Cov step into Christmas in style…

Take care in all you do next year
And keep smiling through the days
If we can help to entertain you
Oh we will find the ways
So merry Christmas one and all
There’s no place I’d rather be
Than asking you if you’d oblige
Stepping into Christmas with me

Elton John -Step Into Christmas

REMINDER – last chance to vote in the Man of the Match poll v Nottingham (Man of the Match v Nottingham – ends today) and the MVP poll (Coventry Rugby Blog – Most Valuable Player (MVP) Poll – 2019 – ends tomorrow). Thank you to everyone who already has!

If we can help to entertain you
Oh we will find the ways
So merry Christmas one and all
There’s no place I’d rather be

Coventry Rugby had promised a ‘packed Christmas party’ in the days leading up to yesterday’s game and that’s exactly what they delivered, with plenty of entertainment on offer before and after what was a solid, if not spectacular, Cov performance on the pitch to ensure everyone left the ground full of the festive spirit.

And whilst the game itself didn’t quite live up to expectations, the four points that took Cov up to second place in the Championship, temporarily at least, were also cause for much celebration.

Four wins and a draw from seven outings and sitting above the likes of Ealing, Pirates and Jersey in the Championship table is more than most of us could have hoped for. An end of season fourth-placed finish must now be a realistic target, especially with trips to both Ealing and Newcastle out of the way.

Nottingham remain one of the better sides in this league, not a top team by any means but just the sort of side you need to beat if you have aspirations of being a top four side in April. Losing eight lineouts on our own throw and still coming out on top against them, and deservedly so, is perhaps a fair reflection of how dominant Cov were in most other areas of the game and of just how close we are to achieving that aim.

No wonder Rowland Winter was left rueing the missed opportunities:

If our lineout had functioned and matched the dominance of our scrum, we’d have been able to turn the screw much more…we had plenty of opportunities to score that fourth try and should have done better.

DSC05454.jpgRW’s unwillingness to settle for anything less than the high standards he expects from his players is one of the reasons Coventry continue to progress under his stewardship, but even he was caught smiling immediately post game – something that isn’t always the case, lose, draw or win.

It’s not often you see the Cov DoR as upbeat quite so soon after a game!.

And on one or two occasions in the past, especially on those trips down to London in his first season with us, avoiding RW immediately after the game was certainly the sensible thing to do…

 

DSC05462On the subject of the lost lineouts – full marks must go to William B who sent a tweet out regarding the new returnable beer mugs.

He asked if anyone had noticed the photo of Nile Dacres on the mugs and wondered if this image had been staged to remind everyone of what a clean lineout take should look like.

Ouch.

I might not have included that if we hadn’t won.

I jest.

Of course I would have.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Cov pulled out all the stops yesterday to ensure that it was a memorable day for those who braved the rain and the late start to support the club.

3117 did just that and I wasn’t aware of any disgruntled fans on the day. It was well organised and with plenty of outside eateries and places to grab a drink, everyone was well catered for. Days like yesterday will do the club the world of good and with the television cameras there too, Coventry Rugby did themselves credit both on and off the pitch.

Cov promoted the game as well as any in a long time, perhaps since the Hull game back in final home game in National One, and the benefits of the regular reminders and updates the week before were there for all to see.

Although I’ve read elsewhere of some concern as to the empty seats in the main stand, it certainly felt like a very sizeable crowd and from John Coles’ excellent match photos, it looks pretty rammed to be honest.

The block in the main stand nearest the turnstiles was as full as I’ve seen it in a good while and although the block at the far end had gaps, that might be because many of those seats are often given over to parents of the youngsters taking part in the mini rugby activities before the game – not all parents will have stayed on to watch the main event? Just a guess.

There have been occasions where some of the official attendances have seemed ‘generous’; yesterday’s definitely wasn’t one of those.

Lots of supporters had arrived early to watch the Ealing v Newcastle game on the undercard and by 2.30 the car park was already three quarters full. The free drink on offer for those who wore a Christmas sweater was definitely popular with many of those in the clubhouse early doors and there was no evidence at that time of the problems that have beset the bar in recent seasons in terms of queuing and disappointing service.

(Although by all accounts the bar once again struggled to meet the demands of the half time rush, much to the frustration of those who waited 20 minutes for a drink. Apologies for not including this but I was too focussed on the mince pies and chocolate in the main stand. Alcohol v chocolate is a huge mismatch I’m afraid)

20191221_151225-2-rotated.jpgI have to say on entering the clubhouse I made an immediate beeline for the table with the poster ‘Cup Refunds’ above it, mistakenly thinking that the club had decided to reimburse the supporters who’d travelled down to Ealing the week before.

Just 7 days ago, Cov certainly hadn’t put in a performance worthy of a team looking to finish in the top four of the Championship, so refunding supporters seemed a gesture embodying the mood of the occasion.

Sadly, the refund in question was only for the refundable cups and judging by the numbers left in the main stand, some young entrepreneur will have made a killing.

At least you kind of hope that is the case.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Walking around the pitch before kick off, one was very aware of the cameras and the array of vehicles required to broadcast the game live (main photo courtesy of John Coles).

Yet once the clock reached 3 pm, it was all quickly forgotten as the game took over and the crowd focused on the play rather than the occasion.

I’ve not got Sky as, unlike Cyril Lord, it’s a luxury I can’t really afford (for those of an age), so I haven’t been able to gauge how aware viewers would have been of the crowd or the atmosphere, but the Captain’s Run was greeted with its usual enthusiastic roar and there was definitely a buzz around the ground as Rory Jennings’ brother blew the whistle for the game to start…

I’m sure referee Hamish Smales (see above) is in someway related to Rory Jennings…?!? (Photo courtesy of John Coles)

Plenty has already been said about the game elsewhere and in truth it was all a bit of an anti-climax after Cov got themselves into a strong position early on but were unable to convert their dominance into a four try performance. Nottingham were resilient and defensively put in a good shift, although they struggled to threaten the Cov line in all but the final 10 minutes or so despite some decent possession at times.

Neil Fowkes, the Nottingham Head Coach, summed it up pretty well on their official website:

Our defensive lineout was great, we won more than half the balls from their line out and we looked dangerous at points but we didn’t take our chances when we got down in the green zone. Coventry fully deserved their victory today. It goes back to no scrum no win.

There was plenty for the Cov coaches to be pleased about, especially in the scrums. I can’t recall a first half in which we dominated this area of the game so completely, with the visitors pushed back off the ball time and time again. By the same token though, nor can I recall us ever being so outplayed in the lineouts, losing the first 5 on our throw. In recent games we’d appeared much more assured but it all fell apart and as good as the forwards were elsewhere, the lineouts really were poor and against a team that threatened more, well we could have been in real trouble.

(Photos again courtesy of John Coles)

Ryan Burrows has had a number of explosive games for Cov already, but yesterday he was immense. A big, ball carrying 8 is something that we’ve lacked since Jacques Le Roux was in his prime but Burrows looks to a player who leads by example and two or three rampaging runs caused all sorts of difficulties for Nottingham. Indeed, Scott Tolmie’s try in the second half resulted from one such break.

Burrows on the charge and a couple of passes later…(not a great fan of the Notts shirts, btw)

 

…over goes Scott Tolmie. And just look how much that try means to Phil Boulton! (Photos courtesy of John Coles)

Ben Nutley had another strong game and was often up on the shoulder of the ball carrier – his support play is such a strength and with Wallace working hard at the breakdown, this is arguably our strongest starting back row, with two of Nayalo, Peters and Ram on the bench. Peter’s ability to cover 4/5 makes him particularly useful here.

Ben Nutley in action on Saturday (Photo courtesy of John Coles)

But on the day when Ryan Burrows certainly caught the eye and was the sponsors’ choice of Man of the Match (and a very popular one, too), I thought both James Gibbons and Phil Boulton were also mightily impressive. They gave the Nottingham front row a miserable time and Gibbons, in particular, was prominent in the loose. Props often go unnoticed, but yesterday both had stonkers of a game and I gave my MofM vote to JG. I thought he was imperious yesterday and on his day, Phil Boulton can be such a destructive tight head.

James Gibbons on the charge (Photo courtesy of John Coles)

The backs never really got going against Notts, although when it started to open up a little after Pete White had come on I thought they looked a lot more dangerous. Purdy and Forsyth had quiet games. Forsyth had one strong run that hinted at things to come, although under the high ball, in wet conditions, he didn’t look overly comfortable. Will Owen made a difference when he came on and he has a happy knack of breaking the first tackle – he’s a bruiser of a centre and he seems to make things happen.

(Photo courtesy of John Coles)

Cov’s inability to score that fourth try took a little of the gloss off the game, but not the afternoon.

Yesterday was a taster of how things could be in the next couple of seasons; a club pushing for a top spot in the league, a support base that continues to grow and in ground that is more geared for Premiership rugby.

Yes, we’ll lose players along the way, as we saw with James Stokes earlier in the week (according to the The Rugby Paper James is only at London Irish for the remainder of the season…?). And with the likes of Wallace, Purdy and presumably Forsyth all keen to get back into the Premiership sooner rather than later, others will move on too. But Rowland Winter is getting a reputation for some astute recruiting and doubtless whoever moves on will be replaced by someone as good, if not better.

These are heady times for Cov supporters and with Wasps currently struggling to produce the results required to keep them in the top tier, we could be looking at a very different picture in 12 months time. All Cov can do is keep progressing as they are, the rest is out of their hands.

No bah humbug from me…

Cov really have made sure this year that all their supporters are stepping happily into Christmas…

Step into Christmas
Let’s join together
We can watch the snow fall forever and ever
Eat, drink and be merry
Come along with me
Step into Christmas

Just wish the admission was free…

Author: Tim

6 thoughts on “Cov step into Christmas in style…

  1. Such dominating performances like that don’t come around too often but to be fair to Burrows, he’s been one of Cov’s most consistent players so far this season. Happy Christmas and thak you for your continuing support of the blog.

  2. Sadly, Sam, I haven’t seen the incident, although I did watch most of the first half in the clubhouse before braving it outside on Saturday to enjoy the build up before the game. I’ll try and find it on YouTube! Happy Christmas to you and yours and thank you for your continuing support.

  3. Had to laugh – “I have to say on entering the clubhouse I made an immediate beeline for the table with the poster ‘Cup Refunds’ above it, mistakenly thinking that the club had decided to reimburse the supporters who’d travelled down to Ealing the week before”

    Nice work again Tim, thanks. I wondered if you had taken chance to watch the Ealing Newcastle game where N8 was sin-binned after some outstanding playacting worthy of a professional soccer player?

  4. Spot on again Tim. If only we could make Burrows fire like that every week?

  5. Brilliant summary of the day Tim, have a really great Christmas and New Year.

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