In my dreams I have a plan
If I got me a wealthy man
I wouldn’t have to work at all
I’d fool around and have a ball
Money, money, money
Must be funny
In the rich man’s world
Money, money, money
In the rich man’s world
Abba – Money Money Money
They are strong at home; Steve Hill has worked wonders with them and they are a committed group who love playing the underdog…
…so says Rowland Winter in the official club statement accompanying yesterday’s announcement of the team to take on Richmond at the Athletic Ground later today.
And that’s quite comforting in many ways as this must be one of the few games since Richmond were promoted back in 2016 in which they have found themselves as favourites going into a Championship game, rather than the underdog.
Surely, newly promoted Cov have to be the underdogs, playing as they are an ‘established’ Championship side away from home and as yet without an away win to their name?
And perhaps that puts even more pressure on Richmond. Two games in successive weeks where they’ve been seen as the favourites to win. That’s something of a rarity.
Sammy Tuitupou talked of the need for Cov to develop greater mental toughness; let’s hope it’s not a strength of this current Richmond side either.
They showed just how good a side they can be in defeating Hartpury 38-12 last weekend, scoring six tries in the process. The win took them to ninth in the table, just two points behind Coventry, so another victory today would see them leapfrog us. Still early days, but this afternoon would be an ideal occasion on which to get your first away win of the campaign.
And I think we will.
I’ve even put money on it – although there’s nothing new there as I’ve done so in every game this season and even despite the three losses, I still have my head above water.
Paddy Powers have Cov at 11/10, with Richmond at 8/11, so the home side are clear favourites with the bookies, as they are on Rolling-maul.com where out of 25 predictions so far, a home victory is the most popular outcome on 14, with just 11 readers opting for the away win.
And that should suit Cov.
Whenever we are the underdogs we tend to raise our game and on the back of our strongest performance of the season so far, I fancy us to have the edge. If we hit our straps as we have yet to really do as an attacking force other than that 20 minute period in the first half against Bedford, then we could yet take one or two teams apart.
Of course the reverse is equally true and whilst I don’t think for a minute we’ll see any game this season in which we’re on the receiving end of an 80 minute demolition, if we’re slow to start we could find ourselves two or three tries down in the opening quarter and playing catch-up for the rest of the game.
For me, that’s the worry. There’s always that risk of being caught cold.
Encouragingly though, in the three Championship games I’ve watched so far this season, fitness doesn’t appear to have been an issue and the longer the game went on against both Hartpury and London Irish, the more competitive we were.
Now the season is well underway, it’s all too easy to overlook the work done by Max Hartman and his team over the summer, especially before the pre-season friendlies began. I’m probably out on my own here, but before the season started there was part of me that was a little worried that we’d come across teams who would be fitter than us, especially early in the season, benefitting perhaps from having full-time squads over several seasons.
And just as pleasing is that despite the obvious increased physicality of the Championship over National One, Cov seem to have suffered relatively few injuries since the season started, using just 29 players in their match day squads (of which 28 have started). The only long-term injury seems to be Nile Dacres and that occurred before the Championship got underway, a testament to the fitness/conditioning work undertaken over the summer months.
Odd players maybe haven’t had the luxury of a full pre-season to get completely match fit, as has been the case with Jake Sharp, but generally I think we’ve shown levels of fitness which are at least comparable to any of the teams we’ve faced so far. Indeed, after 80 plus minutes against London Irish, who were a Premiership outfit last season, I thought we finished the stronger of the two sides.
Conditions don’t look as if they’ll be altogether conducive to a running game this afternoon, with the BBC weather app suggesting that there’s at least a 90% chance of rain around kick off.
Shades of Hartpury two weeks ago.
Whilst we failed to do ourselves any favours there, the players and coaches have had a long time to reflect on that performance and to learn from the mistakes we made that day. The Irish game was a massive improvement on the week before and I’m expecting to see a similar display again today.
Maybe the decision to opt for a 5:2 split on the bench today reflects the probable conditions the players will be facing come 3.00 pm.
James Gibbons and Charlie Beech have both appeared in all 5 games and Gibbons, who rarely gets a mention in dispatches despite being a rock in the Cov front row, has played a full 80 minutes in every game (I think); no mean feat that. With Phil Boulton out for another 4 games, having two replacement props makes sense given that options are a little limited up front at the moment and the last thing the coaches would want is to continue to play JG if he picked up a niggle during the game.
Given the weather, it seems likely that the game isn’t going to end up the running-fest thatmost of us would like to see and perhaps that could work in our favour. Richmond scored four of their six tries through their backs last weekend – a more physical, forwards’ dominated game isn’t something that should worry Cov too much as our pack have pretty much held their own so far this season and with backs like Halaifonua, Knox and Tuitupou, we have that extra level of physicality that might be suited to wet- weather conditions.
You could put any of those three into the back row and they would do a job for you, I reckon…
The loss of James Stokes is a big disappointment and given his own unique skills, we’re never going to replace him like-for-like, and from a spectator’s point of view he brings that added level of entertainment to a game that makes him such an exciting player to watch.
However, Halaifonua at full-back isn’t going to reduce Coventry’s effectiveness greatly and perhaps Rob Knox deserves the start anyway as he’s looked threatening in every game he’s played. Today’s conditions might well suit him, too.
And fair play to the coaches who saw in Knoxy something that many of us supporters didn’t. Under both Maynard and Morgan, Rob had been played in midfield, but RW and co didn’t take long to decide that his skill set was better suited to playing out wide on the wing.
As I recall, it wasn’t a decision that Rob was too smitten with initially, but here we are two seasons on and he’s played in 4 of the 5 games so far, appearing to look well-suited to life in the Championship.
Good to see one of the new boys making his debut this weekend, too. Congratulations to Dan Faleafa who comes in to replace James Voss. Voss’ enforced absence following a failed HIA last weekend meant that one of Faleafa or Alex Woolford was always likely to get the nod and RW’s comment earlier in the week that:
it gives opportunities to others who are knocking on the door, especially the likes of George Oram, Alex Woolford and Dan Faleafa who’s been outstanding in training since he arrived
made Dan the front runner from thereon in.
Despite Woolford’s return to Cov, Cameron Gray retains his place on the bench which must be a further boost for the him after a couple of very encouraging appearances recently.
Interesting to see Will Maisey back in the side – I reckon it’s a canny move on the part of the coaches, too. We know that RW tends to rotate his players fairly regularly so Will was probably due a game. By resting Jake Sharp now, after the Irish game in which he really looked the part, he’ll have a player whose confidence is much improved following on from the lows of Hartpury and someone who will be raring to get back into the side as soon as possible.
Keep ’em lean, keep ’em mean.
And we know exactly what we’ll get from Will and if it comes to a kick to win the game for Cov in the dying seconds, well my money’s on him.
This is the first of the three visits to London this season.
It hasn’t been the happiest of hunting grounds for the club in recent years, although last season Cov won two of their three games down there against Esher and Rosslyn Park, before succumbing to a Blackheath side in January who were excellent, playing some fast, attacking rugby that we just couldn’t handle on the day.
Even though this is our first season back in the Championship for 9 seasons and it is all still very new, there’s a good deal of experience in the side tomorrow and although there’ll be plenty of pre-match nerves on my part, I’m still confident and believe Cov will have enough in the tank to take the points.
Just how much the weather impacts on the game has yet to be seen. In dry conditions I would fancy us to pick up the bonus point, but if the rain doesn’t hold off, it might be a good deal tighter.
This is a big game for us. Maybe not quite in the same way as the Irish game was last week, but against teams in the bottom half of the table we have to come away with the points at home and win the odd game away from the BPA.
We failed to do that against Hartpury in what was out poorest performance so far but we have another chance just two weeks on, this time against Richmond.
Let’s not waste this one.
As always at the games I attend, I’ll be tweeting updates from Richmond.
I’m on @CowshedTim, but if it’s merely updates of scores you’re after, then Richmond and Coventry will doubtless be providing info via their own Twitter accounts which might better suit your needs rather than my more frenetic commentary of sorts.
As always, apologies for the typos/inaccuracies in advance, it does all get a bit fast and furious – the closer the game, the more I tweet, so hopefully there won’t be so many tweets as in previous weeks (providing it is Cov who are in control).
Wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, have a great afternoon….
Up the Cov!
...research commissioned by a major mortgage lender found that, on the quantitative statistical indices used, the borough had the best quality of life in London and was in the top quarter of local authorities nationwide. A neighbouring authority in Surrey achieved the best quality of life in that report.
Money, money, money, it’s a ‘Richmond’s’ world…
Okay, the club might have declined to go fully professional, but with so many of their players holding down well-paid jobs in the City, there really should be no shortage of volunteers to get the first round in after the game…
And besides, it is Abba and the opportunity to watch Agnetha again.