Robbin’ the ‘Hood…
Golly What Day
Disney – Robin Hood
At 21-0 up after just 16 minutes, Coventry looked as if they were going to win at a canter. Three unanswered tries appeared to be the beginnings of what threatened to become a Cov avalanche.
The BPA crew, over 1600 strong, were lordin’ it large…
It was sick, man.
But then the Notts outlaws started robbin’ the ‘hood.
And whilst Cov in the end did just enough to deserve the win, a lot of the plaudits must surely go to a very young and inexperienced Notts side.
For a good 50 minutes after what was a very nervy start for them, they gave as good as they got and caused Coventry’s pack no end of problems until the replacements came on and Cov’s forwards began to take rather more control of the game than they’d managed in the previous second and third quarters.
The experience of Nutley, Boulton, Nilsen, Beech and Ram proved a huge factor in Coventry’s improved performance in those final 20 minutes or so, whilst young Will Flinn did his case for further appearances in the Cup games no end of harm with a really confident 15 minute cameo. Together with Dan Lewis, Flinn highlighted just how much ability there is to come through from the Development Academy.
George Oram put in another excellent performance and well-deserved his ‘Man of the Match’ award – he is one of the few Coventry players whose form has been consistent this season since his return from injury.
However, I thought Pete White had a really strong game, too. He looked to play the game at pace once again and his willingness to tap and go on a couple of occasions led to a try in the first instance and a yellow card for a Notts player in the second. He also prevented what looked like a certain Notts score in a last ditch tackle, holding the ball and the player up over the line. Decent effort from Pete yesterday I thought.
With several other players, including Louis Roach and Rob Povey still to feature in a competitive senior game (discounting Canada which was more of a ‘friendly’), there must now be one or two of the senior squad glancing rather anxiously over their shoulders in the next few weeks…?
A second consecutive win mustn’t paper over the cracks that seem to be appearing in Coventry’s defensive wall these last few games.
To let in an average of 29 points per game in the competition is a worry, especially as the Coventry teams in these last three games have included many of the senior squad involved in the previous Championship games.
Yes, perhaps Coventry’s players did switch off after taking such a commanding lead so early on in the game, but for a good 30 minutes Coventry’s pack were given a torrid time in the loose and they had no real answer to Notts rolling mauls in the 20 minute periods before and after the half-time interval.
Coventry’s pack looked to be far bigger (and older) than their Notts counterparts but their relative experience counted for little as Notts drove them backwards on a number of occasions. Even with players with the physicality of Voss, Oram, Adams and Jubb, Cov seemed to struggle to cope and it’s small wonder that in his post match interview the Nottingham coach, Neil Fowkes, commented that he was immensely proud…
…of the forwards and our set piece dominance as a young pack
So when Nick Walshe talks about Cov players taking their ‘feet of the gas’, I think he’s probably being a little hard on Notts, and their forwards in particular,who made life difficult for us throughout the game.
Cov did enough to win the game and take the 5 points and scoring 7 tries indicated just how attack-minded we were. Conceding 5 though shows how frail the defence was at times and whilst it’s true to say we probably became a little too confident at 21-0 up, I do think Notts deserve plenty of praise for the way they approached the game. It wasn’t just a case of us giving points away – Notts earned them, too.
16 minutes into yesterday’s game and Friday’s return fixture over at Lady Bay looked a great opportunity to end our dismal run of away defeats.
After 80 minutes it looked anything but…
If Cov are to come away with the win, they’re going to have to put out another strong side, even if Notts put out another ‘weakened’ one. It might well take the nous of players like Tuitupou, Stevens and Bulumakau, together with seasoned forwards like Boulton, Nilsen and Beech to start rather than wait their turn on the bench, to break down a Notts side that will now be fairly confident that they can turn us over with home advantage.
They have to fancy their chances, surely?
Coventry’s fortunes started to change when the coaches began to bring on the bench. There were a couple of enforced changes just before the end of the first half, with Stokes and Nutley coming on as Knox and Adams both picked up injuries. Knox had been a constant thorn in Notts’ side but Adams had had a relatively quiet first 40.
In the second half I thought Nutley was immense, carrying the ball well and helping to shore up the defence. He’s beginning to show the kind of form that we’d all hoped for and if he can remain injury free, I think he’ll have a strong second half to the season.
In the absence of Phil Boulton from the starting XV, Tony Fenner was given the honour of leading the side out onto the pitch. However, once Boulton was brought into the game, he led from the front and on more than one occasion he could be seen encouraging his team mates, even to the point of ‘remonstrating’ with them for not grounding the ball and losing the put-in as a result.
The worry for me is, on this performance, just how will we fare against Nottingham’s full Championship side? They currently have six wins from 9 and are up to 4th in the table – the away trip to Notts on December 23rd isn’t one that fills me with much Christmas cheer at the moment, at least not based on what we witnessed at the BPA yesterday.
If we can beat Notts next weekend, then with just two games to follow in the round-robin that puts them out of contention and makes us favourites for a quarter-final place, especially with a home game against Doncaster to follow.
Yes, selection for Friday’s game will be interesting…
With Rowland Winter having previously indicated that Tuitupou, Stevens and Bulumakau will all be involved on Friday, one player who looks likely to be left out is Rob Knox. His current situation is an interesting one. Two impressive performances at 13 in the last two games have reopened the debate as to where his best position is. Last week he was vying for the Man of the Match award and this week he looked to be having just as big an impact until a blow on the nose put him out of the game two minutes before half time.
Rob scored the opening try and his powerful run and willingness to take on the defender allowed Trimble in for Cov’s second and the first of his three tries.
And boy did he put in some thumping tackles.
With a 5-2 split on the bench, it’s unlikely that he’ll play a role as a finisher as Winter seems rightly to opt for a scrum half and a utility back, more often than not Tony Fenner. So unless Knoxy starts, he’s unlikely to get a look in, but in his current form would he be a better option than either team captain Heath Stevens or Andrew Bulumakau?
Good to see Rob looking so hungry again.
Once again the penalty count is well over that double figure cut off. However well we play, when we concede more than 10 penalties we are always going to let the opposition back into the game, territorially at least. We can’t continue to show such ill-discipline on the pitch.
Yesterday, the referee didn’t seem to be penalising us in any one area of the game, and whilst we did concede a few penalties for scrummaging offences, there were also a couple for high tackles and some issues at the breakdown.
12 games into life in the Championship and we really ought to be learning our lessons, but as yet and very much at face value, this doesn’t really seem to be the case.
When we did get it right, against Bedford as I recall, we only conceded 5 penalties in all and that was a decisive factor in us beating the side that currently lies 5th in the Championship, equal on points with Nottingham.
There are still another three games before we see a return to the Championship, still plenty enough time to get it right…
Another great game for the spectators, another home win. The Cup is certainly proving to be an immensely entertaining distraction from the main event BUT as yet Cov don’t appear to be successfully addressing some of the areas of play that have been such a concern in the Championship games.
What it has done though, and successfully too, is given the coaches a chance to look at some of the younger players or those on the fringes of the senior squad with a view to seeing if they can make the next step up.
Both Flinn and Lewis did themselves no harm at all yesterday. I’m sure we see both in the senior match day squads again before too long. And deservedly so.
One of the really pleasing aspects of this season has been the pre-match involvement of so many youngsters from a range of local clubs. Last week it was Barkers Butts, this week it was the turn of the Old Wheatleyans.
Again, it was a fantastic turn out and it was clear that those involved were having great fun out on the pitch with Scott Russell and Ben Gulliver overseeing most of the activities. There were plenty of parents looking on and a number of regular supporters came over to have a look, too. Everyone was impressed by the sight of so many children getting stuck in and clearly enjoying themselves. Not only is it a fantastic experience for the kids, it’s also Coventry’s future in the making. The club seems to have made huge strides in terms of its links with the minis from local clubs in the last few months – a big well done to everyone involved.
It also looked like every one of the children involved was wearing an Old Wheatleyans ‘Odd Balls’ bobble-style hat – Odd Balls being a company which prides itself in raising awareness of testicular cancer. Nice touch that, so-to-speak.
It was good to meet Paul Wright from the OWs, too. Paul has followed the blog for a good while and been kind enough to keep in touch via Twitter, so putting a name to a face was an added bonus.
Now I’ve stopped taken photos at games, I can get back to doing a few laps of the pitch pre-match. Not quite the same energy levels as the players might expend in their warm-ups but a token gesture of support nevertheless.
12 laps yesterday which, according to Sam’s GPS, equates to 3 miles thereabouts and probably an all-comers record…? Certainly a new PB for both of us.
I did my 10,000 steps, avoided the burgers and felt pretty damn pleased with myself as a result.
Might turn up in a running vest and shorts for the Doncaster game…
Coventry 45 35 Nottingham
Golly What Day