Ampthill v Coventry – hardly a princely performance on the pitch, but a well-received one off it

I never meant 2 cause U any sorrow
I never meant 2 cause U any pain
I only wanted one time 2 see U laughing
I only wanted 2 see U laughing in the purple rain

U say U want a leader, but U can’t seem 2 make up your mind
I think U better close it and let me guide U 2 the purple rain
Purple rain, purple rain
Purple rain, purple rain

Prince – Purple Rain

Ampthill 1It was cold and miserable yesterday afternoon at Dillingham Park.

And had it rained, it would have rained purple…

Dress it up anyway you like, but the bottom line was this was a poor Cov performance, the worst of the season and one that underlined that despite the progress the club has made since joining the Championship a season and a half ago, there is still some way to go before we are an established top 6 side, left alone a top 4.

Like many Cov supporters this season, I’ve built up the team’s chances of finishing in the top 4 based on strong recruitment over the summer and several really encouraging performances before Christmas.  Saturday, however, was a reminder that Cov are still vulnerable to away-day wobbles and that good as they are, any team in this league (with the possible exception of Carnegie) can turn us over if we have an off day.

And as off days go, well we didn’t even turn up at the office.

Sometimes the choice of the song to accompany a post can be a little tenuous at times, but Purple Rain is probably one of my better ones. In explaining the meaning behind the song, Prince suggested that when blood mixes with the sky, the red and blue causes purple rain – a sign that all is not well and a hint of worse things to come. And in moments like this you need someone to ‘guide you through the purple rain’.

For Prince, it’s about faith and God.

As far as this blog is concerned, it too is about faith –  and Rowland Winter.

The Cov Director of Rugby stepped up to the plate big time yesterday.

RW clearly appreciated that supporters had endured 80 minutes of a below par Coventry performance that just wasn’t acceptable, at least when comparing it to the high standards set by the squad in most of the games pre-Christmas. So the Cov DoR took it upon himself to talk to the travelling supporters before they left the ground.

In short, to apologise.

Never an easy thing to do and never the easist of audiences in such circumstances, especially after there’s being a drowning of sorrows on red wine and lager. Someone not quite so articulate and rather less empathetic and it could have all gone horribly wrong.

Not so with Rowland Winter though.

It was something that was roundly appreciated, and applauded, by those who were there and rather than leave unanswered questions which would have created more and more uncertainty, he was open, honest and direct. It was clear that he was frustrated, disappointed, angry even  at his team’s performance and he sure as heck wasn’t going to make any excuses for what was an unacceptable display from his side.

I’m fortunate in that I have a reasonably good short-term recall and I think I can remember much of what he said.

Paraphrased, it ran along the lines of:

I felt it was necessary to come onto the bus to apologise for the performance today. Nothing had been wrong with the team’s preparations over the week leading up to the game, injuries aren’t a problem; it’s a fit squad. 

The game plan that had been put in place was a simple one but in the end it was a question of the players being able to talk the talk but not walk the walk.

Targets set hadn’t been delivered and the game had been lost in a poor first half at the end of which Ampthill got a deserved try. Discipline had been poor, the referee had pinged us (here he mentioned breakdown, scrum and other areas). We had come with the intention of playing but had allowed them to spoil. 

By half time there should have been a bigger gap between the two sides but we failed to take our chances and that as far as the table goes, Cov should be more than 3 points ahead of Ampthill.

Hopefully, anyone on the coach reading this will let me know if I’ve missed something ut of importance.

And that was it. Short and unsweetened.

But it needed to be said.

Hardly a princely performance on the pitch, but a well-received one off it.

There were no excuses at all, even though there wasn’t a Cov supporter there who hadn’t felt that Cov had been hard done by at times – a penalty try that wasn’t given, a try disallowed because the officials hadn’t seen the ball grounded when supporters from both sides had, some inconsistent refereeing at the breakdown and so on.

No, Rowland Winter wasn’t having any of it. The failure to win was down to Cov and Cov alone.

And actually, that’s all the supporters on the coach needed to hear. An 80 minute return journey that might have been spent dissecting the game to identify what we thought were the issues became a far less painful one, even despite the loss.

I should add, Rory Jennings had apparently said a few words before Rowland Winter spoke but I’d been deep in conversation and hadn’t even realised he been on the coach, let alone spoken. I only found this out from having just read Cliff B’s post on the Unofficial MessageBoard.

Ampthil were one-dimensional, showing little intent to move the ball beyond their 10 and happy to keep the game tight and prevent our backs from getting any decent ball. What they did, they did well and it would be churlish not to recognise that Ampthil played to their strengths.

Unfortunately, we played to theirs, too.

On one of the few occasions Ampthill did move the ball beyond their fly half, Max Trimble intercepted and raced away for the try which seemed to kill of any further willingness on their part to be expansive.

Decision making wasn’t great at times (why throw high and long into a strong wind?) and our place kicking was poor. Tony Fenner didn’t have one of his better games really and we failed to take advantage of the elements in the first half. Had we kicked our chances, well we might have won the game.

Might.

The most disappointing aspect of the game for me, though, was that after we had worked so hard to get back into the game and take the lead with just a few minutes to go, we didn’t have the experience to see the game out. There were plenty of leaders out on the pitch but when we had the put in at a scrum with 30 seconds to go, it should have been a formality really, especially as our set piece had looked stronger as the game went on.

To lose the game on the very last play was galling, particularly so as we’ve seen this season, we are the better side. But we weren’t good enough yesterday and it was painful to watch the Ampthill supporters celebrate a win that we handed to them as much as they earned. Ampthill supporters might well disagree on that one, but that’s how it felt at the time and still does.

We’d tackled hard and defensively  kept Ampthill down to just the one try, despite the home side having plenty of ball in our 22. On the occasions we managed to give the ball some width we looked dangerous, although we were a little cavalier at times when we tried to keep the ball alive.

RW’s post match reaction suggests that issues resulting from Saturday’s game will be addressed this week for sure, and the big test will be the players’ reaction to this defeat against Scottish on Saturday. If they perform so poorly again in front of a home crowd that will be expecting a strong response, then I doubt they’ll get quite the understanding shown this weekend.

 

For those who have never been to Ampthill, it’s worth mentioning that in the depths of Winter, when the elements are against you, when there’s little atmosphere and it feels more like a parks’ game than a Championship fixture, it must be a really difficult place to play. That’s no excuse for what happened yesterday, but players who have come to Cov from the likes of Gloucester, Harlequins, Edinburgh and so on just won’t have experienced anything quite like it.

Playing as we did back in the September in the relative warmth with no wind, well it’s a very different scenario…

And it’s also worth mentioning that I know of several Cov supporters who weren’t able to attend as it’s aground that is inaccessible to those who are elderly, frail or incapacitated.  And that’s not right…

Ok, when the BPA is packed full with 3000 partisans then it’s a place to be feared for visiting sides. But so must Dillingham Park for a lunchtime kick off in conditions that make it a pretty inhospitable venue even for the hardiest of supporters. There were 1000 there yesterday, a good few Cov supporters in that number too.

Only in the last 10 minutes did the Ampthill supporters make themselves heard  – a case of only singing when their winning, but then again they have won as many Championship games this season as we have.

A final word about Andy Bulumakau who looked to have cracked a rib or two having just come back after recovering from a broken cheekbone. He scored Cov’s opener and his return had been welcomed by Cov fans who know just what an exciting player he can be. He was in considerable discomfort as he walked back to the changing room after the game and when I asked him how he was, he said it was going to take him a ‘while to get into the showers at this rate…’.

Sadly, I reckon it will be a good 4-6 weeks at least before he’s back in training.

I hope I’m wrong.

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

I never meant 2 cause U any sorrow
I never meant 2 cause U any pain
I only wanted one time 2 see U laughing
I only wanted 2 see U laughing in the purple rain

Video gold…

 

 

 

 

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Author: Tim

6 thoughts on “Ampthill v Coventry – hardly a princely performance on the pitch, but a well-received one off it

  1. Thanks, Cliff…spot on with the addition to what RW said on the coach. Here’s hoping for a significant improvement on Saturday. Many thanks for leaving a comment…as always.

  2. Hi Tim, excellent and very fair review, as ever.
    I’m pretty certain that you weren’t on the coach when Rory Jennings made his very rushed appearance. There no more than a handful of supporters who had boarded at that point and, as I said, only if you were seated at the front would you have seen him. Insofar as hearing him is concerned, frankly you didn’t miss anything because his very few words weren’t worth hearing.
    As for Rowland’s comments, you’ve encapsulated them very well. Do you mind if I add one thing he said which, again, reflected the feelings of the by now disgruntled supporters? He observed that it was simply not enough to turn round at half time, when we’d had the strong wind in our favour, with a lead of only two points at 10-12.

  3. Wow…I try not to do envy, Phil, but I never did see Prince. Raspberry Beret always gets to me. Hopefully meet up in Cornishland next month…

  4. Hi Rob…and thanks you! I was blessed on Saturday! I always miss seeing my lad at the rugby but to have john Coles sit next to me on the way day and you the way back was a real treat. Great to talk old school too! Oddly, I always find it helps if the person I’m sitting to has had a couple of drinks given my insular nature!!!

  5. A fair summary of the day Tim…
    It started brightly enough with a few beers in a nice, traditional clubhouse then went rapidly downhill, finishing up with being relegated to a large tent (marquee would be an overstatement) with a corrugated iron bar after the game.
    Good to catch up for a chat though – I hope I wasn’t too incoherent, I probably shouldn’t have had the double Jack Daniel’s before getting on the coach…

  6. Good piece Tim, as usual
    I have said enough about the game and my thoughts on it, both in company after the game and on the “message board” frustrations vented etc and i will draw a line under it.
    However and my reason for replying is just to say that, i was very fortunate to see Prince at Resorts world or whatever the arena is now called in his last tour before he so tragically died.
    Over the years i have seen many “legends” perform on stage, but i will not be lying when i say that a tear was shed when this true legend performed Purple rain.

Any thoughts:

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