The Friendlies – Season 5: Episode 2 (The One Against The Red and the Blacks)

Friend or foe
Friend or foe

I want those who get to know me
To become admirers or my enemies.

Take it up or leave it
I’m not gonna change a bit.
It it means heartache then leave it out for your sake.
I tried and I try tried but still you say that I lied

Adam Ant – Friend or Foe

I’ve always had something of a love/hate relationship with Moseley.

Whenever they’ve been in the same league as us, competing for the same prize, they’re very much the ‘old enemy’ especially should they happen to be above us in the table or in the week leading up to a game.

Outside of that, then I’ve always had something of a soft spot for Mose.

Rivals always, but over the years the two clubs have produced some extraordinary games full of memorable moments. Not always for the right reasons mind, but memorable nevertheless. If you’re of a certain age then you can’t help but have a respect, grudging or otherwise, for our closest rivals.

Mostly friend, sometimes foe.

Friday evening’s fixture, billed as a pre-season friendly, still saw Moseley as the foe for me, but with Cov continuing to enjoy the bragging rights, the intensity of a fixture where rather more than just a token cup was at stake was somewhat lacking.

Indeed, the fixture failed to attract a crowd worthy of a contest that goes back such a long, long way. I haven’t seen the official attendance for the game, but from where I was standing, the ground looked pretty empty other than the area in front of the clubhouse. Whether the £15 entrance fee was a factor in reducing the size of the gate is now academic, but I can’t help but feel it probably was.

Whilst the game might not have had the pull of a league or cup encounter, it was well-contested and at times was a feisty affair with both sides committed to the cause in conditions that can’t have been the easiest in which to play.  The players certainly gave it their all even though it appeared many supporters opted to spend their Friday evenings elsewhere.

Although a 7.30 pm kick off, it was still incredibly warm…

Despite the heat, the warm-up was gruelling. The final 20 minutes leading up to the game was intense, far more so than I remember from last season. Rowland Winter has commented several times that the focus has very much been on raising the levels of fitness during the 13 weeks of pre-season and in the two games over the weekend, fitness levels seem to have increased. This was especially evident in a tight game (in the first 70 minutes anyway) against Blackheath on Saturday. A very inexperienced bench meant those starting played far longer in the blistering heat than was perhaps originally anticipated.

The Captain’s Run (is that the correct term?) appears to have changed this season, with players in three groups moving between drills overseen by the three coaches, Nick Walshe, Louis Deacon and Anthony Allen. It was constant movement with just the odd 45 second break to take in water.

I can’t help but compare this to the days of Dave Addleton and Pete Glackin (who spent more time in the minutes leading up to the game with his lad than with the players, at least as I remember it). Cov have come such a long way since then.

The eye in the sky - and hovering above Cov as they warm-up
The eye in the sky – and hovering above Cov as they warmed-up

At one point in the build up, Rowland Winter popped over to say a warm hello. Above us, seemingly from nowhere, a drone appeared above, leading him to quip that it was probably Blackheath’s in preparation for the game the following day.

Most likely it was being controlled by some tekkie enthusiast from the other side of the Common, but the fact remains that the technology is in place for clubs to spy on the opposition from afar and they  remain powerless to stop it from happening. (I should add, I’d be happy to stand guard with an air rifle or catapult in return for one of the new training tops which, I might add, look very impressive).

Cov have their own drone which they use to record training sessions for further analysis; from RW’s reaction it wasn’t theirs.

Tempting as it is to categorise the Fri/Sat teams as second and first choice sides, Winter confirmed that this just wasn’t the case. Friday’s side was chosen to be a more physical one to combat the threat of Moseley’s big pack, Saturday’s  a more technical one.

Senior players were mixed between the two and supporters shouldn’t assume  that the team chosen to face Blackheath would be closer to that selected for the first league game in October.

As for the game itself, well it was a fairly typical pre-season ‘friendly’. There was plenty of effort there and at times it was almost as if Cov were trying too hard and as a result were the victims of their own endeavours, making far too many unforced errors especially in the first half. That said, so early on in the season you wouldn’t expect Cov to be clinical and in truth at times they were a little profligate Understandable, though, especially when the coaches have spent far more time working on fitness than on technical skills.

I spoke to Nick Walshe on Saturday. As always, he was honest and open about the team’s performance, frustrated that the game hadn’t been won in the first half when we failed to capitalise on a great deal of territorial advantage. Louis Deacon was far from happy, suggesting that perhaps the forwards lacked a little intelligence out on the pitch at times.

Once again, it was the lineout that was the most obvious concern. Cov lost a fair few on their own throw. Against Moseley we threw away several good attacking opportunities as a result…(nb there was a notable improvement against Blackheath to be fair).

Moseley also caused us problems.

They were really up for the contest and their big pack competed well for much of the game. Buster Lawrence, as he so often does, had a stormer, as did Jacques Le Roux and Danny Wright, looking fitter than I remember him from his Cov days, clearly had a point to prove. And prove it he did. Morgan and Maynard experimented with Wright in the back row at times, but for me at 5 he looks far more effective and, on Friday night’s performance, Moseley will be far more competitive this season than last. Rumours that three teams will be promoted from National One next season might explain why a number of clubs have recruited so strongly, as is the case with Moseley, although I still think they’ll be a number of teams ahead of them next April.

For me, one of the most influential players on the pitch was Ben Palmer. Ben’s teaching commitments meant he couldn’t sign full-time for Cov, presuming of course Cov wanted him, but in National One he’s going to cause teams all sorts of problems and his opening try, where he ghosted in from 20m out, showed just what an attacking threat he can be with decent ball. He led the Moseley line well and caused us problems at times when he kicked astutely out of hand.

Dan Lewis showed up well too. His pinpoint cross kick gave young James Martin his debut try for the club. I was fortunate to be standing next to James’ dad for much of the game. Simon Martin played for Cov in the mid 90’s and obviously still loves the club, so to see his son score must have been something special. I was also rather relieved he was there as the midges, of which there were many, took far more of a fancy to him than me.

Unlike against Blackheath, a young bench got plenty of game time against Moseley and one or two players made a real impression, especially the winger who replaced Trimble who made some powerful runs (taking out several Moseley players in the process) and the no 8 who acquitted himself admirably too. Once Cov’s first choice props had gone off though, even with Gibbons on, our scrum wobbled and at one point we were shoved off our ball just 5 metres out…prior to that though it had looked very solid.

It was good to see ‘young’ Luc Jeannot back. His return from surgery to his shoulder early on last season will be like recruiting an additional member of the squad and if he continues to improve at the rate he has over the previous couple of seasons, it won’t be long before we see him back in the match day 22.

All in all, it was a a decent run-out. Once the second half changes began to take place, the game lost what little fluency it had had and Moseley began to come back into the game. In the final few minutes those Mose supporters who had made their way over to Billesley began to find voice, sensing there might be an upset as Moseley clawed their way back to within a score. Cov’s defence though looked pretty solid, especially when the Moseley forwards  tried to drive  through the middle. They made little ground when they did.

Allen must be encouraged by what he saw.

All-in-all, Cov deserved the win and despite some areas that will clearly need addressing next week before Cov travel to Cambridge for another challenging contest, it was a good run-out for the players and I imagine the coaches will have been pleased with such a good work out.

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Although I’ve been to the Billesley ground on several previous occasions, I’d never really clocked the memorial to those players who died fighting for their country in the 1914-18 war. The memorial at Moseley is impressive in its simplicity and a permanent reminder for all to see of the sacrifice made by so many.

I’m not aware of Cov having anything similar, although there might well be a board in the clubhouse that lists Coventry’s fallen. I venture into the clubhouse so infrequently I’ve probably missed it.

In recent years, Jon Sharp has read the names out the Coventry’s own Roll of Honour before the start of the home game nearest Armistice Day – always a moving tribute.

I wonder if a more permanent memorial, such as the one at Moseley, could be added to the plans for the new build at the BPA?

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Another local derby, another win for Cov. We’re on something of a roll at the moment and I’m too long in the tooth to believe this is anything but short-lived. That’s why I shall savour even a fairly meaningless win like this.

Few things in rugby would please me more than to see Moseley back in the Championship and a locking of horns once more between our two great clubs.

More friends at the moment.

But doubtless foes in the future.

Good luck Moseley for the coming season.

So unplug the jukebox
And do us all a favour
That music’s lost its taste
So try another flavour –
‘ant music’ ‘ant music’
‘ant music’ ‘ant music’

 

 

 

 

 

Author: Tim

1 thought on “The Friendlies – Season 5: Episode 2 (The One Against The Red and the Blacks)

  1. Tim, I think Aston Villa at home and on TV and Warwickshire playing Worcestershire T20 probably had as much impact on the gate as the price.

    Most supporters that did turn out appeared to be Blue n White that had come down the A45. I have to say having attended about 3 games at Moseley last year I am sad to say their support always seemed very thin on the ground.

    A more permanent War Memorial for ex players at Cov is a very good idea. Perhaps a project for CRSC.

    Good reading as always Tim.

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