I want to be your sledgehammer
Why don’t you call my name
Oh let me be your sledgehammer
This will be my testimony
I’ve been feeding the rhythm
It’s what we’re doing, doing
All day and night, come on and help me do, come on and help me do
Peter Gabriel – Sledgehammer
Twice on Saturday afternoon Peter Gabriel’s ‘Sledgehammer’ was played across Ealing’s PA, once before kick off and again at half time.
A great song it is too (an even better video if you can’t recall it – see later) and in truth a fairly apt one from the perspective of most Coventry supporters present.
By the end of the game Cov had been well and truly sledgehammered by an Ealing side who on the day were quicker, stronger and more committed in most every facet of the game.
Cov were certainly victims of their own downfall to a certain extent but Ealing were far sharper than in the two previous encounters between the two sides this season and it ended up being a stark reminder of just what is required of the players if this side is to become one of the top two teams in the league.
Cov were always going to have the occasional off day this season and certainly the performance on Saturday comes under that category. It was much poorer than the display against Jersey which, up to the weekend, had been Cov’s most disappointing so far.
Whilst Cov’s progress has been rapid, there is still much to do and when the top teams play to their potential, as Ealing did on Saturday, there is no margin of error for the rest.
Unfortunately the margins on Saturday were huge and it felt as if every mistake we made was seized upon by Ealing.
They were ruthless at times.
But we made life a lot easier for them than we should have and had we played with the same intensity and discipline as we did against Newcastle before the break for the Cup competition, it might well have been a good deal closer.
Although not close enough in all probability.
A late withdrawal didn’t do Cov any favours, James Gibbons having to pull out through injury.
In fairness though, Luc Jeannot was one of the few players who stood out on the day. Not only did he have to play at loose head, Luc’s a tight head first and foremost, in defence he completed a staggering 23 tackles and was out on his feet in the final minutes, eventually succumbing to cramp.
Luc continues to impress in every game he plays and he, alongside Nile Dacres and Jack Ram, was probably the pick of the team on the day, although others might well have a different opinion.
The other plus was the debut of Sam McNulty, coming off the bench in the 63rd minute and giving a good account of himself against one of the strongest packs in the Championship. He’s yet another Cov kid making the leap from the Academy side into the first team – okay, injuries have worked in his favour this time round but there’s every chance we’ll be seeing a good deal more of him in the coming months.
The really disappointing thing for me was that in the last 10-15 minutes it almost seemed as if heads dropped. We all knew that a bonus point could be important in determining home advantage in the quarter finals, so when Jack Ram took advantage of an overthrow at a Cov lineout to score 14 minutes from time, it looked as if we might get something from the game even if we had been second best ’til then.
Just one more try was required…
And then we seemed to lose the plot a little, gifting them three easy tries as we changed the restarts and lacked any real semblance of composure. 17 points in a five minute spell highlighted just how unrelenting Ealing are in this sort of form.
The Coventry coaches in the box on the opposite side of the pitch to us could only watch on as Cov capitulated in those final few minutes, powerless to influence the game as it unfolded in front of them. For the first time in ages, heads dropped a little as Cov had no answer to the power and pace of Ealing – the longer the game went on, the better they looked.
It was all very frustrating, but it could well prove to be cathartic. The players will be hurting for sure, as Phil Boulton hinted when he came on the Supporters’ coach after the game to apologise for the result – and fair play to him for doing so.
Nick Walshe and co. will have plenty to work on in the days ahead and with Cov at home against Nottingham on Saturday in the Championship, they will want to ensure that the final game before the Christmas break doesn’t turn into something of a pantomime.
And in front of the cameras, too.
I’ve been critical of Cov’s performances on occasions in the past, but that’s usually been in games where the opposition has been eminently beatable. That wasn’t the case yesterday. Yes, we’d drawn against Ealing away from home earlier in the season and taken them to the wire at the BPA too, but their performance yesterday was on a different level. It’s one of those games where you just have to admire the opposition and learn from our own mistakes.
And we did make a fair few of those.
One of the big differences for me was that Ealing could afford to be patient both with and without the ball. The knew we would make errors and were happy to wait until the mistakes came and then capitalise. In attack they were able to break tackles time and time again and all too often had players in support to continue the play.
As the highlights below show, several of their tries come from either poor handling on our part or our inability to bring the player down in the all important first tackle.
Others though, just show their class
In defence, they were able to control the game even without the ball, waiting for the mistake from us which often came sooner rather than later. We had our ball turned over on numerous occasions and their back row was especially effective, whereas when we tackled, we seemed reluctant to commit players.
Despite an early Ealing score, Cov were able to keep pace with the home side for much of the first quarter, thanks in part to a fortuitous interception by Andy Bulumakau and an 80 metres chase to the line. Once Ealing scored their third (of eight) try of the afternoon, it was all one way traffic as a combination of power and pace (and a fair bit of skill too) saw them ease ahead.
Cov were left chasing the game.
According to The Rugby Paper, there were 788 there watching the game…
Also, according to The Rugby Paper, Cov conceded 12 penalties in total, although it seemed like a good deal more, with many of them coming in the first half as Ealing made light of playing into quite a stiff breeze.
In the second half, the referee seemed to redress the balance somewhat. However, he did take exception to some backchat when Cov were awarded a penalty inside Ealing’s 22, reversing his decision with the result that the pressure was immediately back on Cov. It was poor from us as the players had worked hard to get themselves into a good position only to lose it because of one person’s ill-discipline.
If Rowland Winter still operates a fines’ system, someone is going to be out of pocket this month.
It was a very disappointing performance from Cov, of that there’s no doubt, one made to look all the worse because Ealing were so very much better on the day than they’d been in the two previous games against us this season. At least it was a Cup game and whilst it wasn’t a dead rubber as such, we were through to the quarter finals whatever the result.
As is always the case in these sorts of defeats, the really important thing is not the performance itself but the team’s response to it. Next Saturday in front of a big crowd, in festive mood, Cov will want to show that this was very much a one off.
Nottingham are never an easy side to play and they beat us at home last season with a last gasp drop goal, so there’s a score to be settled there. In an easier pool, Nottingham clinched top spot with 21 points, 1 more than Coventry, but in the league they are one place below us in sixth, with 15 points from their 6 games (against our 18). It’s an ideal opportunity for Cov to extract their revenge on Notts, at the same time showing that we could yet end up being the best of the rest behind Ealing and Newcastle come April.
It all points to another close encounter. But heads need to be in a better place than they were on Saturday for sure.
Coincidentally, just before kick off I made the comment to Mick C who was sitting next to me (and whose drink I knocked over…apologies again, Mick) that I thought Cov were strangely subdued in the warm up.
Normally it’s quite noisy pitchside, especially during the final few minutes before kick off, but it didn’t seem that way on Saturday. In the final minutes Ryan Burrows even called out that he wanted to hear more talk between the players.
It was probably just a coincidence that Cov underperformed in the game, yet I can’t help but feel in front of what should be a big crowd at the BPA the players will be more fired up than they were in the minutes leading up to the kick off against Ealing.
All-in-all it was a tough afternoon but, rather like the Newcastle game, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
I’m already looking forward to the team’s reaction next weekend.
You could have a steam train
If you’d just lay down your tracks
You could have an aeroplane flying
If you bring your blue sky back
…blue skies are coming back to the BPA, but there will inevitably be a few dark clouds along the way. Saturday saw the skies darken, but hopefully only temporarily.
Against Nottingham they’ll clear once again…
It’s our turn to have the sledgehammer.