Here comes the rain again
Falling on my head like a memory
Falling on my head like a new emotion
I want to walk in the open wind
I want to talk like lovers do
I want to dive into your ocean
Is it raining with you
Remember the old saying, ‘If ifs and buts were candies and nuts, we’d all have a merry Christmas‘…
Well, at the risk of appearing something of a killjoy, let me confirm they’re not and if Cov don’t improve on yesterday’s performance, then the Yuletide celebrations for Cov fans this year are going to be pretty goddamn muted.
And there won’t be a candy cane or walnut in sight.
Those who made the journey down to Hartpury yesterday did so in the belief that whatever the result, they would see a Cov performance worthy of their support.
And what support it was..
…I’ve no idea about numbers, but the sheer volume and passion that was displayed in the stand and around the pitch was as good as I’ve seen for a long time. If there were Hartpury supporters there in any numbers, and I rather doubt there were, then they were silenced from start to finish by Cov fans whose support was loud and sustained throughout the entire game.
And it was sporting, too, with no repeat as far as I am aware of any of the behaviour which took away some of the pleasure from last week’s win against Bedford.
As we left the coach, Supporters’ Club chairman Paul Ingleston issued a timely reminder that the phrase of the day for all Cov supporters was to be ‘Are you sure, Sir?‘…
As it happens, the supporters executed their game plan far better than the players.
Sadly, the fans performance around the ground wasn’t matched by the players’ on the pitch and however limited Hartpury were, they deserved the win just as we deserved to lose.
And I don’t think I’ve written that too many times in the last three years of composing this blog.
Hartpury were one-dimensional, relying on a game plan based on their forwards and half backs working together to the exclusion of the rest of their backs. It didn’t make for great entertainment and it’s small wonder that Hartpury attract such small attendances if their rugby is regularly so insipid…
The trouble is, they are so damn good at playing it that way.
They’ve clearly learned from a season in the Championship and they play to their limitations. I can’t remember them making a single line break but in fly half Luke Cozens they had a player who controlled the game, not by guile or vision especially, but by his boot.
He kicked practically everything that came his way – high howitzers or raking bullets into the corners. He thoroughly deserved his Man of the Match award yesterday – a tray of meat from the club sponsor as I understand it.
He certainly butchered us, that’s for sure…
Our fly half, however, had something of a ‘mare.
What I don’t want to do, something that seems to have been done elsewhere, is to make Jake Sharp the fall guy in yesterday’s defeat. He had a shocker, but a number of other players underperformed too. But when you wear the 10 shirt, the mistakes you make seem to be far more visible. Sharp was brought in because he is a player of immense experience at this level and by all accounts a respected kicker.
Unfortunately, neither was particularly evident yesterday.
His decision-making was more than a little questionable at times, none more so than as the clock ran down and we gained possession, just a converted try away from the win, he chose to kick the ball away – which proved doubly painful as he hoofed the ball straight out and gave Hartpury the line out back in our own half.
But he wasn’t alone.
And give Rowland Winter some credit – knowing that supporters were more than a little frustrated by the Coventry performance, he chose to speak to them himself just before they left rather than delegating it to one of the coaches or senior players.
And instead of opting to give a 5 minute spiel full of the kind of platitudes often rehearsed by coaches and manages for tv audiences, he asked if there were any questions…
…and there were.
Sadly, whilst the supporters were respectful during the game, some were less so on the coach. It took a comment from one among our number reminding those involved to remember just who it was they were speaking to, to calm it all down again.
Well done that man – I won’t name names, but he earned a lot of respect for that.
I think it would probably be best at this point to include some of what RW mentioned in response to those questions asked of him as this perhaps gives rather more focus than my musings, as well as something of an insight into the DoR’s immediate post-match thoughts.
And Winter didn’t hold back, agreeing that Hartpury were much the better side upfront, whereas we offered no real punch in the forwards, lost out on several hits in the scrum and allowed them to dictate the tempo.
Much of the damage was done in the first 20 minutes when we were penalised 7 times (there was no suggestion from RW that we were hard done by here or that the ref’s decisions were questionable in any way).
Our mental approach was lacking and although we tried to play the ball in the right areas, we got sucked into a kicking game – and our ‘kick and chase’ game just wasn’t good enough.
It was in that opening quarter, when we were down to 14 mention following Voss’ second yellow of the season, that Hartpury scored their two tries. The card had been coming and if it hadn’t have been Voss, it would have been another of the forwards. Hartpury were retaining good ball close to our line and it was only a matter of time…
Again, the home side should be given credit for the way they made such good use of the extra man. They were clinical and took full advantage of our inability to defend against their 8 man drive during that period, although at other times I thought we defended our line well, to be fair.
In the 60 minutes that followed, according to RW we were only penalised a further 7 times (although it seemed like far more) and during the course of the game we conceded 6 in the set piece, a figure that suggests all was not well in the scrum.
A number of supporters, suggested Charlie Beech popped a rib early on which, if true, wouldn’t have helped and the scrum looked to be wheeling almost as soon as the front rows engaged. Whatever the problem, it’s one that definitely needs addressing, and addressing soon.
At half time, having gone into the break 14-7 down, the feeling in the changing room was that we’d gifted the game thus far to Hartpury – as RW said, we’d been ‘crap’ . The choice of word was one that no one there to see that first half would have argued with.
RW felt discipline was better in the second half but on just 30% of the possession, we were always going to struggle and when we were then guilty of 4 knock-ons, conceded a penalty for crossing in the line-out (again) and lost good ball in the ruck and maul, we made it that much harder for ourselves.
Faced with a number of questions about Jake Sharp’s performance and the exclusion of Will Maisey, Winter was fairly poker-faced and would only say words to the effect that the number 10 had had a poor game. It was clear he wasn’t happy at the point, but whether it was because of his disappointment at the quality of Sharp’s display or the manner of the questioning wasn’t quite so obvious.
Sharp or Maisey next week?
Against London Irish I think I’d play Sharp to ensure that Will is fit for the Richmond game, where a win is rather more gettable…
Winters’ comments were a pretty frank and honest analysis of the game.
Cov’s performance was certainly a backwards step from anything I’ve seen this season and at the end of the game I was left feeling emotions similar to those when we travelled down to Esher, Blackheath and Rosslyn Park before Christmas in 2016…it was that bad.
The really disappointing thing was that Hartpury were a shadow of the side that beat us so convincingly at theirs a couple of seasons ago. This was a side that were eminently beatable and had we had a little more control and showed a little more discipline, I do believe we would have left with the 4 points at least…
Back to ‘If ifs and buts…’.
We lost not necessarily because they were the better side, although I guess by definition they were given they won, but because we failed to make what I believe to be our superiority count.
It’s the first game where I really feel we’ve missed the defensive/leadership qualities of Luke Narraway, a name I haven’t seen or heard mentioned of late but someone who just might have made a difference out there on the pitch or from the sidelines yesterday…?
Sadly, we dropped valuable points against a side whom we might well be competing against at the lower end of the table in 8 months time, and that makes it doubly painful.
Yesterday was a reminder of just how tough the Championship can be, a reality check for players, coaches and supporters alike. From the moment we arrived, it felt like we were stepping back into National One – whilst the players obviously have fantastic facilities at their disposal, Hartpury hardly caters well for its supporters, with a small main stand and little else.
Yes, there is a clubhouse, but some supporters weren’t made to feel overly welcome there and were turned away by stewards who suggested the clubhouse was full and they shouldn’t be drinking there anyway (I must stress this wasn’t the case with everyone there)…
Sam made the point, rather cynically but quite understandably, that you can see why the Premiership sides are in favour of ring-fencing when you go to grounds like Hartpury’s – certainly it would add very little to the Premiership experience.
And if promotion isn’t an option for them, given their links to Gloucester, what’s the point?Sour grapes – well it’s not meant to be, but I guess it might well come across that way.
And you can also understand why Sky might be rather less than keen to televise a game there than perhaps at London Irish or Cornish Pirates. There’s little in the way of atmosphere and what there was yesterday was generated purely from the Coventry supporters.
It was a miserable afternoon all round, but hey ho, it was Coventry we were there to watch and you have to take the rough with the smooth.
And in recent seasons the sandpaper has been in evidence a fair amount, all-in-all.
All the best passages of play, certainly in terms of entertainment at least, came from Coventry and when we did up the tempo and had a bit of momentum behind us, we looked threatening. Despite not getting a great deal of ball, I thought several of the backs had decent games.
Knox probably shaded Cov’s MoM for me – strong with ball in hand and always looking to attack. But others in the backs impressed.
Stokesy saw little of the ball, but was good under the aerial bombardment and took his chance brilliantly when he snapped up the pass on the shoulder of Kessell, following a quick tap. He burst through the defences to win the race for the line from 40 metres out.
Sammy T wasn’t particularly prominent in attack, but he led the backs defensively and put in some big hits, winning a penalty and making life difficult for the opposition. Andy Bulumakau had a quieter game and just didn’t get the opportunity to cause Hartpury any problems. Fenner was solid in defence and kicked deep, but as with several players, not always as accurately as was needed.
White took his chance well to pounce on a Hartpury error and score, but his box kicking was a little wayward and the chasers didn’t do him any favours either. He went off following a knock to the head, but after mandatory testing he seemed fine.
So, not a great day at the office all round really. It was the manner of the defeat and not the defeat itself that was so hard to take.
The fact that we were so, so poor yet still earned ourselves a bonus point and were in the game right up until the final whistle speaks volumes about just how limited Hartpury were.
Limited but effective when and where it mattered.
If Cov produce that kind of display against London Irish, then we could be in for a hiding, but we’re at home and we seldom fail to produce the goods in front of the Butts faithful. Another display like that next week and crowds of 2000 plus might well become something of a rarity.
Perhaps, ‘If ifs were buts‘ should read ‘If ifs were Butts‘ because I could never see Cov playing so ineffectually at home.
Annie Lennox is Sue’s favourite female vocalist. She even chose a Eurhythmics track for our wedding – and no, it wasn’t ‘Here Comes The Rain Again‘ before someone suggests otherwise…
Hartpury rained on our parade good and proper yesterday and it was definitely a case of it ‘falling on my head like a memory‘ too; a painful reminder of those away-day blues back in the first few months of Rowland Winter’s tenure.
Two away games, two losses…
I want to walk in the open wind…
Is it raining with you?
Sadly, yes it is…