Life is too short to play silly games
I’ve promised myself I won’t do that again.
It’s got to be perfect
It’s got to be worth it
Too many people take second best
But I won’t take anything less
It’s got to be
Fairground Attraction – Perfect
Coventry Rugby lost their 100% home record last night, losing 8-17.
And although Cov seemed to struggle to make the most of the few attacking opportunities they had during the game, the overall performance was an encouraging one against what is, after all, the second best side in the league.
And better than those teams below them by some distance.
Promoted in 2016, Ealing Trailfinders are two years ahead of where we would like to be right now. Two more years then than us in the Championship and with the financial backing of Mike Gooley behind them.
That we should go into the game believing there was a chance of a win, however slim, shows just how far the club has progressed over these last few seasons.
It was always going to be a big ask and in the end the gap between to the two sides was evident.
But the important thing is that on this season’s Championship performances against Ealing, it’s a gap, not a gulf – drawing 20-20 down at theirs and losing out by just 9 points yesterday evening.
Yes, the Cup game was a very one-sided affair, but in the Championship, even with a side hit by injuries and players moving on, Cov made Ealing work very hard for their points.
And here’s the thing for me.
Despite the lack of cutting edge offered by Cov in recent weeks, something that has been a theme running through this blog and elsewhere, Cov put in one heck of a shift. Ealing had clearly come for the win, declining early kickable penalties in favour of the ubiquitous kick to the corner in the misguided belief that Coventry would fold under pressure 5m out from their own line.
By the end of the game, the visitors were forced into opting for the 3 points after Coventry’s defence had repelled them time and time again in their own 22. I’m guessing Ealing had the better of both territory and possession, but they could manage only a couple of tries themselves, the first of which was down to some poor handling and a couple of missed tackles. There weren’t many more after that…
Ensuring Ealing failed to pick up 5 points was a victory in itself given their current form in the Championship.
It was a really encouraging defensive display from the home side and, maybe, success has to be built on a strong defence once you reach this level. Running the ball from anywhere and trusting you’ll outscore your opponents over 80 minutes is something that just won’t work in the Championship.
Concerns have rightly been expressed about Coventry’s inability to break the gain line of late, but it’s worth stating that Ealing, too, found it tough going on the night and Cov deserve plenty of credit for that.
What Ealing did do better than us though was to retain possession. Cov lost the ball far too often in the tackle or at the breakdown, whilst Ealing seemed more efficient at recycling the ball, often with more players in support of the ball carrier than we had.
On a day when handling was always going to be an issue given the conditions, Ealing clung on to the ball rather better than we did.
Both sides kicked the ball but Ealing’s box kicking was probably the more effective of the two sides with Coventry often unable to close down the kicker as quickly as Ealing.
The other big difference for me was that Ealing controlled the game far better. For 15 minutes during the second half Coventry had Ealing rattled. Following Forsyth’s try and some fresh pairs of legs coming on off the bench, Cov upped the tempo. At last there was some urgency in Cov’s play and Ealing began to make mistakes, a dropped pass here, a couple of kicks out on the full/too long there.
Lesser teams might have cracked under the pressure Cov were applying and the crowd began at last to rise to the occasion, sensing there might yet be something in the game for the home side. However, Ealing showed some great game management with players either slowing the game down in between plays or going down and requiring a bit of treatment. The impetus was soon lost.
Ealing opted for the 3 points from a long way out and the game from thereon in petered out.
They did what needed to be done and they did it well, much to the annoyance of the Cov crowd who started to direct their frustration towards the officials whose communication with each other seemed to be lacking at times. When the final whistle blew, the crowd showed their displeasure at the referee for a good few seconds before turning to the players and appreciating their efforts as is the norm.
In fairness, had Cov had a narrow lead with 10-15 minutes to go, I rather hope we would have done exactly the same. It’s where you want your experienced players to take control, just as Ealing’s did.
It was another one of those games that probably didn’t live up to the billing. It was tough watching at times, especially if you’d come to the ground in expectation of an open game between two sides who like to run the ball. However, the longer the game went on, the more you had to appreciate Cov’s defensive game. The tackle count must have been stratospheric, but with the exception of that first Ealing try Cov really put the squeeze on Ealing’s forwards in particular.
As has been mentioned elsewhere on social media, one of the standout performances was that of debutant Louis Brown. Brown arrived from Old Elthamians a couple of weeks ago, presumably as a direct replacement for James Stokes as well as to cover for other injuries in the three quarters.
In a game where there were next to no line breaks, Brown had two memorable runs – one led directly to a try, the other to a disallowed try. He’s only slight in build but he is clearly an elusive runner, weaving through several attempted tackles to touch down from almost half way for the disallowed try in the first half and bursting through a defensive line that was caught out by his pace and angle to create the try for Forsyth in the second.
Brown looks set to be a crowd pleaser and someone who appears to like to counter attack. He was solid under the high ball and tackled well, although he and Ryan Olowefela were partly at fault for Ealing’s first try. As debuts go, his was one of the better ones and in games where the opposition give us a bit more time and space, he could prove to be a real attacking force. Whether he is ahead of Dan Lewis at this stage, or even vying for the same position, will be interesting to see over the coming weeks but he looks a very good acquisition at this early stage.
That said, it was a night when the team prevailed rather than any individuals, with perhaps fewer standout performances than in many games. I will mention Rory Jennings though – his kicking from hand and distribution wasn’t perhaps as good as we’ve seen elsewhere this season but boy is he combative. He’ll run at and through players all game long and appears fearless in the tackle. The work he does without the ball is almost as impressive as what he does with it – he’s certainly growing on me, although I know he’s not everyone’s favourite 10 at the club right now.
The scrum started off well, but as the game wore on Ealing began to dominate and at times Burrows was taking the ball of a backwards moving scrum. That said, at several key moments in the game Cov were able to spoil the Ealing scrum enough to make life difficult for the visitors. Luc Jeannot looked like he picked up a knock of some kind after working exceptionally hard in the loose and it was good to see Denman back in the front row after the injury to Gerard Ellis in the warm up last week.
The lineout held up well for the most part, although we did contrive to lose a couple of on our throw, but Woolford and Dacres put in strong performances, as did Oram when he arrived to bring a bit more physicality to the game as Coventry tried to up the tempo.
I’m not at all downhearted by the result or the performance and although we weren’t able to pick up a bonus point which arguably we deserved, there were plenty of positives on the night.
The crowd of 2315 was more than I’d expected, or seemed likely a few minutes before kick off, especially given it was a Friday and the weather wasn’t great. Whilst it wasn’t the greatest of spectacles rugby-wise, the odd evening game under floodlights is an enjoyable break from the standard weekend fare, although I appreciate that’s not the case for those unable to make a Friday evening.
I didn’t venture into the clubhouse but I gather there wasn’t any food available, but there was in the Fans’ Zone and the coffee van was doing a roaring trade, benefitting I guess from the wind and rain that meant a warm drink was always going to go down well, despite the opening of the Purity Bar at the railway end.
And aptly named it is too.
The Elephant and Castle is a great choice and seems entirely in keeping with the club and it’s desire to hark back to its roots.
Sadly, though, on this occasion the elephant was well and truly castled by a disciplined, controlled performance from an Ealing side who are currently at the level we must next aspire to reach.
There have been seasons, and not so long ago, when we’ve been prepared to accept second best.
Mid-table National One was where we were and rightly (or wrongly) so.
In the last four seasons there’s beeen a sea change. We are now concstantly striving to be the best we can be and we’ve seen the club take huge strides, on and off the pitch.
Last night we saw a team that is consistently playing at al level well above where we currently are, but the heartening thing is we didn’t capitulate under huge pressure from the visitors who were camped in and around our 22 for long periods.
We’re a work in progress but we will need to be close to perfect when Newcastle come a-visiting in 3 weeks time.
If we’re going to turn them over then…
…I won’t take anything less
It’s got to be
Another great video…