A game of two halves…the thoughts of Chairman Alan… the Cov pitch (stop that pigeon, now)

6Aug - by Tim - 0 - In Club talk Coventry Bears

It’s good to touch the green, green grass of home.
Yes, they’ll all come to meet me, arms reaching, smiling sweetly.
It’s good to touch the green, green grass of home.

Tom Jones – Green Green Grass Of Home

See the source imageDisappointing as the result was against Doncaster (a 46-4 loss), especially after some really impressive home performances of late, I was actually far more upbeat than had I not gone to the game and just seen the final score via Twitter…

(NB I thought the final score was 4-44, with the final conversion missed, but elsewhere I’ve seen it recorded at 4-46?!)

At 0-30 down after 40 minutes, the Bears were facing the real threat of Doncaster racking up something approaching a cricket score, and for the loss of no wickets at that.

The Bears had fallen well short of the standards they’d set themselves in front of their home crowd in recent weeks and that first half had been pretty frustrating for Bears’ fans, as I guess it was for the coaches and players, too.

It says much for the club that expectations amongst fans had increased so sharply over the last few games that despite yesterday’s visitors still being in contention for a top 3/4 finish, there was a real belief that the Bears could surprise Doncaster in much the same way they had Keighley Cougars.

Yet by the half-time hooter it looked very much as if it was going to be a 60+ points defeat. Anything less would call for a much improved second half performance from the Bears, made even less likely by the conditions – to say it was warm is something of an understatement.

…and talking of understatements, the Bears official Twitter feed tweeted at half time:

It was going to take something really impressive from the Bears for them to salvage anything from the game.

And by ‘anything’ I really mean pride, as that was all the Bears were ever going to salvage something from a game that was already all but over after they’d leaked six tries in what was, to put it mildly, a rather disjointed first half display.

It was going to need to be another of proverbial ‘game of two halves’.

And so it proved.

Salvage something they did and although they still lost the second half 14-4, the Bears’ performance was a good deal better. Considerably so.

Doncaster were forced into working so much harder for their points than in the first half. It was a really encouraging turn around from the Bears and I imagine Head Coach Tom Tsang will take some comfort from the way this young side dug so deep and took the game to the opposition in a way they’d been unable to in those opening 40 minutes.

Again, I have to stress that I’m very much a novice when it comes to League rugby, but even to the untrained eye it was clear that the Bears were missing far too many first tackles, and whereas the visitors seemed to make line-break after line-break before half-time, I’m struggling to remember a single clear break from a Bears’ player in that opening 40 minutes.

The Bears’ defence, such a strong feature of the much improved performances over the last few games, seemed far less secure and Doncaster had the power and the pace to capitalise when it was exposed.

There always seemed one or two players in support when the break came.

Doncaster looked to have some seriously big players up front who ran straight and fast and whilst the Bears put in one or two huge hits, it was taking its toll. When Doncaster moved the ball wide, there was always plenty of pace to exploit the gaps that seemed to be appearing all too often.

The Bears also seemed to be rather too lateral at times when they were in possession, and whereas Doncaster were running onto the ball at speed, the Bears seemed rather more static, forcing them to spread the ball across the pitch rather than move it forward.

All that seemed to change after the break.

I presume the coaches made it clear what was expected, a few tweaks were made here and there and the players reminded of just what a good squad this is.

Whatever was said and done, the Bears came out for the second half far more fired up and it was no surprise when the Bears opened the scoring, playing with far more pace and urgency and causing Doncaster to make one or two unforced errors which just hadn’t been the case in the first half.

Not only did the Bears up the tempo, they also seemed to show a good deal more physicality – in fact it took 23 minutes of the second half for Doncaster to get on the scoreboard again.

Whilst it had been a very ordinary first half performance, this was a much improved second half display and it earned plenty of respect from spectators around us.

In the end, Doncaster ran in a further three second half tries, but it was a much, much better performance from the Bears and although it was still a heavy defeat in the end, there was plenty to take away from that second half showing – three months ago it would have been a far heavier defeat and a tiring Bears’ side would have leaked rather more second half points, for sure.

Below is Doncaster’s Head Coach, Richard Horne’s, post-match response  – a couple of encouraging remarks about the Bears, too:

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There was no match day programme yesterday, a problem at the publisher’s end, but credit to the Bears, it was put on-line and made available to all even before the game. That sort of fan-friendly response typifies the Bears and whilst the club might have to do everything on a shoe-string, it is extremely IT savvy, far more so than Cov has been in recent years.

Only since the appointment of Tom Branston is the club at last starting to catch up.

Well done, Bears.

I’ve been suggesting Cov put its programmes online for the last three seasons – it would be a move really welcomed by those  supporters unable to get to games or those for whom the cost of a programme, on top of parking and entrance into the ground, is just too great.

Jersey has shown the way by getting rid of paper copies of programmes entirely. Hopefully, other clubs will soon follow (Cambridge also put their programmes online, too, I think, but retrospectively).

Anyway, there’s some interesting reading in this week’s programme, too  – I’ve mentioned before how far in advance of the Cov programme it is in terms of content, and this week is no exception. The artwork is pretty impressive, as well – take a look at the cover!

It appears that Bears CEO and owner, Alan Robinson, has been working hard behind the scenes to bring a Rugby League World Cup game to Coventry in 2021. Home internationals have already been played at The Ricoh, so hopefully a World Cup game hosted in the Midlands, and preferably one of the knockout rounds, will be looked on favourably by the RFL.

Whilst the BPA in its present state isn’t big enough to host games of that size, maybe it could lead to opportunities for the Arena to deliver other RL tournaments, maybe in connection with the universities or the women’s game?

Not only would that be good for the Bears and for rugby league in the wider area (which is crucial if the game is to expand outside of the traditional Rugby  League northern strongholds), it could also be a profitable addition to the BPA’s portfolio of sporting events, too.

A win/win scenario if ever there was one.

I’d like to thing there’s some joined up thinking going on between the Coventry RC and the Bears..?

I certainly hope that Cov is doing all it can to help the Bears – there seems to be lots of crossover areas that could be beneficial to both clubs.

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The Bears are a young side, packed full with some very talented youngsters and one or two  older players whose experience helps hold the side together, but they never look quite as physically intimidating as the opposition, at least size-wise.

With that in mind, I was interested to read AR’s comment in the programme that:

…the confrontation in rugby league is like no other in sport and something that people don’t realise unless you have played the sport yourself. It takes a lot of courage to keep tackling big bodies running flat out at you. It’s not a tackle where you have any chance of possession like in rugby union, so you have to be at your best to stop that player every single time. One miss or a bit of weakness and it’s an off-load, a line break or a try. It’s really like holding the line in battle…

What I hadn’t fully appreciated until seeing the game live is the proportion of plays that involve the forwards running directly at the opposition, pounding into the defences, looking to open up the gaps.

And they run from 10m out and when a player receives the ball, he’s running at speed – so by the time he crashes into the tackler he has some real momentum, far more so than is the case in the pick up and drive that we see more often in union. It’s physical…and exciting.

It leads to some big, big hits – none more so than Pete Ryan’s on Fui Fui Moi Moi against Workington which still makes me shudder just recalling it…

And whilst there are concerted efforts to change the laws about the height of the tackle in union, this doesn’t appear to be such a concern in League where concussion seems rather less of a problem – I’m not sure there’s been more than one or two players checked for concussion in the 8 games I’ve watched.

In union, the clearing out at the ruck seems far more of an issue than the original tackle…but there you go.

For me, the other item of interest in this week’s programme really centres on AR’s forthright and honest approach to the game and in particular his willingness to call it as he sees it.

Speaking of Whitehaven’s current financial crisis and their ‘cry for help’ to their supporters for £90,000 to see them through the remainder of the season, he remarks:

…personally, it made me a bit upset after we had been defeated by a strong Whitehaven side earlier in the year meaning they had clearly been overspending above their means on their squad. I am proud of the fact that we spend within our means and to a realistic and sustainable budget but for clubs to overspend and then ask the public to bail them out I found pretty unbelievable. 

I love the fact that AR is prepared to be so candid and quite rightly point the finger in the direction it needs pointing. It goes back to the comments in recent posts about Premiership Union clubs overspending – certainly if one of them is forced  into liquidation and folds as a result, sad as that would be for the supporters, I won’t be shedding any tears over its demise.

It almost happened to Coventry Rugby Club, twice, and had it done so we would have only had ourselves to blame – or the Board anyway.

That sort of honesty is so refreshing – if you fancy reading the full article, it can be found at the link below:

Bears’ v Doncaster Programme Notes

(Just click on the Download Programme option)

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I’m afraid I misled one or two folk yesterday in a Tweet I made on my arrival at the BPA yesterday (see above).

In fairness though, it was in good faith.

As we walked through the turnstiles, it was immediately clear just how much the pitch had greened up in the intervening days since the Family Fun Day last weekend.

Mark O had Tweeted a photo showing the fire brigade watering the pitch on Thursday and that, together with the heavy rain early in the week, had seen the scorched brown appearance of the grass replaced by a far more verdant and lush green.

It looked spectacular, as I intended the Tweet to show.

However, the higher in the stand you sat, the more noticeable the remaining sandy, bare patches were and whilst the pitch is in a far better condition than it was, it must still be a concern:

DSC00438.jpg

It’s not clear from the photos I took, but I reckon there’s a fair amount of work still to be done on it before it’s ready for the season ahead. What is clear, though, is that the ground staff have been working really hard and the progress already made is encouraging, it’s just not quite as encouraging as I made out in my original Tweet!

The football markings are visible now, so it would appear that Coventry United are still playing their home games at the BPA as well, so there’s going to be little let up in its use in the next few weeks…

giphy 17Rowland Winter did mention in his talk to supporters the weekend before last that it was the Club’s intention to re-seed the pitch as well…

…if that has already happened, then I’m not overly optimistic that it will be quite the success it’s hoped for.

The pigeons were certainly feasting on something rather to their liking before the players came out to warm-up and they were out in numbers, and all looking frighteningly healthy.

DSC00373

Flocking hell, to be brutally frank…

Maybe it’s time for a club scarecrow, with a poll to determine the player on whom it should be modelled.

I’ll leave you with that thought.

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The green, green grass of home…

Well, it’s green certainly, just not quite as grassy in places as it needs to be …

Just need a bit more seed…

Tom Jones’ dirge seems rather appropriate.

 

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