The Friendlies – Season 4: Episode 3 – the one with the Dons…Result of the poll
It’s been a long, long time since the Coventry coaches have been able to leave out players of the quality of Knox, Bulumakau, Sharp, Preece and Adams from a first team match day squad.
There are going to be some very disappointed players when the first squad for the Championship opener against Jersey is announced later in the week. Keeping players with that kind of experience happy and motivated when they aren’t playing is going to take some doing should that be repeated over the course of a few games.
One can only imagine that there will be a fair bit of rotation this season, although of course the Cup games will give an opportunity for those not playing regularly in the Championship to get a decent run out. Whether that’s enough, though, remains to be seen.
And it also raises another interesting question…
The Nighthawks games, as I understand it, are also a chance for the Development Academy players to come together and play under the watchful eyes of the Coventry coaches. Many of the youngsters are loaned out to teams in divisions below the Championship to ensure they gain additional game time from partner clubs, with the idea being to bring them back once a month to play for the Nighthawks with all the obvious benefits that brings.
That would seem to be really important, but already I can foresee a problem, with the likes of Tin, Flinn, Titchener, Lane and Isaac McNulty all on the bench, their positions in the starting XV taken mostly by first team squad members.
And there’s some really talent there.
But they’re not getting anything like a full 80 minutes with the Nighthawks. Nothing like.
Maybe it’s just this first Nighthawk’s game where this will be an issue, with RW wanting to ensure that those senior squad players not selected for the game tomorrow get in some competitive rugby before next weekend as they might well be involved in the game against Jersey.
Sitting out this weekend might not be in their best interests or those of the rest of senior squad.
And RW has a history of springing a few surprises when selecting that first match squad – the last thing he’ll want to do is signal the team to play Jersey a week early.
No, I still reckon there will be some changes from the squad playing Wasps this afternoon.
But I also imagine that players like Dacres, Dawidiuk, Oram and co will need a few games under their belts before returning to the full squad, so the problem isn’t ever going to be entirely remedied if injured players from the first team get valuable game time with the Nighthawks. It’s not easy to see just what the solution is and at least the Development Academy players are still playing some competitive rugby with their junior clubs.
I accept I can’t have my cake and eat it and for most supporters the prospect of watching Preece, Bulumakau and co far outweighs my disappointment at not seeing Lane, Titchener, Tin and McNulty starting the game, rather than coming off the bench. But it doesn’t strike me as being ideal.
But the blog is about expressing opinions and mine aren’t always in kilter with everyone else’s. It is as it is.
And I’m sure I won’t be overly popular when mentioning how disappointed I was that there was no PA for the game. And I wasn’t alone in this.There were no announcements concerning team news, tries, scorers and so on.
Or even any mention of arrangements for today’s game.
Last season it was argued that this is the norm for Zoo League fixtures/A games and that facilities just aren’t the same as for a first team at any of the clubs we visited.
But for me it’s about being professional in all that we do and that should include the match day experience for both players and supporters of these Nighthawks games. No programme sheet and no announcements during the game meant that unless you were familiar with all the players, you were left somewhat in the dark – not great.
And against old friends in the form of Cambridge and with the PA system used to play music before the game, it shouldn’t have been difficult to find someone just to read out the teams before the game and notify us of the scorers.
Kind of just courteous, really, if nothing else.
And if there was to be no PA, then why not run off a couple of hundred team sheets and charge 5p to cover the photocopying – not everyone can access a smartphone to keep up to speed? Or even wants to.
Just seems like good PR, if nothing else.
Or, now here’s a thought, why not use the new all-singing, all-dancing scoreboard to indicate the scorers etc.
Hardly rocket science.
Or is it?
And I’m not even going to mention the lack of a clock again on the main scoreboard.
Talking of which, the scores now appear at the top of the Elonex scoreboard, as shown below:
For the sake of my own integrity, I should mention that Utility Team , the match day sponsor for today’s game, is also the company for whom my daughter works.
A bit of shameless advertising there – until a couple of weeks ago I had no idea they were involved with Cov.
Go Utility Team…
As for the game itself, well it was certainly an entertaining one
Coventry fell just short in the end to a Cambridge side that deserved the win. After a very uncomfortable first 40 minutes, Cov managed to find some form and claw their way back into the game. Indeed, the home side could have won it had they managed to convert a spell of pressure near the end of the game into points.
Cov looked something of a scratch side early on and Cambridge enjoyed the lion’s share of both territory and possession in that first half. Coventry’s penalty count was high and although the scrum looked increasingly assured, the lineout faltered and we won little quality ball – and what we did win, we squandered with poor handling and a lack of discipline at the breakdown.
We weren’t helped by a number of injuries, with Cameron Gray having to be replaced by the reserve hooker (playing in the back row?) and Ben Adams coming off early on as well. Ben Gulliver played far longer than he’d either have expected or probably hoped for and Jack Preece played most of the second half at 8.
The injury to Cameron Gray is doubly unfortunate. The Academy player looked to be working his way into first team contention at some stage this season and another injury to a second row leaves Coventry with a real problem in this position, with only Jubb and Voss out and out second rowers fit…? Peters and Betteridge are able to play both second row and back row, too, although Betteridge (who played yesterday) is playing his rugby at Olney this season. Oram should be back by October, fingers crossed.
Cambridge were clearly up for it and were in Coventry’s faces from the start. They scored two good tries in the first half, with Asiedu, on loan to Cambridge, first handing off a Cov defender (Neal?) and then leaving another for dead to score the second. Their first try was scored by the outside centre who looked a real handful with ball in hand.
Throughout the game Cambridge defended well, particularly in their own 22, and managed to stop a number of promising Coventry drives close in – each one resulting in plenty of celebration amongst the Cambridge pack.
Coventry’s kicking wasn’t particularly accurate either and at times early on I thought Jake Sharp looked to lack a little confidence, although as the game progressed he got better and better…he’s got good hands and great vision and will definitely create opportunities for the runners around him. He’s just not quite on the money yet for me.
Going into the break 15-0 down, it didn’t look promising.
Second half though and Cov looked a different side. Still below where you might have expected them to be, but definitely there was more threat from them in most areas of play. Although still a little hit and miss, the lineout won us some decent ball, the scrum worked well and there was a good platform from which to create the opportunities that were so lacking in the first half.
We didn’t lose quite so much turnover ball either and indeed Jack Preece worked tirelessly until he was subbed after scoring his try, as did Sam (whoops – again – thanks Paul and apologies to Sam) McNulty, in the loose. Our fitness was good and we seized control for a good part of the second half.
I thought Palmer had a strong game, running good lines and gaining important yards and he and Sharp began to get the backs working well, with Bitirim often a threat, although his handling let him down a couple of times.
Once we’d got ourselves back in the game at 14-15, after tries by Palmer and Preece, we had a good 5 minutes or so of play in and around their 22, but to their credit Cambridge defended well and were very disciplined – a penalty at that point could have lost them the game.
In the end, Coventry conceded three or four penalties in quick succession themselves and suddenly we were defending in our own final quarter in the last few minutes before the ref blew for time. Cov just needed someone to control the game at that point.
A real positive for me was the performance of the Academy players in that second half. With the likes of Knox, Bulumakau, Brazier and Adams off and youngsters like, Lane, Titchener, McNulty and Flinn on, if anything Cov looked even stronger. To be fair, the senior players had done a lot to stem the tide but the players coming on equipped themselves well.
The final score of 14-15 was probably a fair reflection of the game. Had Coventry won, the result might have flattered them somewhat, but they came right back into it and pushed what was apparently pretty much a full Cambridge side all the way.
I’m sure it was just the work-out that the visitors would have wanted and the result clearly meant a great deal to their players on the final whistle. It will be interesting to hear what Ross Stewart made of the game and in particular of his Development Academy players – there were some pleasing performances from them and they held their own against what was an experienced and physical Cambridge side.
I was delighted Cov played Jack Higgins for the full 80 minute, at least I think he did (did I mention there was no PA?). Why? Because he’s down as a Wasps’ replacement toda.
Good job, Ross Stewart.
In the end, it was a decent crowd – perhaps 500-550, although that’s very much a guess on my part.
The pitch was a lot wetter, obviously, and looked much better for the recent rain, although it did start to cut up a little in one or two areas – if there’s any more rain today, it could mean a bit of repair work for the ground staff next week.
A thoroughly enjoyable game overall with Cov leaving themselves just a little too much to do in the second half.
Still think there should have been someone on the public address though…
Many thanks to everyone who took part in this week’s poll, making what had to be rather a speculative guess at today’s attendance for Cov’s eagerly awaited fixture against Wasps A.
It seems that there was very little consensus, with a really wide range of predictions, especially between the 1400-2400 mark.
A crowd at the upper end would be a real bonus for Cov, involving up to 1600 paying spectators once you remove season-ticket holders (presuming all attend). Clearly there would be a fair few concessions, especially children, but even so at £20 a pop for the rest, that represents a substantial pay day for Coventry
A crowd at the lower end would probably be seen as a little disappointing…?
Here’s hoping the club manage to get the new seating/standing arrangements to work smoothly (if in operation for this game?) and the bars free from some of the problems that spectators have experienced when there have been larger than average crowds in the past.
A good impression today off the pitch, and a good performance on it, and there might be more than a few local rugby supporters, previously unsure as to whether to watch Cov or Wasps this season, persuaded that the BPA is the place to be.
It’s an important day for the club all round.
|2999 – 2800||1%|
|2599 – 2400||17%|
|2399 – 2200||12%|
|2199 – 2000||19%|
|1999 – 1800||8%|
|1799 – 1600||17%|
|1599 – 1400||13%|
|1399 – 1200||0%|
|1199 – 1000||1%|
|999 or below||3%|
For those not able to attend the game this afternoon but wanting to keep updated with what’s happening at the BPA, I will be tweeting from the ground as usual.
So, if you can’t make it and want something a little different to the updates from Coventry’s own Twitter feed (and presumably Wasps, too), then I’m on @CowshedTim.
…be warned though, they’ll come fast and furious I imagine, so it might be worth muting me for the duration of the game if you’re not interested (remember to unmute me afterwards please!!!)
My season’s PB is 127 tweets in 80 minute,s apparently. It’s there to be broken…a close game and it might well be in the crosshairs by the end of the afternoon.
If you haven’t come across my tweets before, apologies in advance for the many typos – I use predictive text, but the only problem is the phone doesn’t always seem to predict what I’m intending to write…
It does make rather embarrassing tweets over the course of a season.
Whatever you’re doing this afternoon, have a great one.
Up the Cov…