Seconds out…Round 4
Here’s a little song I wrote
You might want to sing it note for note
Don’t worry, be happy
In every life we have some trouble
But when you worry you make it double
Don’t worry, be happy
Don’t worry, be happy now
Bobby McFerrin – Don’t Worry Be Happy
Back to the rugby…
Three games into their return to the Championship and Coventry’s excellent home form has seen them rise to a very creditable 4th and with wins against Jersey and Bedford, this would seem to be no flash in the pan by any manner of means…
Both of these sides finished in the top 5 last season and are expected to do so again this time round, so whilst it’s still ridiculously early to be making any forecasts, you’d hope that Coventry might be looking for a finish somewhere in the top half of the league themselves this year.
And if that were to be the case it would a good few places higher than my own rather cautious pre-season vaticination.
The only team we’ve lost to, Cornish Pirates, are top of the league at the moment and, along with London Irish, they also have the only unbeaten record – so there was absolutely no disgrace in coming unstuck down at Mennaye Field a couple of weeks back in a match-up in which, by all accounts, we had several chances to make the game a good deal closer than it actually was.
(Just three weeks in admittedly, but I think most Coventry supporters would be happy with the way the table is currently looking)
Coventry looked every inch a Championship side against Bedford; quick and incisive in attack, organised and resolute in defence.
Nick Walshe and the coaches have certainly cocked a proverbial snook early on at doubters like me who would have been more than satisfied with an 11th place finish this season. The squad looks determined to make its presence felt this year and the rest of the Championship appears to be sitting up and taking notice.
Message to self:
In every life we have some trouble
But when you worry you make it double
Don’t worry, be happy
Take Rolling-maul.com for instance.
The last time I looked at its ‘Round 4’ thread, of the 21 people who have so far made their predictions on the outcome of Coventry’s visit to Hartpury, 16 have gone for a Cov win. That seems incredibly high to me given Hartpury have home advantage, have recruited well over the summer and Cov have yet to win on their travels.
As I said – Coventry are getting themselves noticed.
Rowland Winter hinted that Halaifonua, Stokes and Stevens would be back this weekend which will give the coaches a headache or two considering just how well the likes of Knox, Fenner and Andy Bulumakau played last week against Bedford…
The old adage about not changing a winning side is clearly a relevant one here, but in Stokes and Halaifonua you have arguably Cov’s two greatest attacking threats and Stevens is the club captain.
I’m tempted to say Tony Fenner was a revelation at full back last week but that wouldn’t be accurate – he’s a quality player who is showing his best form since his arrival at Cov two years ago.
Do you bring back James Stokes or give Fenner another opportunity at 15?
Stokesy potentially has the ability to change the course of a game with a moment of magic; less predictable than Fenner but also occasionally inclined to get caught isolated when he goes on his raking runs. Fenner is less of a maverick, but he always seems to take the right option…
Kessell’s try (see the clip below) was very much the result of Fenner drawing the man and timing his pass to perfection. In a similar situation, I could see Stokesy taking on the last defender and 9 times out of 10 skinning him. But on the 10th…?
Coventry ended Bedford's unbeaten run last weekend…
— GK IPA Championship (@Champrugby) September 19, 2018
I’d opt for James I think, mainly because he has made that position his own and he doesn’t look quite the threat out wide as he does at full back. Big Dave H has to play if fit surely, but he is more adaptable and probably has played more out wide in recent seasons than James? That said, Halaifonua has one hell of a boot on him and looks to be as comfortable as both Fenner and Stokes under the high ball…
And that leaves Fenner on the bench to cover anywhere from 10-15; he misses out on a start but is guaranteed a finish.
In just 3 games, Rowland Winter has already used 27 players which sounds a decent number, but with match day squads now up to 22, it actually reinforces just how consistent the selection so far has been.
The above, from Statbunker (so it comes with the usual health warning) shows that although the numbers of players being used is fairly low, Winter appears to be rotating the players within that group, with only 7 players starting all three games if I’ve read it correctly. So, by hopefully continuing to use them carefully, he’ll be able to keep them fit and injury-free at least until the Championship games end in November and the Cup competition begins.
Amongst those yet to appear, either through injury, other commitments or the form of those current in the squad, are the likes of Jack Preece, Olly Povoas, George Oram, Nile Dacres, Nathaniel Titchard-Jones, Jack Higgins, Max Trimble and Fraser Dingwall (presuming the 18 month contract he had with us still holds).
There’s plenty of quality there still and players like Oram and/or Dacres might well have been first choices in their positions had they been fit at the start of the season, although such is the form shown by Voss and Jubb since then, an immediate return when fit is by no means a shoe-in. And no Jack Preece yet? His time must surely come…?
Despite all the pre-season talk of just how much the Championship is dominated by big, physical packs and how we might well have to adapt our game accordingly, we have played some very attacking rugby thus far and of the 8 tries we’ve scored this season, 6 have come from the backs.
It’s made for some entertaining games and if Cov can win good, clean ball, there’s pace and guile aplenty outside of the forwards.
Oddly, given just how free-scoring our backs were last season, the wings have yet to score a try between them this season though…(I’m relying on Statbunker for that one!)
In fact the above shows that far from being a league dominated by the forwards, of the top try-scoring teams so far in the Championship, only Pirates have score more tries among their forwards than their backs…
…presumably as the weather gets wetter and the pitches heavier, they’ll become even more of a threat…?
The encouraging thing is there have been several occasions in the last three games where we have worked hard to create a scoring position and have duly gone on to waste the opportunity …
Actually, reading that back, it doesn’t actually sound overly encouraging (!), but the fact we are getting ourselves into those sorts of positions in the first place is something to build on further.
We haven’t been clinical enough at times but hopefully that will come – and it will need to if the games remain as tight has they have been, certainly against Jersey and Bedford anyway.
For me, one of the greatest concerns so far this season has been what appears to be Cov’s lack of discipline, especially at or around the breakdown. Now, having next to no knowledge of the nuances of the game myself, my understanding of exactly what it is that we’re doing that is so upsetting referees at the moment is non-existent, but it is clearly a problem – a 22-8 penalty count in Bedford’s favour last Saturday (that’s according to The Rugby Paper, although I’ve read elsewhere that it was 20 -8) has to be a worry.
In previous seasons Rowland Winter has said that you can’t expect to win games if you have a penalty count in double figures, something that’s borne out time and time again when looking at the stats from Championship games so far this season. Coventry’s win belied that line of thinking last weekend, but it nevertheless remains something of a truism and I imagine there’s been plenty of work done this weekend analysing the video footage to determine exactly what it is Cov is doing wrong.
On that note, it was interesting to see a Tweet from Matt Harland, Head of Performance Analysis at Coventry earlier in the week. Sundays for Matt during the rugby season seem to revolve around what must be the painstaking task of going through individual player analysis of that weekend’s game.
Matt kindly agreed to allow me to use his Tweet which is included below. I did ask him if he’d be willing to talk to supporters about his role and he appeared happy to do so – perhaps it could be part of one of the Supporters’ Club’s evenings later in the year? I reckon it would be really interesting to hear him talk about what it is he’s actually looking for and how that information is then used by the coaches.
It would make for a really good hands-on sort of activity (it’s the retired teacher in me)…a clip, a pen and paper and a list of things to look for.
A big thank to Matt for being so approachable…
— Matt Harland (@Matt_Chopper) September 16, 2018
The further worry is that referees will invariably talk to each other and if Cov begin to get a reputation for infringing in a particular area of the game, it might well be that officials pay that much more attention to it…
Cov’s discipline record in terms of cards received this season is also something that might need addressing. Again, we’re only three games in but Cov are already topping the table for yellows received and with the threat of a ban facing Phil Boulton depending on the outcome of the citing committee (which presumably takes place this week?), the news doesn’t get any better…
It’s not something that is problematic as of now, but it would be should we fail to curb the many indiscretions that are currently being penalised by the referees.
It was a problem a couple of seasons back in Winter’s first year at Cov when we received 30 yellows – but still managed to finish 4th. Sin bins do make it that much harder though and there does seem to be a need for a little more discipline at times. 2 of the three cards this season have been given to back rowers and the other to Voss in the second row which might be of relevance…?
I’m certainly looking forward to the trip across to Hartpury on Saturday. I’m far more confident about Coventry coming away with the points than probably I should be, but based on what I’ve seen of Cov so far and the fact that Hartpury have struggled a little following a win against Leeds at home in their opening game of the season, we’ve got every chance of a third win in September – and that really would be something quite special.
With Hartpury likely to be one of the teams in the bottom 3 or 4, even away from home it’s exactly the kind of fixture we need to be winning if the club is to achieve that mid-table finish, or above that I’m sure the coaches are expecting (please note – I didn’t say ‘hoping for’!)…
Selection for the game will be really interesting; as well as the return of the likes of Stokes, Halaifonua and Stevens, there’s also a tough decision to be made with regards to the 10 spot – stick with Jake Sharp or bring back Will Maisey?
I thought Sharp ran the backline well against Bedford and although undoubtedly he had an off day with the boot, did he do enough to keep Will on the bench. Time and time against Maisey has shown he has the temperament and ability to do a job, and a good one at that, at this level…
I guess it depends on the overall game plan as to who’s given the nod – but I imagine whoever loses out is going to very disappointed.
One of them is going to receive the knockout blow…
Seconds out…Round 4.
Okay, so the Bob Marley version really ought to be the one included here BUT I couldn’t find a video of it, so I’ve gone for McFerrin’s which is the one that is probably the most instantly recognisable…
The week’s been well and truly humped and we’re heading for the weekend and a trip to Hartpury…not a place that is filled with particularly happy memories from a couple of years back when we were given something of a mullering as I recall. The second half was pretty much one way traffic. Sadly, though, it was all going in the opposite direction to us….
Still, no point in fretting, that was then, this is now :
…don’t worry be happy
‘Cause when you’re worried your face will frown and that will bring everybody down
So don’t worry be happy
Don’t worry be happy now