The Twelfth Day of Christmas and the final day of the ‘Coventry’s Most Valuable Player’ poll results.
Today the winner is finally revealed.
And Coventry Rugby’s most valuable player, according to readers of this blog, is:
Back in February 2017, along with Sam, I travelled over to Billesley Common to watch England Counties take on Scotland Club XV. The England team included the Coventry quartet of Pete White, Andy Brown, Jimmy Litchfield and James Stokes, together with Jack Preece, Dave Brazier, George Oram and Nile Dacres who would all join Cov at the end of that season.
That night England totally outgunned their Scottish counterparts, winning 57-27.
In a blog the following day I chanced to write:
‘The two second rows, George Oram (he of the beard) and Nile Dacres (he who caused Cov so many problems when we went down to Plymouth earlier this month), both had excellent games – secure in the line-out and very noticeable going forward. Oram, in particular, is a player who seems to relish having ball in hand.’
I’ve said for a while now that he would be on my radar but I was impressed with both.’
It was only later that Cov announced that both players would be joining Cov, but whilst Oram had stood out on that Friday evening, Nile Dacres had caused Coventry no end of problems in the lineout a couple of weeks beforehand when we had visited Brickfields for a National One game against Plymouth. Such was his performance back then that he was awarded Man of the Match and was the difference between the two teams. Had it not been for the dominance ND showed in those closing minutes, we almost certainly would have gone on to win the game. He won four lineouts on our throw when we were starting to dominate and starved us of ball in good attacking situations
Rowland Winter has told the story of Niles Dacres’ signing on more than one occasion – how he had met up with him the evening before that Plymouth game to finalise his move to Coventry and, on leaving, his parting words to Nile had been something along the lines of ‘you’d better not clean us out in the lineouts tomorrow’.
Which of course is exactly what he did.
Niles Dacres is yet another example of Rowland Winter’s ability to recruit players who are versatile and have the ability to play in more than one position. Talking to John Wilkinson about Nile Dacres’ move to Coventry, Cov’s DoR commented:
‘His aerial ability will add quality to our line-out, and although he is most comfortable at blindside flanker, he has played very well at second row for England Counties recently’
RW has shown time and time again that when putting a squad together, he looks at the player and not necessarily the position. Nile played a few times in the back row, but most of his appearances for Cov have been in the second row where he has added a degree of consistency that was lacking before his arrival.
In the past I’ve heard the coaches talk of Nile Dacres’ strength as the line-out caller. I presume the ability to read the game and to make decisions as to numbers and who to hit is far more complicated than it sounds to someone not in the know, but it is clearly an area of the game that he excels at and is something that he himself has referred to on previous occasions:
‘It’s something I’ve just grown into over the years and taken a bit of responsibility for…and I’m enjoying that part of the game’
It’s one of those discussions that might make for an interesting Supporters’ Club evening…
Dacres strength at the lineout isn’t just confined to winnng the ball on our throw; he is also a spoiler too, as we found to our cost when he so destroyed our lineout in those final minutes down at Plymouth in 2017.
He is exceptionally athletic for such a tall man and it’s not hard to see why he’s had plenty of success playing at 6 – but with his speed, agility and strength in the lineout too, at second row he adds even more. And whilst Nile clearly enjoys playing as a flanker, the move into the second row is something he’s been more than happy to accept:
‘I’ve played quite a bit of rugby in the back row, I enjoy it and I suppose it does give me a bit more freedom than in the second row, but at the end of the day it’s what’s best to get the team going forward and you have to do the work in whatever position you are playing…’
But there is so much more to his game than the work he does at the lineout.
Defensively, he is a brick wall and always puts in a strong shift (a big plus for Anthony Allen no doubt) and in attack he seems to like nothing better than to pick up and go to keep Cov going forward, with a more than decent turn of speed as you would expect from a player who has played a lot of his rugby in the back row.
The injury that kept Nile Dacres out for all of last season meant that he is behind many of his team mates in terms of current Championship experience, although did play 1 game for Rotherham (12/13) and 7 (14/15) for Moseley before moving to Plymouth. That said, he has taken to it like a duck to water and his availability this season has been one of the key reasons for the improvement in the forwards, especially in the set piece. Such is the impact he has, George Oram, James Voss, Alex Woolford and Scott Russell are all behind Nile in the pecking order at the moment.
At the end of Coventry’s promotion winning season back in 2017/18, Nile Dacres was awarded a two year contract, a contract which ends this summer. At 27, he’s another player who is in the prime of his playing career and an extension looks to be guaranteed, provided no other clubs coming a-knocking.
Nile Dacres exemplifies the success that Rowland Winter has enjoyed in bringing in relatively young players and allowing them time to develop their game at Cov, rather than relying totally on experience players coming in towards the ends of their careers. That mixture of youth (the likes of Dacres, Trimble, Stokes, Knox, Maisey, White and so on) and seasoned professionals has been at the core of Coventry’s success over these past three seasons.
Dacres is clearly ambitious, leaving Plymouth, who finished second in National One that season (2017), to join Coventry presumably because he saw us as better matching his own aspirations. In the past, he has stated that he’d like to play Premiership rugby at some point in his career, so realistically the next couple of seasons are his best bet:
‘I’d definitely like to be back playing there and I’ll just push as hard as I can and keep pushing myself.
I think every player has aspirations to move up, and although you can’t predict the future, of course I have ambitions to play in the Premiership – I’ve just got to keep doing my best, pushing myself, and just keep going’
Hopefully though, Nile has already put pen to paper for the next two or three seasons…
It goes without saying that ND would have played far more for Cov than his current tally of 40 games had he not been injured last season. In 2017/18 Dacres played 28 games in National One for Cov, starting all but one of them, and already he has played in all 7 of the Championship games so far, starting all 7. Rowland Winter has used the Cup games to give him something of a breather, playing him in just 3 of the six and only starting the once – a sign of his importance to the team’s success in the Championship, perhaps?
In those games The Rugby Player has provided player ratings, Dacres’ score of 6.63 shows what a consistent performer he is and doubtless this would have been a significantly higher score had it not been for the two appearances off the bench where he had considerably less time to influence the game.
And with the exception of the Nottingham game just before Christmas, Nile Dacres return has coincided with a much improved lineout, although credit there isn’t his alone. However, it’s no coincidence that Cov’s better start start to this, their second season back in the Championship, coincides with his long awaited return.
So it’s Nile Dacres who heads the 2019/20 Cov Blog MVP poll and joins previous winners Jack Preece (2017/18), James Stokes (2016/17) and Jacques Le Roux (2015/16).
Congratulations, Nile – it’s much deserved.
I’ve had a trophy inscribed with Nile’s name which I will pass on to the club – hopefully he’ll forward a photo of himself with it so I can include it in a future post.
Results of this year’s poll are as follows:
Day 12 – Nile Dacres (1st)
Day 11 – Max Trimble (2nd)
Day 10 – Ryan Burrows (3rd)
Day 9 – Jack Ram (4th)
Day 8 – Rob Knox (5th)
Day 7 – Rory Jennings and Will Maisey (6th)
Day 6 – Pete White (7th)
Day 5 – Tony Fenner (8th)
Day 4 – Luke Wallace (9th)
Day 3 – Henry Purdy (10th)
Day 2 – Adam Peters (11th)
Day 1 – Senitiki Nayalo (12th)
Many thanks to everyone who voted.