Cov have the game to dethrone Ealing. Winter is coming…

Lets do it
Lets do it
Lets do it
And live it up
I gotta feeling that tonight’s gonna be a good night
That tonight’s gonna be a good night

The Black Eyed Peas – I Gotta Feeling

giphy1.gifMake no mistake.

Winter is coming.

The clocks have gone back, the nights are drawing in and the temperature is falling fast.

Pre-season has been relegated to little more than a distant memory, the Cup games to no more than a taster for the start of the Championship proper.

The season is upon us.

And on Saturday, Winter comes to West London.

Ealing be warned.

Three games into the Championship and supporters will have seen enough to form some sort of idea as to how their teams will fare over the course of the next 6 months or so.

And for most Cov fans this season, it’s more a case of expectation than it is of apprehension. 14 months ago, I freely admit the reverse was true. New to the Championship after 8 long years in the wilderness of semi-professional rugby, the challenges presented by Tier 2 rugby were huge.

As they still are, of course, but despite a series of very disappointing away performances last season, Coventry still showed that it was a club very much at home at this level.

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On Saturday, Cov play their Round 4 tie away to Ealing Trailfinders, a team heavily backed to do well this year and, along with Newcastle Falcons, favourites for the title.

12 months ago, Ealing away from home (or any side away from the BPA for that matter) and I would have feared the worse…and rightly so. Now, well I’m nowhere near as nervous about the trip down to Vallis Way.

Still anxious for sure, but not fearful by any means. Cov have won 7 of their last 9 away games, with the only two defeats being against a strong Leinster side in a pre-season friendly and against Jersey in the opening game of the Championship.

I’ve been lucky enough to see Cov play 7 of those last 9 away games, missing the Leinster game and the Cup tie against Ampthill. In none of those 7 games  have I seen any of the frailties and lack of belief that were the hallmark of many of Cov’s losses on the road in our first season back in the Championship, nothing that makes me fearful about the trip down to Ealing.

Respectful?

Certainly.

Ealing Trailfinders are one of the top clubs in our league and capable of inflicting a heavy defeat on any side caught off its guard.

But Cov are no longer the minnows of the Championship; we’ve shown we can beat top 4 sides. Bedford, Jersey, Pirates, we’ve beaten them all. Lost too, mind.

Time to step it up a further gear, perhaps?

4 of the last 7 away wins have been against Championship sides so it’s probably time to put to bed the belief that Cov don’t travel well.

8 of the 23 players in last week’s match day squad (if you include Nile Dacres) weren’t even playing for Cov last season, so they will be far more used to Cov winning away from home than losing. And that’s an important factor in ensuring that Cov’s confidence going into Saturday’s game remains high.

Winning, or playing well enough to win and in the belief that you will win, can become just as much of a habit as losing can.

But more than just the win/lose/draw outcome, for me the game against Ealing on Saturday must also be about the journey.

Not the physical journey on the day, but the metaphorical one that Cov are part way through, the one that has been so meticulously planned these last three seasons and whose destination is ultimately the Premiership itself.

Ask the coaches and they’ll say that the goal on Saturday is to come away with the win. You’d expect nothing less.

But that wouldn’t necessarily be mine, if the truth be known.

It wouldn’t even be just to come away with a point.

Anyone who travelled to Ealing 12 months ago will realise that’s not the wisest thing to wish for – Coventry were blown away by Ealing down there in the first half and ended up losing 60-25. Cov scored 4 tries in reply but were hardly worth the bonus point that day.

I’d much rather have lost by 8 points and not got anything from the game.

What I’m hoping for is that Cov continue to show further signs of the steady improvement that we’ve seen in their away performances since Doncaster in April. Okay, Jersey wasn’t a great result for us, but it’s a game we could have won at the death even though it wasn’t one of our better outings in recent months. Overall the progress the team has made since the game against Trailfinders last October has been clear to see.

We’ve lacked a little consistency at times and haven’t always shown the discipline needed to stick to the game plans but we are a much stronger squad now than we were then, not just on paper but on the pitch as well.

For me then, the performance on Saturday is crucial. We know that Ealing like to take the game to the opposition from the off, as they did down at theirs in October and again at the BPA earlier this month. Keep them relatively quiet in the first 15 minutes and we ‘ll have a really good chance of taking something from the game. Three weeks ago, Cov gifted Ealing an early 12 point lead but fought back well to narrowly lose 17-22. 12 months ago we’d conceded 6 tries in the first 30 minutes but matched them try for try in the last 50…

Do Cov have the game to dethrone Ealing Trailfinders?

Yes, absolutely they do.

Admittedly, It will take something very special for Cov to come away with the points, very special indeed, but we’ve seen enough from Cov under Winter, Walshe and co to know that it certainly isn’t within the realms of possibility.

Possibility, not probability.

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By all accounts. Ealing haven’t played with the confidence and fluency that we might have expected so far this season. Having further strengthened their squad over the summer, it was anticipated that they would have things more their own way than so far seems to be the case.

A loss to Pirates, a wobble against Jersey (home) and a close tussle with Bedford (away) won’t have done much for their confidence and they know that anything other than a strong performance against Cov on Saturday will open the door for the visitors. And Cov are more than capable of taking advantage should Ealing falter.

Cov worried Ealing in those final minutes at the BPA three weeks ago and had  chances to win the game and should we be close again on Saturday, I fancy us to go one step better this time round. The Ealing crowd isn’t going to be a big one and with Cov taking a Supporters’ Coach down in addition to those making their own way there, all the noise will be coming from the visiting supporters. Again.

Fitness hasn’t been mentioned as an issue at all so far this season and, indeed, we’ve tended to finish games the stronger this season.

The more I go on, the more I convince myself!

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My good friends at Paddy Power don’t see it quite the same way as I do, with Ealing being a whopping 9/1 on for the win, but at 5/1 against it might well be worth a flutter on Cov. Stranger things have happened.

And well done, again, to the Supporters’ Club. The coach down to West London won’t leave until after the England game has finished (no extra time, hopefully. Can you imagine!). As a result, those making the trip down will have the opportunity to watch the World Cup Final in the clubhouse beforehand with the added bonus of ‘light breakfast snacks’ available – which presumably means a ‘bacon sarnie’ or similar. Sorted.

Sue and I watched the final Lions Test against New Zealand at Cov in 2017 and it was a great occasion, as I expect it to be on Saturday. How the England game will impact on both Cov and Ealing in the afternoon remains to be seen, but the day will certainly have a strange feel to it and maybe that could also play into Cov’s hands somewhat.

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Weather forecast for Ealing on Saturday

As could the weather.

The Met forecast makes for depressing reading, with heavy rain looking likely from 12.00 pm onwards.

Ealing’s game is very much based on expansive, running rugby and even on an artificial surface a wet ball in those sorts of conditions isn’t conducive to an open game.

Cov will have trained all week on their own artificial pitch and will feel far happier about playing Ealing on a synthetic surface than 12 months ago. Despite the fact that there’s very little shelter at Vallis Way, I’m kind of hoping for a bit of adverse weather. It could be a great leveller.

giphy2This is the first of what I believe will be the real tests confronting Cov in the Championship this season. Pirates (a) and Newcastle (h +a) and Ealing (h) being the others.

A strong performance from Cov, one in which we take the game to Ealing and make them work for every single point has to be our aim…

We know that if both sides play to their best, then Ealing will win 9 times out of 10 at the moment.

 

If Ealing don’t and Cov are close to playing to their fullest potential, then we could certainly spring a surprise.

And a big one at that.

Winter is coming…

Be afraid, Ealing, be very afraid… 🙂

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Maybe because rugby-wise Saturday is such a one-off day, I just have the feeling that we might see something special from Cov. We’ve threatened to beat the top two sides before…London Irish at home last season, Ealing at home this season.

The Irish game last season was something of a false dawn and they blew us away down at theirs after Christmas. This season, however, we have a far stronger squad and the added experience of winning away from home with some regularity. Sometimes the game of rugby can be about small margins and with Coventry Rugby hopefully full of confidence after some decent results, those margins are far smaller now than they were 12 months ago.

We are soon to find out…

I gotta feeling Saturday’s gonna be a good, good night…

Come on Cov!

 

 

 

 

 

Author: Tim

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