Ealing Trailfinders…London Scottish…Man of the Match Award…Up and Up

24Apr - by Tim - 10 - In Uncategorized

See a pearl form, a diamond in the rough
See a bird soaring high above the flood
It’s in your blood, it’s in your blood

We’re going to get it get it together right now
Going to get it get it together somehow
Going to get it get it together and flower
oh oh oh oh oh oh

Coldplay – Up An Up

 

In last weekend’s The Rugby Paper Ealing Trailfinder’s Director of Rugby, Ben Ward, made it clear that it was his club’s ambition to:

upset Premiership rugby’s old order by mounting a concerted promotion pushThat’s hardly going to come as a great surprise given the recent announcements concerning Ealing’s recruitment for next season.

Recruitment that appears both extensive and costly.

Ealing has also announced that 23 of its current squad are on the move at the end of this month and Russell goes on to suggest that many of the players leaving have attracted interest from clubs at the next level, although from the list of destinations included only four appear to be joining the Premiership.

Perhaps it’s rather the case that Ealing is actually relieved to be releasing so many players given its desire to strengthen its squad and push for promotion next season.

It was mentioned on Saturday that James’ Gibbons’ departure to Coventry isn’t one that Ealing was especially pleased about though and, by all accounts, we’ve got ourselves one of the best scrummagers in the Championship.

Traifinders has so far made 20 new signings in readiness for next season of which 8 are from the Premiership, but there’s still a few to come in.

Said Ward:

I’ll have one more from the Premiership to announce this week and a couple from abroad as well

As RW mentioned last week at training, the time to face Ealing is definitely in the first couple of weeks of September when the squad hasn’t yet had time to really settle – bring them to the BPA in front of 2500-3000 and who knows what could happen?

As Darlington proved on Saturday, if you want it enough…

However, for me the most interesting aspect of the article wasn’t the declaration of intent but rather the comment by Ward that:

Within three years I expect Coventry to have a Premiership standard stadium

and:

(Cornish Pirates) ourselves, Yorkshire Carnegie, Coventry and Doncaster also have ambition to go up

I’m presuming he also believes London Irish are in the mix too, although they weren’t mentioned by name.

It’s interesting to hear how other clubs in the Championship perceive newly promoted Coventry and if this is typical, then it looks like they’re expecting us to hold our own next season. And that’s pretty heartening.

The season isn’t exactly finishing on the high we had hoped for and the excitement of playing in the Championship is slightly tinged for some by the cracks that we have seen appear over the last couple of weeks. Questions have already started to be asked now of a side that is looking far less like a championship-winning one than it did the first time we met Darlington just last month. It really shouldn’t take the gloss off what has been a tremendous season, but it appears to have done so for one or two.

Ealing clearly see us as a club that is on the way up and it’s heartening to read our name alongside clubs that have such strong aspirations of Premiership rugby. Like most Cov supporters, I’m well aware of discussions regarding ground improvements and of the move towards a bigger, Premiership-quality stadium. I understand the architects are already involved and plans are being drawn up, but maybe with Ben Ward’s comments there’s the suggestion that we are a little further down the line than perhaps is public knowledge? Or maybe he’s just reading more into the situation than is the reality .

Even if we’re not, it sounds like the general view, from the outside looking in, is that Cov will have Premiership facilities in just a few years and if so, well that’s a very promising sign indeed.

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Tom Little mentioned on the Messageboard that another Championship side, London Scottish, has made the decision to go back to being full-time next season. It’s a move which they are expecting to impact favourably on the club’s fortune’s in 2018/19, fortunes which have taken a dip this season. The club turned semi pro last summer following some serious financial concerns but this volte face now means only Richmond and Bedford remain part-timers.

Carson Russell’s comments, again in this week’s The Rugby Paper, gave an interesting insight into just why the Exiles have opted to return to a full-time squad.

Last season LS had a mixture of full and part-time players and:

in order to do that we’ve needed extra facilities on Tuesday and Thursday nights and more coaches, medical and S&C staff, and when you do the sums the financial difference between running a hybrid programme and a full-time one is not very much

It’s not something that I’d given any thought to, presuming that a full-time squad is always going to be far more expensive to run that a part-time one. But clearly that isn’t necessarily the case.

He goes on to say that a hybrid structure is problematic because the full-time players have to repeat much of what they are doing during the day when the part-timers are in on an evening and that hasn’t helped player development.

Russell suggests that a full-time squad of just 32, very similar in size to Coventry’s this season, together with some dual reg/loanees from the Premiership and with some help from the Army, will suffice and should secure London Scottish a higher place in the Championship next year.

By my reckoning, Cov’s squad will be marginally larger by the time the last announcement on signings is released. We now have 27 for next season ( Coventry Rugby Club Squad 2018/19 ). In addition, Rowland Winter has said that there are another 4 signings to come in together with two more players re-signing, which makes 33 in total.

What isn’t clear is whether London Scottish will be running an Academy/DS structure to supplement their first team squad. We will be (albeit in a slightly different format next season) and it’s probably safe to assume that up to another 7 or 8 on top of the 33 senior players would be available for selection if required (similar to Kailus Hutchinson, Will Priestley, Cameron Gray, Kwaku Asiedu and so on this season).

Given there are some VERY promising youngsters also coming on loan by all accounts, it’s going to be well over 40+ in all.

It seems that Scottish are a good couple of years behind us in their business plan though.

Again, according to Russell:

We’re setting out an aggressive commercial plan that will be more event-based using the assets we have as a brand….and deliver experiences for sponsors rather than just put their name on the shirt

I have to say, and no disrespect to London Scottish is intended here, when you read comments like that then the Championship becomes a far less threatening place…

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Having decided to enjoy a few drinks on a Saturday evening for the first time during the season in years, other than when I’ve been away, I opted not to post on Saturday night/Sunday morning. By so doing I actually had the luxury of enjoying reading others’ comments about the game, whilst not worrying about writing my own and the constant fear that I might be so wide of the mark that it would appear as if I wasn’t actually there.

So rather than repeat what has already been said, I thought I’d add just a couple of observations that I haven’t seen mentioned elsewhere in any detail.

One of the big things for me is that Saturday’s game proved in many ways just how effective RW’s recruitment was this time last year and just how much it has advanced the club.

Missing were Makaafi, Narraway, Nilsen and Tuitupou and their absence was, as has been pointed elsewhere, a contributory factor to our defeat.  Leaving aside the result last Saturday, the performance shows just how important these players are and with another two of this year’s recruits, Oram and Preece, being two of the standout players on the pitch against Mowden, it’s clear that the DoR doesn’t make too many poor signings.

In fact I’m struggling to think of one this season who hasn’t played an important role in the club’s promotion. Grove might have been part of a back line that was found wanting defensively on Saturday, but he has been Mr Consistent all season.

Further, Palmer, Higgins and Titchard-Jones have done everything asked of them in their roles as supporting players, brought in primarily as cover in the backs or front row.

RW’s record of bringing in players is exceptional, although it’s also clear that the other coaches have had a big part to play in selecting new recruits, as we’ve seen recently with Jake Sharp whose previous connections with Nick Walshe seem to have been a big factor in his decision to come here.

I have to confess that other than Jack Ram, the players recruited this season are unknowns to me. Had this been three or four seasons ago I might well have been somewhat underwhelmed as so many of the wholesale changes to the squads that we’d make at the end of every season just didn’t come off. Not so under the new coaches and no wholesale either.

Whether big names or unheard ofs (to me), there seems to have been far more thought given not just to a player’s ability but also how that player might fit into the club. As a result, very few players have failed to make an impact.

And that’s such a different scenario to, say, Phil Maynard’s final season where so many players failed to deliver…remember Terry Sigley, brought to Cov at considerable cost and I’m not even sure he even played for the first team?

And then there were others like, Hough, Tincknell, Weightman and Baker et al,, all good players but who tended to get overlooked even in a losing side.

Next season is undoubtedly going to be a big step up and we can expect some disappointing results along the way. But I’m certainly not going to worry unduly about the squad and whether it’s up to the challenge the Championship will bring. Experience shows that the coaches know what is needed to make the squad at least competitive at the next level and the players coming will do what is asked of them. It’s a bit of a leap of faith for most supporters, but it is one that certainly I’m happy to take under the current set of coaches.

~~~~~

Despite the disappointment of the DMP result, one of the really positive things that stood out for me was Max Trimble’s willingness to back himself to beat the last man with his out-and-out pace. He had players in support for both his tries but elected to turn on the after-burners and go round his man. It was really impressive from the Cov flyer. He could have had a hatrick had Heath Stevens spotted him on his left on the opposition 22.

RW made the comment at training last week that given Max is only part-time and has scored 25ish tries in 30 odd games. Being full-time, the potential for him to improve still further is there and that he could be a real force in the Championship.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The results of the Man of the Match Award for the game against DMP was as follows:

1st Jack Preece – 25%
2nd Scott Tolmie – 21%
3rd Max Trimble – 15%

Not for the first time, those taking part in the poll decided to opt for a different Man of the Match to the player chosen by the sponsors.

Trimble’s two tries were both thrilling to watch and will be one of the abiding memories of a game that otherwise won’t live too long in the memory, at least not for the right reasons.

For the neutral it was probably a great game to watch, but for Cov supporters used to seeing Coventry’s defence so watertight in the first three quarters of the season, it was frustrating in the extreme.  DMP’s willingness to run the ball at pace and with width was reminiscent of the tactics used so effectively by Blackheath in January. Their forwards carried the ball well and whilst we often failed to get beyond a handful of phases they kept the ball alive very effectively. We were far too cavalier at times, perhaps too demob happy and by being so we played into their hands. And in the final 20 minutes our fitness was a concern.

Jack Preece’s performance was immense. He tackled himself into the ground and time and time again he was first to the breakdown. He has a phenomenal engine on him – he kept going for the entire 80 minutes and looked absolutely shattered at the final whistle. Already with two Championship Dream Team appearances to his name, he’s going to be a key player next seasonand with Jack Ram also in the squad, it might take a little of the pressure off him, not that he seems worried by it.

The back row didn’t really click on the day and as yet I’m not convinced Nile Dacres is going to make the 6 shirt his own by any means next season. The absence of a Latu or Luke Narraway on the bench also meant the absence of a leader to come on later in the game and control the play a little more. Olly Povoas did a decent job and is certainly a player with a heck of a future in front of him, but even he struggled to make an impact on his introduction.

Olly is still only an Academy age player which is something that is easily forgotten given he’s been playing first team rugby for a couple of seasons now. And he’s still learning. With Ram and Peters to come in next season and one more back rower still to be announced, there will be far more depth than there is currently. Brett’s departure is a blow, but Peters looks to be an ideal replacement, a like-for-like player who comes with Championship experience already despite being only 23.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Just worth remembering that even after a couple of poor performances…

We’re up and Up.

We’re going to get it get it together right now
Going to get it get it together somehow
Going to get it get it together and flower
oh oh oh oh oh oh

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 thoughts on “Ealing Trailfinders…London Scottish…Man of the Match Award…Up and Up”

  1. Iain’s post poses the questions that a lot of us who stand on the far side are thinking, but hopefully it will be made fully clear later today at the supporters forum.

  2. You mention the plans for ground redevelopment and the involvement of architects etc. I’m sure when I’ve seen this mentioned before Jon Sharp has suggested the intention is for an all-seater stand on the undeveloped side of the ground.

    This seems as good a time and place as any to put in a plea for any new stand along the side of the pitch to incorporate a significant element covered terracing for those who want to stand up to watch Cov.

    This isn’t just ‘Bring back the cowshed’ nostalgia (although there may be an element of that). My arguments are as follows. First, the demand is clearly there. Anything up to a third of those watching Cov games at the Butts Park are currently choosing to stand, even though one has to do so pretty much at pitch level and the views are much better from the grandstand. It’s not fanciful to think that if there were a covered terrace with raised vantage points even more people would stand – the more so if there is going to be an extra charge for seating.

    Second, standing areas increase capacity when compared to seating – more people fit in if they are standing up. If there were a capacity crowd this would offset any lost income from people going for the cheap standing option rather than paying for a seat.

    Also it creates a better atmosphere – less like a night at the theatre. It avoids the problem of people’s views being blocked as those in front of them jump out of their seats for a try. And those who want to move positions to follow the action, or want to buy a beer etc. during a lull in play, can do so without forcing everyone in their row to get out of their seats. Lastly, rugby doesn’t have the same crowd control/segregation issues as football that make all-seater stadiums desireable. And even in football there is a move to bring back safe standing – West Brom sadly had their application for a standing area turned down.

    I can’t be the only one who feel it would be a worse viewing experience if the only option for standing was at ground level behind the goalposts.

    For all I know there may be practical/commercial reasons why this is not a viable option. Or I may have got hold of the wrong end of the stick and the club is already planning to include some covered terracing. But it seems worth mentioning now while plans are still being developed.

    I’m not saying that a new stand should be all terracing. But my impression (from watching on TV) is that even some Premiership and Pro 14 grounds other grounds on TV (Northampton? Scarlets?) have some kind of raised standing area in front of the seats.

    1. Great post, Iain and I’m convinced you’re not alone in your thoughts. Hopefully, someone, somewhere will be aware of what supporters feel and incorporate a covered, tiered, standing area…

      And there’s nothing wrong with a bit of nostalgia either,

    2. I have to say I agree with everything Iain says. I don’t plan to sit and watch rugby…for a few years yet, but watching at pitch level means you are limited in your view of the game. Also, as crowds increase, those standing further back from the railings will have their view seriously diminished.
      Yes, those of a certain era hanker for a Cowshed of sorts, but it also makes sense to cater for all those who would rather stand.

  3. Tim, yes the future does look bright and I am looking forward to the supporters meeting tonight,Re the game I thought their fly half was outstanding and their left wing, the size of Matt Banahan, did us some damage. I thought our pack dominated in the scrum and lineout until they changed their props when they started to hold thir own.
    New signings look good but with no disrespect to our scrum halves like a lot of other people the name of Kessell is on the lips, crossed fingers, but whatever happens have faith in Rowland.

  4. Thought there full back was an excellent player, good enough to play for Newcastle at least. There were one or two others that I cannot recall being on the team sheet at Darlington, but saying that they out played us and took away our home record.

    1. Hi Peter, hope all is well. Totally agree about their 15 – his try was one of the best solo efforts we’ve seen all season at the BPA, or on our travels for that matter. Not sure how many dual regs were playing but like you I felt they thoroughly deserved the win and they’re clearly going to be a force in the league again next season.

      Congratulations to the both of you on becoming great grandparents!

  5. Interesting thoughts, Tim. I personally think the team we put out didn’t need the players you mentioned – it was more than good enough. And just think how good it will be when we had first choice players on the field?
    We chose to play an open game, rather than shutting up shop and, from my one-eyed viewpoint, Max Trimble nearly got away another couple of times, Rob Knox bounced three tacklers before being slowed and hit by a fourth (and spilling the ball) in one run and on another day, might well have got clear or been in position to pass. Heath and Alex made some good breaks and James Stokes, given a milimetre or two on occasions could have gone over or got a final scoring pass in.
    DMP conceded a lot of penalties when we were pressuring their line and that spoiling tactic worked, but for another ref on another day, there might have been more yellow cards or the return of that 16th man – the penalty try.
    So I was bitterly disappointed to lose, but in attack, we could have so easily scored more.
    What was frustrating was the lack of telling tackles, but you can’t take away from the class of the Darlington backline. Their 10, though stupidly abrasive at times, looked good, and their 12 and 11 made telling contributions.
    And as you say, Darlington wanted it more after their nil drubbing at their place.
    Looking forward to the coming announcements about players. The additions so far look really good, even some who have been on the periphery of their current teams. They will grow with Cov.A
    We are champions. We are in the Championship. Happy days indeed!

    1. We should have been good enough but we weren’t. The absence of the big three, Narraway, Makaafi and Nilsen have coincided with a drop in our performances and I can’t help but think they would have been able to play the ball more in the forwards rather than try and play a wider, more expansive game that gave DMP more opportunities to run the ball back at us to such great effect.
      Whilst Tolmie is such a good player with ball in hand and with Coventry on the attack, Nilsen seems tome to be a player without it and offers greater physicality in and around the loose which was missing on Saturday.

      Their 15 and 10 were a class apart, with the 11 also very quick and direct. Seals kicking was immense and he ran the show for most of the game…

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