They give us those nice bright colors
They give us the greens of summers
Makes you think all the world’s a sunny day
I got a Nikon camera
I love to take a photograph
So mama don’t take my Kodachrome away
Paul Simon – Kodachrome
I continue to be in awe of John Coles.
I know little about photography. I take a few photos before and after games but I’m snap happy for the most part and am just grateful if the photo is in focus and most of the subject matter is in frame.
Anything else is a bonus.
But John is a true photographer. It’s his trade and he earns a living from it. And when you look at the photos he takes at Cov games, it’s not hard to see why.
Take the photograph below, for instance:
Ostensibly, it’s capturing the moment when Man of the Match, Ealing Trailfinders Pat Howard, is interviewed immediately after the game following his side’s demolition of Coventry.
Amongst a plethora of action photos from the game itself you’d be forgiven for paying it little attention. It hardly stands out…
…until you look a little more closely.
In fact, it’s one of the more telling photos on the day. And here’s why…
Howard takes centre stage. He stands out, framed as he is in the middle of the photo. The Man of the Match, scorer of two tries, broad in the shoulder, upright. Bigger than any other person in the photo; a colossus on the day.
The scoreboard is above him, a reminder of just how emphatic the victory was. We didn’t need reminding, but the scoreboard hammered it home, remaining on well after the game had finished and still lit up as the Supporters’ Club coach left the ground some 75 minutes later.
To the victor the spoils.
And what of the vanquished?
Well, look closely at the top right hand corner and you’ll see Rowland Winter also being interviewed (by John Butler), only very much in the background – much as his side was for most of the game.
Did JC intend us to read that into the photo when he took the shot? Probably not. But good photographers make a habit of capturing such images.
And as metaphors go, accidental or otherwise, it’s a powerful one. This was the day when Ealing were the team making all the headlines.
Ealing very much deserved to be in the limelight on Saturday, it was an impressive display from a team that could possibly be playing Premiership rugby next season.
Also in the background are Tom Kessell and Adam Peters, being put through some additional post-match exercises. Both came on in the second half as replacements, so they had far less of a work out than the other players. As a result, the stop watch was out as Kessell timed the two of them running several shuttles up and down the pitch with only a very short recovery time in between.
No warm down this – it was far more energetic.
(I’m not sure why they were the only replacements involved. Maybe Peters and Kessell are expected to start next weekend or perhaps they didn’t train fully last week? Preece, Tolmie, Higgins, Bulumakau and Beech didn’t do any additional post-match runs).
Cov might have been well beaten on the day but this is very much a professional outfit these days and Kessell and Peters are athletes for whom fitness is key. Even after what was a tough 40 minutes, they were still expected to do some additional fitness work.
Yes, Cov might have lost but the players aren’t going to take defeat lightly and there was definitely no let up in the conditioning work being required of the players. Not what you want after being on the wrong end of a hefty defeat.
Finally, on the far left of the image is the Trailfinders logo – a picture of a fast moving jet with condensation trails coming off both wings. Okay, I guess John didn’t deliberately plan for it to be in shot when he took the photo, but it does serve to remind us that:
a) Ealing Trailfinders, rather like the jet plane, are powering ahead right now
b) Mike Gooley, founder of Trailfinders, the bespoke travel company, continues to support the club as Chairman and chief bankroller. And a great job he’s done, too..
It’s not often I’ll deconstruct a photo this way, but there’s just so much happening in it even though on the face of it the photo appears pretty run of the mill. And that the secret of a good photo – it tells a story on its own. Sometimes the narrative doesn’t make for comfortable reading, as is the case in this one, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be read.
This week’s portfolio of photos is different from John’s usual offering. Most of his photos tend to be of Coventry players in attacking situations, full of action and intent and often on the attack. That didn’t happen too often on Saturday, so many of his photos are of set pieces or defensive rucks or mauls.
However, there were brief moments in the game where Coventry were on top – we did score four tries after all.
For instance, take our second try, scored by Tony Fenner.
Fenner looked our most dangerous threat in attack until he went off after just 26 minutes, scoring one try and having another disallowed.
At this stage Cov were 19-3 down and we’d just had his first effort ruled out for a Pete White knock on (I think). It was 22 minutes into the game and up until then it had been pretty much all Ealing. The mood amongst spectators was pretty gloomy and although no one had said as much, one or two us were fearing something akin to a cricket score by the end of the game such was Ealing’s early dominance.
But here was a brief moment of hope. Having had the first ‘try’ disallowed, Cov continued to push forward after a Cov steal. The ball went out wide and with little room to work in, Fenner managed to force his way over.
A well taken try…
And here’s the thing…notice the reaction of the Coventry players. Both Trimble and Knox are clearly pumped up and if anyone ever doubted Rob K’s commitment to the cause, look at the following two photos – they’re classics!
There’s no doubting what that try meant to them and Knoxy clearly thought this was a significant moment in the game, perhaps even a turning point – as perhaps it should have been. Sadly though, having pulled the score back to 19-8 with this score, we then conceded two tries in as many minutes and it was effectively game over.
Photos like these show there is no lack of spirit in the team, even away from home when things aren’t going Cov’s way.
The two photos above capture the initial elation on the faces of Pete White and Tony Fenner after they think they’ve scored just moments before and then the disappointment from Pete W as he realises the referee has disallowed it following an earlier infringement.
There were a number of Cov fans, myself included, standing in line with the action but on the opposite side of the pitch. None of us spotted the infringement and when the referee brought play back, one or two of us called into question the referee’s eyesight, although supporters nearer to the play confirmed he was correct after the game.
Jake Sharp is constantly under the spotlight at the moment, little unfairly unfairly at times, but with Will Maisey such a local favourite he’s going to have to work even harder than most to persuade some supporters that he should be wearing that 10 shirt. I thought he had his best game so far against Irish and was disappointing against Hartpury, but with Will Maisey struggling as well, he is rightly the current first choice fly half, although I accept opinion is very divided on that one.
He had a quiet game on Saturday and didn’t do too much wrong other than the cross kicks in his own 22 late on in the second half, but when we desperately needed to do something different at least he gave it a try. Trailing by 30 plus points meant that it was hardly going to change the outcome of the game if it didn’t come off..
He put in a big defensive shift and his break and offload led directly to Heath Stevens’ try (see below):
The most disappointing aspect to Jake Sharp’s game is probably his kicking. He missed a number of kicks on Saturday and given he came here with a reputation for accuracy, he has yet to find his range. However, missed kicks is not a reason on its own to pick Will – he too has struggled with his place kicking, as he did a little last season in comparison to his success in 2016/17.
Rather ironically, Tony Fenner has a better record in the time he’s been here than Will, so given his consistency this season perhaps he should be given the chance…?
Anyway, many thanks to John again. His photos do provide plenty of discussion, capturing as they do moments during a game that most of us are too far away from to really take note of the detail. For me, they really are a great resource and I always enjoy looking through them after a game – if only to discover what I’d originally missed.
The players will have gone through debriefing yesterday.
As I understand it, Mondays involve players reporting back on their own game. They will have had time on Sunday to review their own performance against set targets/criteria and there is a frank discussion on the Monday where the game is reviewed in an open session.
I rather imagine there’s no place to hide, especially in front of your own team mates.
It’s a really healthy way of dealing with difficult situations – get it all out into the open and thrash out the concerns.
In the teacher profession, reviews were annual and in private – and there wasn’t much accountability really. This seems much the better way. you know where you stand and what your peers are thinking – good or bad.
It’s a case of clearing the air on Monday, discussing areas of focus and then working on them in preparation for the next game.
In this case, Carnegie at home on Saturday.
Against bottom of the table opposition and playing at home, it should be another win, but whilst Carnegie are down, they’re certainly not out and they’ve already started to recruit in order to strengthen what seems to be an underachieving squad.
With our away form as it is, we have to continue to win games at home. So far, Cov have looked solid at the BPA and have three notable scalps under their belts already in Jersey, Bedford and Scottish. It looks as if the coaches held back a few players last weekend to ensure they’ll be fit for the Carnegie game, so we could well see Voss, Ram, Stokes, Bulumakau and Halaifonua all return, although if that is the case then a fit Fenner and Knox would be unlucky to miss out.
The Carnegie game is the last before the break for the Cup competition (am I really the only one looking forward to it 🙂 ?), so to finish this first phase of Championship games with a win would be a morale boost.
The Nilsen/Beech connection adds another element to the fixture and if Nilsen was as popular at Carnegie as he’s proved to be at Cov, then there should be some interesting banter going on if there is much in the way of travelling support.
Northerners aren’t slow in voicing their opinions…
Somehow, even with five losses from 8 games, we’re still 8th in the Championship – a sign perhaps of just how competitive this league is.
Doncaster and Richmond, the teams immediately below us, go into Saturday’s games as underdogs, with Richmond away to Jersey and London Scottish at home to Doncaster. We really don’t want Scottish to widen the gap between us, so we really could do with a good win against Carnegie. A five pointer would also increase our lead over Carnegie to 16 points . In effect, three good wins, which sounds far better than just 6 points were Carnegie to cause a surprise and win comfortably.
The pressure is very much on Cov to perform just as much as it is on Carnegie and our track record of playing the bottom teams in the league isn’t as convincing as it ought to be. Hopefully, Cov’s home support won’t be down following another disappointing showing away from the BPA (it was up against Scottish despite the Hartpury debacle) and the crowd will give the side another big lift. I’d be tempted to make Nilsen honorary captain for the day, he did a good job against Scottish and he’ll be up for a return against his former club – and he’ll certainly lead from the front.
I don’t think Stevens will be too disappointed, he’s a club man and would see the logic in allowing Nilsen to lead Cov out. It would certainly be a popular move with the crowd and he could even run on with his kids…
…having said that, I expect I’ll end up being well wide of the mark, with Rowland Winter choosing to start with Scott Tolmie!
Should be a great atmosphere on Saturday, though.
I hope the game lives up to the expectation.
In homage to the old Kodachrome 35mm film…
…and to John Coles of course.