Saturday’s game…centre pairings

Babylon’s burning
You burn in the street
You burn in your houses
With anxiety

The Ruts – Babylon Is Burning

Coventry 55 – Yorkshire Carnegie 3

It was a game that in the end Cov won comfortably, but it took five tries in the last 22 minutes (four in the final 10) to really confirm the gulf between the two sides.

Coventry’s first three tries had come from an interception, a charge down and a quickly taken Kessell penalty, a pretty fair representation of the nature of the game up to then.  It wasn’t until Kessell’s second try which secured the bonus point that Coventry began to really relax and the floodgates well and truly opened.

From 60 minutes onwards the combination of a tired and, by then, somewhat sloppy Yorkshire Carnegie side and Coventry’s judicious use of the bench meant that gaps started to open up and, when they did,  boy did Cov had the players to exploit them.

There’s no better player in the Cov squad than Pete White in those circumstances and he took full advantage, but Tom Kessell deserves plenty of  praise too – I thought he had an excellent game before White’s entrance onto the stage in the 60th minute.

Although from the amount of surface water on the pitch as the players warmed up, the floodgates hadn’t been that secure even before kick off.

Picture1
Photo from The Rugby Paper

The photo opposite clearly shows just how much of a splash factor there was and whilst it didn’t affect the game greatly, there would appear to be something amiss with the drainage for so much water to lay so close to the surface as it did on Saturday, even taking into account the volume of rain we’d had in the preceding couple of days.

There was talk in the stands of tests already having been carried out to ascertain the problem and of remedial work due to take place over the summer – all speculation and rumour I hasten to add. That said, I would imagine there’s truth in some it.

It’s another one of those examples where a quick statement from the club to explain the problem might have been warranted, or indeed just to stress that there isn’t one and it was just the result of  exceptional rainfall leading up to the game.

It was pretty miserable afternoon weather wise, with a strong breeze blowing from the railway end which added to the difficulties. Cov played into the wind in the first half and even though the quality of the rugby hadn’t been some of the best we’ve seen at the BPA this season, going in to half time 17-3 up was decent effort.

Cov had had the bulk of the possession and had butchered a couple of chances to add to their try tally with some over ambitious handling/offloading/options and a loss of the ball at the breakdown, not for the first time this season.

Carnegie had a big set of forwards whom we struggled to dominate early on, although the set pieces fared well, particularly the lineouts. Despite their now hopeless situation in the league, Carnegie did a decent job at spoiling in that first hour and  certainly made a game of it.  That said, they had very limited attacking opportunities during the game and for us to concede just the 3 points, and those within the first couple of minutes, speaks volumes about Cov’s overall dominance on the day.

There were plenty of notable performances too, with Rory Jennings being awarded the Sponsors’ Man of the Match (I’ll publish the results of the blog poll tomorrow).

I’ve already mentioned Kessell and White, and I thought Nutley had another very good 70 minutes.

On a day where there was plenty of kicking and the wind was a big factor, the back three of Lewis, Olowefelo and Knox all looked very comfortable. Dan Lewis was particularly solid under the high ball although the Carnegie chasers didn’t put him under the kind of pressure that he might have faced had it been Newcastle or Ealing.

There’s been talk elsewhere of late of the lack of continuity this season in terms of the selection at 12 and 13.

One of the strengths of Sam’s database is that he can draw up information on appearances/positions so after a quick enquiry from me, he came up with the following (as always, thanks Sam).

A word of caution, the data is taken originally from Statbunker so its accuracy is dependent on the website entering the team information correctly.

So:

CentresThe above shows the various starting combinations at 12 and 13 we have had this season. Be aware, just because, say, Stevens’ name is first, it doesn’t necessarily mean that he wore the 12 shirt (he could have been playing at 13) – all the table does is indicate the combinations that have started at 12 and 13.

So in 17 games (including Cup) there have been 7 different combinations, with Jennings and Stevens being the most regular pairing.

It doesn’t take into account injuries, strength of opposition or who else was in the starting line-up and I’m not drawing any conclusions from it, merely including the basic info for others to peruse.

centres4

I trust the above is self-explanatory, illustrating the number of times each player has started at either 12 or 13. It would be quite interesting to conduct a poll on readers’ preferred centre pairing. I guess it a case of ‘horses for courses’ as far as Rowland Winter is concerned (depending on availability), each pairing having different its own strengths and attributes.

Looking forward to the Oram/Tolmie combination myself…

And just as a final observation, since Rowland Winter took over, the following pairings at 12/13 have been tried and tested (it comes with the usual Statbunker proviso):

centres3

Any combination which includes the name Sam Tuitupou will be my preferred choice.

I’m probably not alone on that, though.

Saturday’s crowd of 1932 was well down on the season’s average (of 2492), but given the weather and the opposition, it was perhaps as good a turnout as the club could have hoped for.

For me, the ground didn’t have the usual Saturday afternoon buzz, again perhaps down to the same factors, together with the depressing news emanating from the RFU earlier in the week.

However, the absence of food stalls in the Fans’ Zone didn’t help, with only the excellent coffee van and a fish and chip vendor there on Saturday.

ground

The area looked very stark I thought, as the photo above hopefully demonstrates. It might well be that the various traders felt the impact of Storm Dennis would be such as to make their trip to the BPA a wasted journey, but if is true that the food vans are only a temporary measure whilst the club makes plans to further develop its own in-house catering, then I for one think it’s a retrograde step.

The area where the street food is sold has become a real part of the match-day experience and adds to the feel of the BPA as a Championship ground – it would be a real shame to lose that, although I appreciate that is very much my opinion and mine alone.

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Anyway, back to 4th in the table and a 7 point gap between us and 5th placed Jersey, a useful advantage considering we have Ealing and Newcastle to play in the next 4 weeks.

This season has been a strange one in many ways. A strong showing in the Cup and already just 7 points short of our total for last season with 9 games still to play, yet I still feel that the season hasn’t quite lived up to expectations in terms of performances, if not results.

Most of that is down to our continuing travails away from home with just the one league win from 7 outings. I guess if you’ve only been to the home games and seen 6 wins from six (plus the cup games), then you might have a completely different take on how the season is shaping.

After the wins at the end of last season at Doncaster and then Jersey, I think I’d hoped we were over  the worst of it, but that hasn’t been the case.

Just one other bonus point win away from home in addition to the five pointer against, who else, Yorkshire Carnegie, and we would be in 3rd place…if and buts I know, but when you’ve lost three away games since Christmas by 4, 3 and 2 points, then it does grate a little.

Cov continue to make progress, but the termination of Nick Walshe’s contract (if that’s what it is?) suggests the club isn’t accepting of the way things currently are either. It just shows the ambitions of both Cov and its supporters if the general consensus is that whilst progress has been made and we are currently lying fourth in the league, there are still concerns.

Maybe I’m just expecting too much from a club that is only in its second season back in the Championship. However, even despite the uncertainties surrounding ring-fencing, Cov have talked a good game and I, for one, have bought into it. We’ve invested heavily in both the infrastructure and on players so we really ought to be up with best sides outside of big spending Ealing Trailfinders and Premiership-bound Newcastle, as indeed we are.

But it is disappointing that we have to rely so heavily on performances at the BPA to keep us where we are…

However, if we can play more regularly with the freedom we showed on Saturday against Yorkshire Carnegie in those last 20 minutes, a second win away from home in the League won’t be too long in the waiting.

Or even in the Cup against, Pirates on Sunday.

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Loosely, Babylon is translated as ‘the gates of the gods’ – not the God of the Bible, but pagan gods who were falsely served…

…not unlike the RFU today. And the Babylon of today is smouldering with confusion and anxiety as a result of last week’s statement from Bill Sweeney and it will only burn brighter as the anger increases and the Championship clubs decide on what action to take.

Meetings are already planned for this week as I understand it and whilst little can be done in time for the start of next season, if clubs can ride the cuts for 12 months, I reckon we might see a very different league for the start of 21/22.

Here’s hoping, anyway.

Author: Tim

6 thoughts on “Saturday’s game…centre pairings

  1. Thanks, Cliff….good to be back, if only to be watching Cov again! Yes, you’re absolutely right to give their supporters a mention, they were extremely gracious in defeat. I wonder how many of our away supporters would still be travelling in similar circumstances, loyal as they are?

  2. Welcome back Tim, we’ve missed you.
    In some ways I felt sorry for YC because they were clearly out of their depth and dispirited even though they kept going until the final whistle. But some of their body language, even in the first half when we scored our first two tries, was poor. I also felt sorry for their supporters who won’t give in, even on a hopeless cause. They were generous in their applause and realistic about their prospects.

  3. Thanks, Phil…big relief. Really like the food vans, they make the ground seem that much busier. See you Saturday!

  4. Tim
    i believe it was mentioned on Saturday by CW or NJ that the removal of outside food outlets was only a temporary measure due to the storms. The decision was taken to bring a hot food service back into the bar areas, so burgers chips etc were on sale there.

  5. Yes, wondered if it was as simple as that, Paul, but there was certainly a lot being said on the subject on Saturday, and subsequently on the MB. Quick Tweet from the club and the matter could be put to bed I guess??? Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. As always, much appreciated.

  6. Tim. Just a little comment on the pitch and the water on it on Saturday. If there is to be remedial work on it, so be it. But, I was there last night at the Cov United Ladies match and, although there had been some rain during the day, there was certainly not the splashes on it as there was against Carnegie. Volume of rain that day adding to the issues?

Any thoughts:

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