Cov lay siege to Castle Park to earn a well-deserved win away from home…

You may see them drowning as you stroll along the beach
But don’t throw out the lifeline till they’re clean out of reach
We were waiting for the end of the world
Waiting for the end of the world
Waiting for the end of the world
Dear Lord, I sincerely hope you’re coming
‘Cause you really started something

Elvis Costello – Waiting For The End Of The World

If the season ends without another game being played, then Coventry Rugby have at least finished it on a real positive, with what was one of their better performances away from home, perhaps second only to the draw against Ealing Trailfinders back in November.

The postponement of two Championship fixtures on Friday and the news on Saturday morning, even as we travelled up to Doncaster, that Ealing’s game against Yorkshire Carnegie had succumbed to Coronavirus meant that few on the coach were entirely confident that we’d be watching live rugby that afternoon.

Donny deserve plenty of credit for ensuring the game went ahead, as do those members of the Supporters’ Club involved in organising the transport. It’s on occasions such as this that we see the rugby family coming together. Doncaster were the perfect hosts, putting in place precautions  to ensure hygiene was a priority without letting it spoil everyone’s enjoyment of the day.

Prior to disembarking from the coach, supporters were rightly asked not to shake hands with players or ask for selfie/autographs and to generally keep their distance, a grim reminder of the background the game was having to be played against. As we entered the ground we were all required to use a medical hand wash, done in a very relaxed and informal way but nevertheless reinforcing just how much of an impact COVID-19 is having on all our lives.

A big thumbs up also to the supporters who travelled up to watch the game a Castle Park – the coach was full, with no one dropping out at the last minute, a sure sign of what a loyal set of fans the club has.

Many of those travelling up were…er…how I shall I put it?

‘Well seasoned’, possibly…

…and in the age bracket that perhaps puts them more at risk of complications from the virus than most.

But there was never a thought of pulling  out of the trip.

Sitting in a coach for 4 hours plus probably isn’t the most sensible form of social distancing  and whilst there is always a minimal risk of sorts, it was very much a risk worth taking and unless there is a blanket ban of sporting fixtures (and perhaps there should be now), supporters such as those who travelled up to Donny will always roll the dice.

Heart often rules the head when it comes to sport.

Dillingham Park (Ampthill) and Headingley (Yorkshire Carnegie) often polarise supporters. They’re Marmite grounds that you either love or hate. I happen to really  like Ampthill’s ground but Headlingley is soulless, especially when just a few hundred rattle around in a ground intended for 20,000.

Castle Park, on the other hand, is never going to alienate supporters. Purpose built, it is has everything you’d expect of a rugby ground.

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The main stand seats 1700 or so and generates an atmosphere all of its own and whilst the home crowd are loud and passionate, they are also friendly and welcoming. The facilities are excellent with a main bar underneath the stand running pretty much half its length and it is well staffed so that queuing is kept to a minimum. It’s not as traditional as, say, Mennaye Field or Brickfields, nor does it offer the informality of the Volac Park or Brantingham, but it never fails to deliver.

Coventry must wish they could begin their Championship away games every season with a trip to Doncaster; Castle Park is the only ground we have won at both in 18/19 and 19/20.

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Andy Forsyth warming up before the game on Saturday – his best in a Cov shirt so far?

In the moments leading up to kick off, it was all a bit surreal. For the first time this season, Cov left the pitch a few minutes before kick off to next to no noise at all, with just a few lone Cov fans urging them on, relatively few supporters had taken up their seats in the stand at the point. It was all a bit quiet.

The lack of atmosphere at the start of game might well have contributed to Coventry’s rather lacklustre opening few minutes in which they barely had any possession and conceded three early penalties around our 40m line, all of which the impressive Sam Olver kicked with apparent ease.

After 10 minutes we were 9 nil down, yet the home side had failed to break into our 22 at all and it looked for all the world as if it was going to be a difficult afternoon for the visitors as we conceded penalty after penalty – after just a few minutes the count was 7-1 in favour of Donny and once again it looked as if Cov would be victims of their own indiscretions.

However, an opportunist’s try from Andy Forsyth turned the game very much Cov’s way. With Cov’s defensive line up quickly once again, legally so this time, Forsyth anticipated Olver’s pass and his interception and a 40m sprint to the line ensured Cov were very much back in the game.

12 minutes into the game and it was 9-5 and very much game on. Cov have scored a fair few tries as a result of interceptions this season and it is clearly something they work on. Too often interceptions are regarded as being ‘lucky breaks’ but I’m sure Cov must work in training at pressuring the opposition and positioning their defenders so as to give them a chance of an interception.

Another two Cov tries, on 15 and 18 minutes respectively, changed the game completely and although we continued to make mistakes (which Olver in turn continued to punish) and showed far too much indiscipline at times, we were still very much in the game at just 19-17 down come the break.

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Olowofela races in to score Cov’s 2nd try (photo courtesy of John Coles)

The second half saw a far more mature, disciplined performance from Coventry and we managed the game extremely effectively. Despite losing 2 players to yellow cards, Cov made good use of the ball, keeping it hand more and when we did kick, we kicked deep into their 22, chased hard, cut down the spaces and made it difficult for Doncaster to gain any width.

And whilst we played intelligently, at times Doncaster tried to be too expansive. When they kept the ball in their forwards they caused us problems, but we certainly had the better of them defensively whenever they tried to get their backs into the game. They too had their chances but Cov stuck to the game plan and deservedly held on without ever being under any real pressure in those last few minutes.

Once again, the introduction of our bench was decisive. The absence of Ellis and Jeannot meant that the starting front row struggled a little, but the the introduction of Phil Boulton seemed to make a big difference.

What impressed me most was Coventry’s composure during the last quarter.
Ram looked to be unlucky when he was yellowed for a taking a player out in the air in the 65th minute and after having just returned to a full complement of players following Denman’s yellow 10 minutes earlier, it seemed as if Cov would be up against it, facing what inevitably would have to be a rearguard action.

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Nutley on the charge, a player who has got better the longer the season has gone on (photo courtesy of John Coles)

Doncaster tried to up the tempo but once Cov seized possession they kept it tight, ran the clock down and played the game for the most part in Doncaster’s half. The home side grew increasingly desperate but Coventry wisely opted to kick to the corner when they were awarded a penalty in the dying minutes to retain possession.

With the lineout functioning particularly well and the scrum looking more and more solid, Coventry kept hold of the ball and in the final seconds scored a fifth try when Kessell switched play and threw the ball wide to Rob Knox to dive over for his second try of the afternoon.

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Knox dives over in the final play of the game (photo courtesy of John Coles)

There was a maturity in Cov’s play that we haven’t always seen this season and it underlined Louis Deacon’s comment to supporters on the coach before we left that it was a real shame that the season looked like it might be coming to a sudden halt, particularly as the team was ‘beginning to find parts of its game’ and it was ‘all starting to come together’.

Even in the second half Cov made errors, having good ball turned over and still straying offside, but when they did lose possession the team worked incredibly hard to win it back and often pressurised Doncaster into making their own mistakes.

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Perhaps my favourite John Coles photo of all – Ryan Burrows, master of all he surveys….

Throughout the game Cov looked far more creative and inventive, even down to the lineouts where they used a couple of training ground moves that caught the opposition off-guard.

Burrows again led from the front, but the likes of Jennings and Forsyth, senior players brought in to add to the leadership on the pitch, had strong games, too . Forsyth arguably had his best game to date.

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Forsyth breaks again and seconds later Olowofela dots down for Cov’s 2nd try – photo courtesy of John Coles

 

I’m not sure whether the statistics will show this, but Cov appeared to kick the ball away a little less, preferring to trust in their backs more. This proved more profitable on Saturday, with Jennings, Owen, Forsyth and Knox making notable contributions.  Brown and Olowefela were secure in defence and Brown looked very comfortable under the high ball and was also called upon to find touch from the odd penalty, given the distance he can find with his left foot.

All in all it was a very promising performance, especially in the second half when for 20 minutes we were down to 14 players, yet didn’t concede a try.

trpThe plan appears to be, as reported in today’s The Rugby Paper, to convene a ‘soccer-style pools panel’ to determine the outcome of the remaining fixtures and those teams to be promoted/relegated from their respective leagues. Should this be the case, then Cov might well finish the season in 4th place – the away win at Donny coming at exactly the right time in this respect.

If this does indeed happen, then this will have proved a very encouraging second season back in the Championship for a club that has genuine aspirations of becoming a top two side over the next two or three seasons. Whilst it would be preferable to  achieve a 4th place by real outcomes rather than guesswork, the way the remaining fixtures pan out, perhaps only Newcastle at home and Pirates away are games which we wouldn’t be favourites to win.

The manner of Cov’s second away win, albeit coming as it does far too late in the season, underlines what this squad is capable of and whilst there will be a number of changes to the current squad by the time next season begins, hopefully, in September, the core will be retained.

We will remain a professional outfit and probably be in a far stronger position than many of the other Championship sides.

But there are some tough times to get through first, both for the club and for its supporters, but get through it we will.

Together.

So, if this is to prove to be Cov’s final competitive game of the 2019/20 season, then I wish everyone well. A big ‘thank you’ must go to the players and management of the club and, to those supporters I have come to know in recent seasons, I hope to see you all safe and well in a few months or so.

Up the Cov…

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

Any excuse to include something from Costello.

Not quite the end of the world, but if you believe what you read it sometimes seems that way.

 

 

 

 

Author: Tim

10 thoughts on “Cov lay siege to Castle Park to earn a well-deserved win away from home…

  1. Sam, your support of the blog means a great deal to me and your kind words are greatly appreciated! Keep well…

  2. Thanks Trev – these additions certainly add to the information about the game, Many thanks for taking the trouble to add the report!
    Interesting times, certainly – I can’t see any rugby being played before July at this rate, can you?

  3. Hi Kevin – many thanks for your good wishes – and I hope you and yours are back here in September in good health and in fine spirits. In fairness, Coventry were definitely guilty of overstepping the off-side line on a few occasions, although I’m not altogether sure the referee was entirely consistent, although I’d be happy to be proved wrong on that by those more in the know than I am. RW felt we contributed a little to our poor start to be fair in his post match comments. Had I been a Donny fan I would have felt miffed, they did enough to have got something from the game and without the three try blitz in that first quarter, the finish would have been a lot tighter. They certainly had their chances too.

    All being well, Season 6 of the blog starts in August, deo volente

  4. As always, thanks again Tim. So good to read your round-up.
    Any knowledge on the size of the attendance? Always announced at BPA but difficult to find out at away fixtures.

  5. hello everybody this is report of Saturdays game to add to Tim’s wonderfull report and log,this from Doncaster Knights Perspective but reads as a fair and unbalanced match report…please read.
    Knights defeated by clinical Cov side
    14th March 2020

    The Knights produced a performance worthy of points, but left the game with nothing to show for their efforts in a frustrating 26-35 defeat to Coventry today.

    Despite, an early 9-0 lead, a 10 minute spell in the first half was enough for Coventry to demonstrate why they are 5th in the league as they scored three quickfire tries.

    It was a bright start for the home side and the opening points of the game went the Knights way. Sam Olver was in fine form as he slotted away three penalties within the first 10 minutes to hand the home side a 9-0 lead.

    However, that early dominance was soon put to a halt when Andy Forsyth intercepted a Olver pass on the halfway line and burst away clear to score. Coventry then began to turn the scoreline in their favour as Olowofela score in the corner with ease after Forsyth made another break from an interception this time on the Doncaster 10m line. Jennings converted to make it 9-12.

    The Championship 5th placed side continued to press forwards and added their third try of the first half through Rob Knox. Jennings made a decent break into the 22, before Lloyd Hayes brought him down, although the ball was played wide quickly and Knox scored.

    Doncaster saw that as the time to wake up and scored their first try of the game in the 22nd minute. Fotu Lokotui barging over after a good line out move. Olver converting to give the opposition only a one point lead.

    Next, the Knights took the lead through an impressive kick 40 metres out. With the advantage, Clive Griffiths’ side took control of the intensity, but couldn’t add to their tally and it remained 19-17 at the interval.

    As the second half got underway, it was lacklustre start for the home side. Jennings scoring a pen to hand the lead back to the side in orange.

    A yellow card were shown to Toby Trinder, allowing the Knights push back into the game and they did so in superb style. After a number of phases and some all round good rugby, Tom James darted away inside the 22 to dot down. Olver adding the extras to narrow Coventry’s lead to one point once again.

    Former Doncaster back row Jack Ram was branded a yellow as the home side looked to grasp the lead, however Olver missed a crucial kick from the 10m line in the 66th minute.

    The game continued to go back and forth with neither outfit able to dominant, the next points were going to be vital and unfortunately it was Jennings that kicked them with a penalty in the last 10 minutes.

    As the fixture wore on and a defeat looked certain, Coventry secured the victory for certain and put a stop to Doncaster’s hopes of a losing bonus point that they deserved as a minimum. Knox dotted down in the corner in the dying seconds to end the game 26-35.

    KNIGHTS XV: 15. Lloyd Hayes(71’Cowell) 14. Kyle Evans 13. Charlie Foley 12. Penikolo Latu 11. Tyson Lewis(58’Packman) 10. Sam Olver 9. Tom James(76’Pocklington) 1. Marc Thomas 2. Ben Hunter(71’Holling) 3. Colin Quigley(74’Suter) 4. Matt Challinor (c) 5. Cian Romaine(58’Eames) 6. Fotu Lokotui 7. Wian Conradie 8. Guido Volpi(77’Calladine)

    Replacements: 16. Will Holling 17. Andrew Foster 18. Dan Suter 19. Morgan Eames 20. Tom Calladine 21. Sam Pocklington 22. Cameron Cowell 23. Howard Packman

    Tries: Lokotui, James

    Conversions: Olver 2

    Penalties: Olver 4

    15 Louis Brown; 14 Ryan Olowofela, 13 Andy Forsyth, 12 Will Owen, 11 Rob Knox; 10 Rory Jennings, 9 Pete White; 1 Toby Trinder, 2 Joe Buckle, 3 Gareth Denman, 4 Nile Dacres, 5 Alex Woolford, 6 Senitiki Nayalo, 7 Ben Nutley, 8 Ryan Burrows (capt)

    16 Scott Tolmie, 17 David Langley, 18 Phil Boulton, 19 George Oram, 20 Jack Ram, 21 Tom Kessell, 22 Dan Lewis, 23 Adam Peters

    Tries: Knox 2, Forsyth, Olowofela

    Conversions: Jennings 2

    Penalties: Jennings 2

    Attendance : 1115….Trev…..they voted for their MOM and fans picked Fotu Lokotui…hoped this virus dies out fizzes out its ruining all pop concerts theatres cinemas sports meetings racing soccer tennis the whole kaboodles.transport planes coaches trains buses .
    There was an old adage regarding FTSE stock market that said go away in March adnd come back after the end of May.Could be remaining games being played out perhaps May June,Or as your log picked up soccer pools panel style verdicts who knows will have to wait and see.
    wish everybody well hope that the season has not just stopped dead on us all and this is last Cov Match.

  6. Not just a big thank you to them Tim, but one to you as well for your comtinually high standard of match reporting and observations. I think thye’re great and often reflect my own views of what’s been seen, so long may they last! Thanks bud.

  7. Tim, thank you for yet another comprehensive report in trying circumstances. As you say that looks like being the end of the season, a great shame with the Newcastle game next up. I was really looking forward to that, but we must do what we are asked and pull together to get through this crisis.

    Back to the game, can you explain the number of penalties Cov conceded. An early count of 1-7 sounds potentially catastrophic. Was it ill discipline, or just carelessness by the players, was it foul play or perhaps very sharp officials? I’m sure the coaches will be asking the same questions.

    The Doncaster club match report said Donny were unlucky not to get at least a bonus point. With a try count of 5-2 this is surprising. Do you think the home reporter is looking through Doncaster blue specs?

    Looking ahead it is interesting to look at the team on Saturday, and the changes over the last year or two. Only Rob Knox, Pete White, Nile Dacres have been around for more than a couple of years, plus Tolmie, Ram and others o the bench. But we’ve all got used to the new faces. I hope to see many of them next season, and I hope you and all your readers are around next September to welcome the start of a new season. A lot of water has to flow under the bridge before then. So all the best to you Tim, and everyone else, and keep blogging occasionally if you can, to keep the Cov spirit going.

Any thoughts:

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