Pirates Sunk

 

By Nick Meredith
January 20th  2019

Well, in the end it was a win, and, come the end of the season that is all that will have mattered.

It was enough to keep Coventry at the head of the lower half of the Championship table, and it was a victory against a team that beat us comfortably in the first weeks of the season. In a first season back in the Championship, that is a good result, but it is clearly one that has left many supporters dissatisfied.

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Cornish Pirate were not a great team yesterday. Their ‘gamesmanship’ overstepped the mark repeatedly and by half time had put them eight points to the better.

The irony that Scott Tolmie’s two tries came from period when they were a player down in the second half – and were very lucky not to have a player red-carded for arguing and refusing to leave the field when yellow carded – at least reflected that although the officials appeared weak, in the end they took action against repeated serious infringements.

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The match was played on a soft slippery pitch; probably as much caused by the overnight rain which continued as drizzle during the match as by the rugby league match on Friday evening. The ball was slippery, and the breeze uneven.

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Both teams adopted similar game plans – and neither were entertaining to watch. For most of the first half, Pirates were on top. In those conditions it was not surprising that the half was dominated by penalties, with both sides’ kickers performing well.

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The end of the half saw a Pirates penalty, with an immediate and effective counter-attack by Coventry failing a metre short when it appeared that a Coventry maul which had split into two pods was flagged as being in touch, when the ball carrier was still in play and in the other pod.

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The second half was little less enjoyable to watch, although the pressure from Coventry gradually increased, and eventually began to tell, with Pirates losing discipline, and being penalised for it. Two yellow cards resulted in periods where Coventry could increase the pressure, and both times ended up with replacement Scott Tolmie scoring from close-in.

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As Tony Fenner prepared to make his final kick, a shout of “Go Go Go!” from the Cornish team saw an early charge to attempt to charge down his kick, but from a few metres in from touch he slotted it neatly, the roar of the stand confirming it was over long before the touch judges agreed.

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Scorers:

Tries: Tolmie (2)

Conversion: Fenner

Penalties: Maisey (2)

Sponsor’s Man of the Match: Will Maisey

Highlights (Official Coventry Rugby): Here

Report (Official Coventry Rugby): Here

Attendance: 2,273

Words and Pictures: Nick Meredith

Pirates Sunk – Courtesy & kind permission of http://www.rugbynetwork.net/boards/list/s425.htm

 

Inside Out – Rhys Davies

When it comes to watching Coventry at Butts Park Arena, the ex-players will nod in appreciation at the skills they recognise most. The grunt and growl of the front row, the snaffling instincts of the loose forwards, the passing, kicking and sidesteps of the back division. Rhys Davies tells Mark Forster why he’ll keep an interested eye on the officials.

dsc_0213 profileGETTING his head wrong in a tackle ended Rhys Davies’ playing days as a centre.

But ironically, the broken neck that resulted kickstarted his rugby career with whistle and, later, a flag in hand.

He’s refereed at National One level, run the line in the Premiership, European Cup and one minor international match and is now the referee liaison contact at Coventry Rugby.

It was a potentially life-threatening injury that gave him a new lease of life and took his rugby to a bigger stage, not that he knew about it at the time.

‘I slipped at home,’ he remembers. ‘When I went to A&E the doctor went bonkers. I had broken the C4 bone in my neck four or five years earlier when I got my head on the wrong side in a tackle, but didn’t know I’d broken anything.’

The 56-year-old had already survived in rugby longer than many of his team-mates had expected.

‘I fell into the game by accident. I was a football player until I was about 24 or 25. The council pitches we played on were often waterlogged and games were getting cancelled. I was very into my fitness and went to the local rugby club because they were still training and playing.’

‘That was Wigston Old Boys, a club that merged with Westleigh to become Leicester Lions. They invited me to turn up and play and I was asked back the following week. We played what was then Kibworth Rugby Club in that first game, and I got battered and loved it. It just happened.’

‘I didn’t know at the time that my team-mates had got a book going to see how long I would last.’

He laughs at the memory, before talking how lucky he was to rise through the ranks as a referee.

‘That was 20 years ago. Someone suggested I keep involved with the game and become a referee, so I gave it a go. I was lucky in that time and was on the national panel in four years. I was 40 at the time and that just doesn’t happen now.’

‘Nowadays, the powers that be aren’t really interested in you if you are more than 28 or 29 years old. I got to referee what is now National League One and National League Two.

‘Then I started suffering with sciatica and I was asked if (i.e. told) I would run the line instead. I did that in the Championship, then had two years in the Premiership. On one occasion I got sent over to Georgia to run the line there against Spain. I’ve had some great memories.’

Davies has two key pieces of advice for any would-be whistlers out there.

Be fit and play the game first, to gain a better understanding of what goes on. Experience with ball in hand counts for more, in his opinion, than textbooks and lessons.

‘The game has become brutally physical over the last 10 or 15 years,’ he says. ‘It’s the Jonah Lomu effect. As a referee you need to be as quick off the mark as a back row forward and as quick as a winger to keep up with play.’

‘The game has changed.’

As might be expected, he appreciates the hard yards of the referees and touch judges, or assistant referees as they are now called. He, along with Coventry Rugby and Coventry Rugby Supporters’ Club organised a four-week series of talks about the laws of the game and refereeing, calling on people like Premiership referee Christophe Ridley to talk to fans.

dsc_0231 finalDavies, like most in rugby, is horrified that a referee was verbally abused following a recent game at Butts Park Arena.

‘I’m absolutely disgusted by the abuse. It shouldn’t happen, but sometimes, in the heat of the moment things get said. But five minutes after the game? A game their team had won?

‘We talk about the core values of the game. One of them is respect. That’s aimed across the spectrum of rugby, including the spectators.’

‘Generally, I don’t think I’ve encountered anything from players. The truth of the matter is that when people have paid their money to watch the game, they feel they have a right to criticise the referee as much as the players and, during the game, from the stands, that’s okay.’

‘But post-match, personal abuse is not acceptable.’

‘As a ref, you understand that people don’t know what they are talking about at times. The referee will always know whether they’ve had a good match or not, just like the players and if you have a sensible discussion with them, they will be more than happy to explain why they gave certain decisions. They see the game differently, they’re watching the ball, understanding what is happening and what might happen.’

‘The worst thing you can call a referee is a cheat. They are human, they have a passion for the game.’

Davies talks of relationships, of friendships, or the making of acquaintances in the sport.

‘I was talking to two people who had never played rugby in their lives and used to watch football at Coventry City. They came down to watch a game at Butts Park Arena and were made to feel so welcome, they came back and are season ticket holders now. That’s what the game is about.’

‘I bumped into (former Leicester, England and British Lions prop forward) Graham Rowntree in the village barbers recently. He recognises me and had a good chat. It’s always ‘hello ref’.’

‘That’s why rugby is phenomenal.’

Being in charge of games at iconic grounds, with thousands of supporters roaring on their side, is another fond memory.

Welford Road, Coundon Road, Franklin Gardens, Kingsholm, Twickenham – four or five times – Rugby School’s main ground at The Close, Cambridge University’s Grange Road and Oxford University’s Iffley Road have been among the hallowed turfs where he has plied his trade with whistle and flag.

‘When there’s a big crowd, you don’t so much as hear the noise as feel it,’ he says. ‘It moves you as a ref, so I know that the players really appreciate it. It’s the same for Coventry players now at Butts Park Arena.’

‘I don’t think you ever grow out of wanting to play. When we won the league last year, I felt like saying to Rowland (Winter, Coventry’s Director of Rugby) ‘I’ve got my boots, give me a couple of minutes’. We’d won it at the time, but the game still gets you like that.’

It’s interesting that Leicestershire man Davies talks of ‘we’ in relation to Coventry, given that his first love of the big clubs is Leicester Tigers. It was also a club that helped him grow into the role of referee.

dsc_0269 final‘As a player you focus on your own club. As a referee you don’t really have any allegiances, though I used to go into my old club after a game and have a chat. Coventry was 20 to 25 miles away. I was a Leicester boy.’

‘We used to go down to watch the Baa Baas fixture (the annual game against Leicester) and it didn’t matter who you were aligned with, who you were sitting next to, we were all there for the rugby.’

But there are connections. He used to play in a side that included Paul (JJ) Deacon, dad of Leicester legend Louis, now Coventry’s forward’s coach.

‘People might not know that Dusty Hare (the former Leicester and England full-back) was at the Butts Park Arena watching the Bedford game. He helped me no end in my early refereeing days by talking to me about what the players were trying to achieve at the top level.’

‘He totally brought the laws and the application of the laws into perspective for me.’

‘Having the coaches talk to us is important. When I started the scrum was about crouch, hold, engage. It was about winning the hit. Then the lawmakers changed it and I was taught to keep the players waiting. Dusty asked me why.’

‘Then Steve and Stuart Redfern, the former Tigers’ props who were coaching, asked if I had ever played in the front row.’

‘They got me in a front row onto a scrummaging machine. It felt okay, so then they got the second row involved behind me. I didn’t realise the front row were on a knife edge balance. I never held players back after that.’

‘It’s about listening. It’s about learning and not being afraid to talk to the players afterwards. The scrum is a very technical aspect of rugby and front row play is probably the most technical of all.’

‘I’m a learning and development man. That was always what I enjoyed about refereeing. You had a framework, the laws of the game but it is a framework, not a set of rules. Rules can’t be broken but laws can be bent.’

He talks of the humour inherent in the game and stresses that referees can be more like coaches, telling players what they are doing wrong and encouraging them to get things right.

But he has been caught out.

‘I learned so much from a set of front row forwards because I bought them a pint when they got the better of me in a game. It was Darlington Mowden Park against Hull Ionians. The front row employed a soft hit, didn’t engage, which made it look as if the opposition had gone too soon. I gave a free kick and they were all celebrating. It dawned on me that they had played me. I bought them a pint and talked with them after the game.’

‘I had them again two weeks later and I told them to meet the hit. They laughed that they never should have accepted a pint from a referee.’

Although he has fond memories, has enjoyed working with the best referees and players English rugby can talk of, Davies admits he didn’t like the Premiership.

‘If I’m honest, ‘did I enjoy the Premiership?’ It was a privilege that was probably wasted on me. I absolutely did not enjoy it because it was a different game to the one I loved. I would be sitting on the edge of the bed on a Sunday morning, knowing I didn’t enjoy it. I did two years then spent another three or four in the lower leagues.’

‘At the time the lad doing the fourth official job at Coventry wanted to retire and go travelling. It came up and I went for it. It’s nice for me, because I get the chance to meet old mates.’

dsc_0275 final‘The role is more of a referee liaison official. I will get an email telling me who the officials are and I get in touch with them, making sure they can make the game. On match day I will welcome them, get them a coffee and have a chat, hopefully about old times, and make sure they are made welcome and comfortable and have everything they need. If it makes 50/50 decisions swing into a 51/49 in our favour, it’s worth it.’

And his advice when people are unhappy with a referee’s performance?

‘Talk to them in the bar afterwards. Be polite and ask why they made a decision. They will be more than happy to explain. But don’t abuse them.’

 

Reward Programme

The Supporters’ Club have decided to introduce a Reward / Loyalty discount exclusively for the benefit of members, as a way of saying ‘thank you’ for your ongoing support and to celebrate the ongoing success of the Supporters’ Club.
 
How it will work is you will receive a credit of £1 for every trip you make this season to an away game on the Supporters’ Club coach. Credits will be applied retrospectively from the first away game of the season against Cornish Pirates and can be earned for any coach travel to away games between now and the end of the season.
 
For example, if you travel to 12 away games on the coach you are credited with £12, which you can redeem on the last away coach travel of the season, which is expected to be Doncaster as no coach will be travelling to Jersey. Hence, your coach fare will be reduced by the number of credits earned, which in this case is a £12 saving on the cost of your coach seat.
 
There are still a minimum of 6 away games to which the Supporters’ Club will be running coaches to, so the opportunity to gain £6 of credits still exists for any members who have not as yet traveled on the Supporters’ Club coaches this season.
 
Please note, credits are not transferable and must be used on the last away coach travel of the season.
 
Anyone wanting to join Coventry Rugby Supporters’ Club can do so by sending an E-Mail to CRSC1874@gmail.com

Inside Out – Kwaku Asiedu

BIG, strong, fast and determined, Kwaku Asiedu tells Mark Forster how happy he is to be playing national league rugby with Cambridge, but that his eye is on a Championship debut with Coventry.

 

DSC_2824 (2) FinalWHEN Kwaku Asiedu was told he was going to play on loan for Cambridge this season he grasped the first opportunity to prove a point.

The pacy and powerful winger scored a thumping try against Coventry at Butts Park Arena to spoil his own club’s 100 per cent pre-season record.

In the blood and sands team to gain valuable playing time, Asiedu hopes he can perform well enough to warrant a start for Coventry in the Championship – his main goal.

“I was one on one, and I had to score. I knew (Coventry Director of Rugby) Rowland (Winter) was watching and I had to make a statement. I want to play for Coventry. For me it was a professional thing.”

Not that he was upset at being loaned to Cambridge, one of Winter’s old clubs.

A schoolboy convert to rugby, he played himself into the ground and picked up injuries. Then, moving to Coventry, while enjoying a taste of first team life, he found a lack of game time a frustration.

Now, he’s getting plenty of action at Grantchester Road and has hooked up with his old England Counties backs coach, Richie Williams.

“It’s nice being back with Richie,” Asiedu says. “I was happy to learn that I would be out on loan there. I like their style of play. We’re all on a learning curve but I think we will do well. The players played their heart out in the defeat to Chinnor, a game we should have won. That is good to see. This is a club that wants to be winning.”

At Cambridge he is a starter in National League One, something that was not a given at Coventry last season based on the form of Rob Knox and Max Trimble.

Asiedu is still very much part of the Coventry squad, despite turning out for Cambridge. A popular member of the dressing room he is keen to play his part in blue and white.

“My goal this season is to make my Championship debut,” he says. “I want to play first team rugby for Cov, I want to stay here, be a part of it.

I missed out on game time when I was injured. I was not developing,” he admits, but is quick to point out. “I like the atmosphere at Coventry and I like the club – a lot. It’s like a family.”

He knows his route to the Coventry starting line-up is even more difficult this term, given the summer signings of the Bulumakau brothers from Doncaster Knights and David Halaifonau from Gloucester, as well as the continued presence of Rob Knox, James Stokes and Max Trimble plus others from the development squad, including James Neal and Louis Roach.

But that hasn’t dented his ambition. In fact, kicking his heels last season as development squad games were called off, often at the last minute, Asiedu is relishing the opportunity to show his mettle – in games for Cambridge and training sessions with Coventry.

“Junior and Andy B, Rob, Max, the wingers, we are all really close friends, although we are all in competition together. It’s a healthy competition to have. I think that helps us all, drives us all to be better.

It’s a very professional set up at Coventry. When the coaches speak, everyone shuts up and listens. If you want to be at the top level, you need to act top level. We’re very lucky to have Nick (Walshe,Coventry head coach) and Deacs (Louis Deacon, forwards coach). Deacs will tell you the effect of being in certain positions. I’m learning all the time.”

Asiedu could have a completely different sporting career, having excelled as a sprinter at school.

He competed in the 100 metres event at schoolboy level against future sprint star Adam Gemili among others.

“Yeah, I raced against him. I was really skinny but fast. I was always in the top tier of the event. My genetics meant I was always going to be fast. My dad was fast, my brother was fast.”

It was that raw speed that gained the attention of rugby coaches at Chatham House Grammar School, where Asiedu was a pupil.

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“For me, rugby started at school. I was asked to play. My mum wasn’t really that keen, because of the contact. She wanted me to concentrate on athletics. It really picked up when I went into the sixth form. The school was really strong on rugby, they did a whole pre-season, which was something new for me. I really got into it.

I didn’t understand the rules back then, but they knew how to interest everyone, how to get everyone involved. I was on the wing to begin with but then they stuck me at outside centre, when I got to see the ball a lot more. That opened my eyes to rugby. It meant I had to test myself a lot more.”

At Chatham House, the rugby season ended early, in December, which left Asiedu wanting more, but unsure of his next move.

“The local club, Thanet Wanderers, didn’t have a youth team, but Canterbury did. I contacted them and they asked me to go down for training. I got selected for a game against London Irish and I never got the chance to go on. They didn’t know me enough, but the second game, against a team from Portsmouth, I scored four tries.

The Under 19s coach was the first team captain. Literally, from there I was involved in the first and second teams at Canterbury. From that December to the end of the season I played rugby whenever I could. I just wanted to play.

We got to the semi-finals of a cup competition, just getting beaten by Halifax, but it was a great time.

I went to university at Canterbury, which meant I had the chance to continue playing for the club. They were in National League Two at that time. I really wanted to be involved. I sat down and talked with my mum. She wanted me to do well and be happy.”

Rugby took over Asiedu’s life. He played for the university team, continued at Canterbury RFC, got picked for Kent and played or trained almost every day of the week.

“Looking back, I wonder how I did it,” he laughs. “I was young and energetic and just wanted to play. I tore my hamstring and the physio looked at my schedule and told me I had to stop doing so much.

That first year I played about 10 league games for Canterbury. I learned a lot. They had some really good coaches there.

In my second year at university, I chose to focus on Canterbury. I got selected for England Students, then England Counties U20s.

We played against Hartpury College and beat them. That was the year they got promoted from National League One. Then on the Wednesday I got the call, asking me if I could turn out for England Students against Wales.

Three weeks later I was playing for England Counties U20s. It led to a lot of opportunities for me. At that point, I knew I wanted to take rugby seriously. It was a really big honour for me.”

Progress came to a shuddering halt when his anterior cruciate ligament went. Still, rugby filled his thoughts.

“My England Students coach contacted me and I told him I wanted to do a Masters, but didn’t know where. He asked me if I had plans for after university, in terms of rugby. He said that Hartpury might be interested.

I went to Hartpury on a scholarship. I was really grateful for that, because I was injured. I was out for the equivalent of two or three seasons. I had complications, because I’d also broken a bone. That needed surgery.

DSC_2930 (2) FinalWhen I started playing again, my shoulder went. I was doing a lot of watching of the game, learning that way.”

To make matters worse, Asiedu also suffered a broken eye socket. For a time, it seemed his mum’s concerns were being proved right.

He refused to give up.

“It’s all about knowing your limits. After I came from the knee issues, I think I had a mental problem, I didn’t use my speed like I could. I had to work it out.”

What he did do, with a professional rugby career in mind, was to head to the gym, going from 95kg to 107kg, while improving his speed.

He points to the help of the Coventry backroom staff and the facilities the club boasts.

“Hartpury had a top end gym for rehabilitation. Now we have a quality gym at Coventry. (Strength and conditioning coach) Max (Hartman) used to joke that he never saw me in the gym, but I’m in there all the time now.

‘You have to be strong and fit to play rugby. We do stretching exercises, gearing ourselves up for the weekend. Max’s job is to make us ready for the game. It is all individual, so we know what we each have to work on. I’ve got the size and strength and I want to get faster. I just want to be playing for Coventry in the Championship.”

It could have been so different. Had injury not marred his time at Hartpury, he could be part of the Gloucester outfit now, but for a bit of serendipity.

“I’ve known (Coventry second row) George Oram for years. I played Under 18s and Under 20s with him in Kent,” he says. “I tried to recruit him for Hartpury but he said he had signed for Coventry and suggested I contact Rowland.

I found Coventry Rugby on Twitter, then Rowland. I sent him a message asking for his email. The next week I was meeting him. I must have come across him when I was playing for London and South East in the English county set-up. I was lucky he remembered me.

I knew as soon as I had the opportunity at Coventry that I had to make the most of it. I had never been to Coventry before that, but I saw the stadium and thought this was the real deal.

A guy at work used to play for Leicester Tigers and he told me about Coventry’s history. I knew I wanted to be a part of it.

The club also has the best fans I’ve ever come across, the noisiest, even when we lost to Ampthill. I had to go on the Supporters’ Club coach to apologise for our performance. No-one was bickering, they were just cheerful, just happy to support the club. Even in defeat. That was so good.”

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In recent months, he’s also turned out for Tigers’ A team, one of a number of Coventry players guesting for the Welford Road outfit.

His rugby journey has led a fascinating trail. But for now, there is one destination.

And Asiedu has shown the love of rugby, of improving and determination that means few would bet against him achieving a starting spot.

Coventry Rugby Sponsorship

Coventry Rugby Supporters’ Club are delighted to announce it has reached agreement with Coventry Rugby Club to extend its existing sponsorship of the Medical Team, namely Hannah Walker (Head of Medical), Hannah Foggett (Assistant Physiotherapist) and Max Hartman’s replacement, Marc Finney (Rehabilitation Coach).

In addition, agreement has also been reached for the Supporters’ Club to sponsor two young upcoming players who have both played in the First XV this season demonstrating their talent and ability at Championship level rugby, namely Luc Jeannot (Tighthead Prop) and Cameron Gray (Second Row).

Also being sponsored is Tom Parfitt, newly appointed Kit Assistant to the First XV playing squad.

Hannah-Foggett

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Hannah Walker                                                             Hannah Foggett

 

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Luc Jeannot                                                                       Cameron Gray

 

Tom-Parfitt

Tom Parfitt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fans’ Forum

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Supporters and friends of Coventry Rugby Club are cordially invited to an open forum which takes place at the Butts Park Arena on Thursday, November 8th, 2018, from 7.30pm (bar open from 7pm).

Rowland Winter, Director of Rugby will review the first block of Greene King IPA Championship games, provide a squad update and give an insight into how the club will approach the Championship Cup competition.

He will then take questions from the floor.

Some of the playing squad will also be in attendance and available to take questions.

To see all Coventry Rugby’s video content including match previews, reaction and highlights subscribe to You Tube channel Coventry Rugby 1874.