SKIPPER Phil Boulton believes Coventry’s recent run of results is an accurate reflection of how much progress the squad has made over the second half of the National League One season.
Last week’s 29-19 win over third-in-the-table Ampthill & District, which came on the back of Cov’s first-ever victory at Blaydon, was a perfect example for the tight head prop who has led the side on each of his last eight starts.
“I think it showed how far we’ve come as a team because we’ve been in positions like that earlier on in the season and lost the game,” said Boulton after Cov had seen a 22-7 half-time lead reduced to 22-19 before producing a strong finish.
“We weathered the storm and it was great to see. We’re winning games now where we’re just not relying on a single element to get us through – we’re going through them, we’re going round them, we’re using our scrum, and Will (Maisey) and Tony (Fenner) are kicking well.
“We should have beaten them down there, it just didn’t happen on the day for whatever reason, but I don’t like the word ‘revenge’ or using ‘we owe them one’ because I always think that we owe ourselves one, and we proved a point here.”
Boulton was given the role of captain with Eoghan Grace ruled out for the rest of the season and Tom Wheatcroft coming back from injuries, but is quick to play down any suggestion that the results can be attributed to his leadership.
“I don’t think it’s down to me taking over as captain,” he said. “We were a new team at the start of the season and it has taken a long time to gel – we were not just a new team, we were a new coaching team as well and it’s coming to fruition now with people knowing what to do with each other on the pitch as well as off the pitch.
“I suppose maybe I took over at the right time for it – the results might look like it’s to do with me, but I think it’s just time in itself that has helped.
“I’ve been quite fortunate. I’ve played under some really good captains and I’ve got a lot of experience playing at a level above, so I like to think I can use that to my advantage and to help the rest of the lads.
“I really am enjoying it, and it’s good to have other people on the pitch that are helping out as well with the leadership, like Tom Wheatcroft in the backs and Tom Jubb who has really taken over the line-out.
“There’s a lot of trust going on in the team at the moment which makes my job a little bit easier.”
Added Boulton: “We were happy with the first half against Ampthill and I actually think we probably had another gear to go with it.
”I was really disappointed with the try that Ampthill scored because it was probably the 30 seconds in that first 40 minutes when we didn’t outwork them and they scored – it was a bit of a soft try for me – and we felt quite aggrieved at the way we fell off the game after half-time, but the way the first half had gone and the chances we’d converted really helped us through.
“We set a target halfway through the season that no team was going to do the double over us and so far only Hartpury have managed that – deservedly so, but there were actually parts of both those games when perhaps we could have taken it.
“It’s all a big learning curve for the team and the management, and we’re in a good place.
“I’m staying next year, and I’m really looking forward to it – we want to finish this season strongly and take that momentum into next year, I think that’s really important for us to do. If you’re staying or if you’re going, you need to make sure that you’re playing good rugby.”
Boulton is full of admiration for the way that loose head Jake Byrne has taken his chance following injuries to coach Boris Stankovich and Andy Brown.
“This isn’t a bad breeding ground for Jake – having Boris telling him what to do is just fantastic. I wish I’d had Boris when I was 19 or 20, coaching the under-20s with Warwickshire!
“Jake does well, he works hard and he listens. I’m hoping that, if he makes some of the right decisions off the field, he’s got a big future and he could play a real part for Coventry.
“It’s a shame for Browny, but Jake has got his chance, he’s put his hand up and he’s doing well.”