Letting the days go by, let the water hold me down
Letting the days go by, water flowing underground
Into the blue again after the money’s gone
Once in a lifetime, water flowing underground
Same as it ever was
Same as it ever was
Talking Heads – Once In A Lifetime
Over the years Bedford has seldom been a happy hunting ground for Cov and I’ve certainly watched more losses than wins down at Goldington Road.
And in the past, Bedford crowds have always been very similar to those at Coventry – loud and partisan but also very welcoming. Indeed, I’ve vivid memories of sitting in the stand surrounded by home supporters, a wall of noise echoing around me.
It was always an intimidating place to go to as a spectator- even more so for visiting team I guess.
But yesterday it was all very different.
At times the home crowd were eerily quiet, only making themselves heard on two or three occasions when Bedford looked to have broken through Cov’s well-organised, tenacious defensive line. Other than that it was if someone had pressed the mute button and the crowd was expected to watch the game in silence.
The atmosphere of old just wasn’t there. 2200 plus supporters in a relative small ground should be making a cacophony of noise.
Yesterday, I swear I heard the pin drop.
It can’t be easy for Bedford fans right now. 11th in the Championship and in any other year already in a relegation dog-fight.
Yorkshire Carnegie have saved them the ignominy of that, for the time being at least.
And in the Cup Bedford have fared little better, sitting as they are bottom of Pool 1 with just 1 point from their 5 games and 6 points adrift of Championship newbies, Ampthill.
An 80 point mauling at Ealing last week won’t have done much to raise morale either, so it’s hardly surprising that Goldington Road was in sombre mood as the Blues ran out to face a confident Coventry side, buoyed by that comprehensive demolition of Ampthill in the previous round.
Bedford have always made it clear that promotion into the Premiership wasn’t a priority for them. Resources, both in terms of the ground and financial backing, just wouldn’t sustain the club in the top flight as I understand it.
It’s a decision that has to be respected by those outside of the club BUT it is a timely reminder of what life in the Championship could be like for Cov were the Premiership ever to be ringfenced. No aspiration, no real motivating force.
Bedford and Coventry. Two clubs, two very different outlooks.
Right now ambition is what spurs Coventry Rugby on to bigger and better things both on and off the pitch, as well as creating such excitement and anticipation amongst its supporters.
The constant drive to improve the squad and develop the ground to ensure it becomes a stadium fit for purpose is creating a buzz that can be heard well above the drone that emanates from across the city.
Remove an opportunity for promotion and there is a serious danger that a club like Coventry could and would stagnate.
Would Rowland Winter and his coaching team be happy to stay without that incentive?
Maybe, maybe not.
But the atmosphere at Bedford yesterday, to me anyway, felt like that at Cov four seasons or so ago. A big club treading water in an endless ocean.
Bedford supporters might well argue differently, and would have every right to do so, but through the eyes of someone who has visited Goldington Road a good few times over the last six decades, the ground certainly didn’t seem as intimidating as in the past.
I fully accept that some of that must be down to the belief these days amongst supporters that even away from home Cov are more than a match for all but the very best sides in the Championship – Newcastle certainly, Ealing and Pirates too, perhaps, although Pirates seem to have struggled a little this season.
And that belief appears to be one shared by players, too.
Cov’s results away from home since Doncaster have been impressive, with just two losses in 8 (?) competitive games. That’s some turn round after 8 losses and 1 draw in the previous 9.
Yet, it’s more than just that. If you are a travelling supporter or even an opposition player, walking into the BPA you can’t help but get a sense of the excitement, a feeling that this is a club on the up. A new pitch and marquee this year, a scoreboard and changes to the external facilities last season…it’s obvious.
And that is immediately disarming…
But a visit to Bedford’s ground yesterday and, well, it was the same as it ever was…
It’s a lovely ground, but kind of timeless…very much as I remember it when we were in the Championship 10+ years ago.
The supporters are always welcoming and knowledgeable about the game, but whereas it once held all sorts of fears for travelling Cov supporters, that is certainly not the case any longer.
Not even the slope.
We’re in a new era of professional rugby and somehow, rightly or wrongly, it feels as if Bedford have yet to get to grips with what is required.
In fairness, the ground does cater exceptionally well for its supporters though, with plenty of pitchside catering outlets and outside toilets available (which means a trip back to the club house isn’t necessitated should you be taken short).
And in their cheesy chips they have one of the best fast foods available on the circuit this season. Coronary inducing they might be, but as soon as I saw the chap standing next to me devouring a try full, it was the essential purchase of the afternoon. Sam won’t be happy he missed it, that’s for sure.
And at £16 for pre-match day online bookings, the cost of a ticket to sit in the main stand was good value too (and many thanks to the Supporters’ Club for alerting travelling fans to this).
With the late withdrawal of Heath Stevens from the starting XV, Cov made 10 changes to the side that began the game against Ampthill. That Cov are able to ring the changes like this and still beat a very competitive Bedford side speaks volumes about the strength and depth of this current Coventry squad.
Remember last season when we travelled down to the likes of Richmond, Hartpury and London Scottish, sides struggling near the foot of the table? Even with our strongest available sides we still came out second best (third in the case of Hartpury).
After conceding 80 points away to Ealing last weekend, there was always going to be a backlash of sorts and before the game I think most Cov supporters felt that the Blues would be far more competitive after a week of having to come to terms with the size and manner of that loss.
And indeed they were.
Cov won, and in the end won comfortably, but for 70 minutes Bedford made it very tough for us and they would have been entitled at half time to feel somewhat unlucky to be 0-17 down.
Coventry had scored three tries, but two of them were interceptions which skewed the score somewhat in Cov’s favour. What I should add, and I’ve not seen it mentioned elsewhere, is that Max Trimble often goes looking for the intercept and it was clear from where I was sitting in the stand that he had read the play well and positioned himself for the longer pass out wide.
Nothing fortuitous there.
Also, a word for Pete White. He was run down twice against Newcastle following interceptions and inevitably comments were made at the time about a lack of pace/fitness. However, the two Newcastle players involved were real flyers and up against the Bedford winger yesterday, Pete had more than enough in the tank to out run his chaser over a full 70+ metres.
(And good to se both Pete and Max coming on to the Supporters’ Coach before it departed to say a few words. Much appreciated).
Cov struggled at times to break down a very determined Bedford defence that gave little away.
Two late tries meant Cov were able to pull away in the end, but for long periods in the first half Cov couldn’t make their dominance tell, other than through those two interceptions and a well-worked Henry Purdy try when Bedford were down to 14 and Cov worked the ball over several phases to make the space for the full-back run through.
Bedford came out for the second half with renewed self-belief and took the game to Cov, scoring in the 63rd minute and looking as if they could close the gap still further. One of the pleasing aspects of the game, again, was Coventry’s defence which was under considerable pressure for long periods of that second half.
On two or three occasions Bedford closed in on our line only for Cov to force the error or Ben Adams to make a last ditch tackle to prevent the try. It was tense and only then did the Bedford crowd stir, but it never felt as if Cov were going to succumb and in those final few minutes Cov started to make good use of the space that was opening up and scored another couple of tries.
The Rugby Paper had Purdy down as its Man of the Match. Two tries obviously made him a contender but it was another one of those team performances that have characterised Cov of late.
It wasn’t a classic by any means and as a spectacle it wasn’t the most entertaining of games to watch (especially the line outs which misfired again). But Cov had to secure a win and preferably pick up a bonus point along the way. To do both was pleasing. It was a case of job done and, in the end, job done well.
I’m not quite sure why, but travelling back to Cov we all thought the team had done enough to ensure a home tie in the quarter finals in February but that was all a bit premature. With Notts and Pirates both playing today, Cov might well have to get something from their game against Ealing next week if that is to be the case.
These Cup games have been really enjoyable and despite many comments to the contrary, I’m really enjoying seeing one or two Cov players who might not feature regularly in the Championship fixtures getting a run out in the Cup – Jeannot, Lewis and Flinn last week, Adams and Stevens (the hooker) this week.
Do I mind watching Bedford for the third time already this season?
Of course not.
Three wins against a side that in the past has caused us no end of grief isn’t too much of a hardship – although if I were a Bedford supporter maybe I might hold a slightly different view of the competition.
Ealing next week then – and for the third time this season; and each of the previous games has been a nail biter.
A win is definitely a possibility this time, although Ealing’s last gasp win against Ampthill yesterday might well shake them up during training in the days to come.
What’s the betting there are a good few changes made for Saturday’s game? I’m hoping we’ll see what is as close to Coventry’s best match day XV as possible, injuries permitting. What ever the side put out by the coaches, Ealing will face another real test from a Coventry squad that will be determined to come away with the win.
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
Third time lucky, so-to-speak.
For Cov supporters, of whatever age, what we’re seeing happen at the BPA is a once in a lifetime event…a rebuild and rebrand that is designed over several seasons to turn Cov into a club that is ready for a sustained period of Premiership rugby.
Which is why Talking Heads’ Once In A Lifetime is so relevant to what is happening at Cov. For far too long the club let the days go by, failed to question its own direction, held down back its lack of ambition.
We always had what we needed but never appreciated it…
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house
With a beautiful wife
And you may ask yourself, well
How did I get here?
The question the club never asked until recently is not ‘how did I get here?’ but ‘where do we need to go from here?’.
Fortunately, there are those who hold office at the BPA who now ask that on a daily basis and who have the drive and skills to get us to where we all want to be.