THE scrum has been a consistently high point of Coventry’s game this season – something tight head prop Phil Boulton attributes to the work done in training along with experience.
“I think it mainly comes down to coaching – we’ve got Boris Stankovich as coach who really understands the scrum, and as a player he’s a part of it as well,” said England Counties tight head Boulton, who moved to Butts Park in the summer after a long Championship career at Bedford Blues where he made some 200 appearances.
“Boris really sold the system to us from day one, the boys all bought into it and it’s paying dividends.
“He’s got a group of 15 or so forwards and it doesn’t really matter who starts, everybody can do their job as well as each other. It makes for selection headaches, but it’s nice to have that competition in the squad.
“From the point of view of props, we are all on the same wavelength and we’ve got some real experience there.
“Andy Brown has played in the Championship and worn the 1 shirt for Coventry a lot, I’ve come from Bedford and played a fair few games in the Championship, and Jimmy (Litchfield) is a boy who’s got a point to prove, on both sides of the scrum, which he’s doing with his performances and which is good to see.
“I’ve not been in a team before where it’s consistently dominating the opposition like we have done, and when we did dominate we’d generally won which we haven’t always done this season. It’s been a bit odd really to sometimes come off thinking that we’ve won that battle but we’ve lost the war.
“That’s the journey we’re going through as a new group of players.”
Cov’s edge in the scrum played a decisive role in last Saturday’s victory over Birmingham Moseley, producing the match-winning penalty, and was a game to remember for Boulton with an attendance of over 2,700.
“Saturday certainly was special and I think it will stand us in good stead for the rest of the season,” he said.
“We had a really good build-up to the weekend in training and there were a few disappointed boys not to be starting the game, so I think that the lads who were in the 20 and were involved understood that they were representing those boys as well and it was up to them to make sure that we performed and got the result.
“It’s always good to play at home for Coventry, we’re the best supported team in the league by a long way, and I think having that tremendous derby day atmosphere really did help spur us on.
“Perhaps we were our own worst enemy a little bit and let the occasion get to us in certain situations, giving away a few penalties which allowed them to get back up the field.
“I think that was probably down to the atmosphere getting the better of some people, but the crowd definitely lifted us and it was crucial at the end.”
It was Coventry’s place in English rugby history that drew Boulton, who turned 30 last week, to sign.
“One of the reasons why I wanted to come to Coventry was that I didn’t really want to leave Bedford and go to a lesser club.
“Coventry certainly isn’t that – it’s a proper rugby club with a rich history and that was something that really attracted me to come here.
“Its DNA is not a million miles away from Bedford. Both had their financial troubles in the past which have been sorted out. Bedford managed to kick on better from where they were but seem to have come to a bit of a stalemate at the moment – hopefully we’re not going to come to a stalemate here and are going to push forward and move up towards the top of the league.
“I didn’t really know Rowland Winter, I’d spoken to him briefly the season before, but I knew all about Coventry and I nearly signed for them around ten years ago.
“I had a spell on loan from Leicester Academy at Nuneaton, and after that I was offered a contract by Coventry, Rotherham and Birmingham.
“I chose to go back to Rotherham, which is actually where I started my senior career, and had a season there before going to Bedford where I had a few battles along the way against Coventry before they got relegated.
“It was a strange one really. I had made my mind up early on that I wanted to move back to Rotherham, but in the end I had to think about the decision really carefully – I thought it was a natural progression to go from Nuneaton to Coventry, but the offer from Rotherham came quite early on in the discussions while although I always thought Cov were going to offer me a contract, it sort of came in at the last minute.”
And Coventry’s prospects for the rest of this season?
“Winning the league is a bit of a long shot now – it’s a fairly foregone conclusion that Hartpury will do it and deservedly so, they’ve been building that squad for a long time and they’re a well-coached, well-drilled team,” said Boulton.
“I think that’s the way for us to see what it needs to kick on in this league.
“We’ve got a lot of players, myself included, who are a bit wet behind the ears when it comes to National One.
“We’re pretty pleased with how we go at home, but it’s well documented that our away form leaves something to be desired.
”Part of it might be the fact that there is such a good atmosphere at home, it is a great place to play rugby, and it’s a culture shock when we go away to some of the places we have to visit.
“We’ll try to finish as high up the table as we can and use that as a bench mark for next season.
“I think it’s a ‘taste test’ this year, finding what’s required. We’ve found things that have worked and things that haven’t – our league position probably reflects this.
“There’s loads of positive, but some negatives, and we have to make sure that we don’t repeat those.”