the club,  Junior Bulumakau  looks likely to be very much in the mix, but I still feel there’s at least one more winger to be brought in.

Last September seems a long time ago and yet the season has flown by and here we are now, all set to embark on the last away game of the season. Ampthill is one of those grounds that would have been virtually impossible for me to get to without organised coach travel  – and there would have been a fair few others as well this season. The Supporters’ Club have been something of a godsend in that respect as far as I’m concerned and probably for a fair few other Cov supporters as well. To those Cov fans who have yet to experience traveling with the SC, I would strongly urge them to give it a go next season, it’s always an enjoyable experience whether Cov win, lose or draw.

Quite how away days will work next season if some games are on Friday evenings, for instance, remains to be seen but hopefully there will be enough interest even on a Friday to get a least one coach up and running.

But that’s for the future…today it’s all about the trip down to Ampthill and securing the double against one of the stronger sides in National One. Missing the likes of Trimble, Makaafi, Narraway, Tuitupou, Brazier, Oram, Jeannot et al doesn’t make it any easier but such is the depth of the current squad, the team should have enough in the tank to overcome a home side determined to reverse the somewhat humiliating defeat back in December when they were outclassed in all phases of the game, losing 63-14.

It will certainly be a tighter game this time round, but I still fancy Cov to win by 20.

Up the Cov

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I’ll be tweeting updates from Ampthill as usual, should the phone signal allow.

Both Ampthill and Coventry provide feeds via Twitter. Ampthill’s feed is @AmpthillRufc,  Coventry’s is @CoventryRugby – both offer updates of scores and key moments, although Ampthill’s looks to be somewhat Spartan judging by the tweets from their last home game.

However, if it’s a commentary of sorts that you’re after, then by all means follow my Twitter feed, although in fairness it is somewhat manic at times, with fingers and thumbs mostly working together flat out to provide a little more detail to the game, one that gets somewhat personalised and emotive at times.

And one that is plagued by the odd ‘halibut’ or two…

My feed is @CowshedTim.

So, if you are looking for no more than score updates and the odd comment, then certainly both clubs will give you what you’re looking for.

However, if you find yourself surfing the net trying to find out anything you can about the game, mine might be a different option.

The tweets, when combined, make a crude ‘commentary’ of sorts, but be warned though, you might get well over a 130 plus tweets during the course of the game, weather/signal permitting – so if that is too much, mute me and use the two clubs’ official feeds. Whilst I don’t for a minute imagine either club would recommend mine, having all three running will give you a pretty good account of what is happening – far better than you’ll get from anywhere else on social media.

If Twitter isn’t something you use, the  Messageboard usually carries updates, or you could get them first hand from rolling-maul.com, together will updates from all the other games in National One.

National One Score Updates

Please bear in mind, I am a bit one-eyed when I tweet, covering more than just the scores as they occur and I do try and get across the mood of the game as well as any scores as they happen. Do let me know if you are following my tweets, if there aren’t many than I’ll reduce the number, although it’s something that I do enjoy doing!

Apologies in advance for some of the typos that appear. For some though, deciphering my tweets adds to the occasion.

If you aren’t familiar with Twitter or don’t have an account, then on any post in this blog (www.coventryrfc.me) all the tweets will appear in real-time on the far right hand side of the page. Click on them to increase their size.

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We’ve come to scream in the happy house
We’re in a dream in the happy house
We’re all quite sane
This is the happy house — we’re happy here

Coventry supporters are indeed happy at the moment, although it might be a step to far to say we’re all quite sane…have met the Supporters’ Club Committee yet?

In the late 70s and early ’80s, along with the likes of Elvis Costello, The Cure and other post punk outfits, Siouxsie was right up there with the best and I was lucky enough to see her on a couple of occasions. Hong Kong Gardens, The Passengers and the haunting Christine were great iconic singles of their day, but Happy House remains my favourite.

Was tempted to use The Cure’s ‘A Forrest’ given the walk to the pitch today,. but Siouxsie had yet to make an appearance in the blog…

Until today…

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