I don’t think I’m exactly the talisman that Coventry Bears must be looking for just now.
Two consecutive home games attended, two consecutive defeats.
That said, the performances have been encouraging and despite the scorelines appearing a little one-sided, both games have been immensely enjoyable to watch and I’ll certainly be back again soon.
The visit of former world club champions Bradford Bulls looks certain to be extremely well attended and I gather the Bears are planning to make it a special day in terms of match day entertainment, so that’s certainly not one to miss – June 30th, make a note in your diaries.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
On Saturday, Coventry Bears went down 4-52 to Workington Town and were totally outplayed in the opening 25-30 minutes, shipping tries at regular intervals and were the home side 38-0 down with probably 10 minutes of the first half still remaining. The last two tries in that spell were conceded when the Bears were down to 11 men after suffering two yellow cards in the space of a minute following what looked like a strong but totally legitimate tackle on former All Black/Tongan international Fuifui Moimoi.
Now I have to say I’m not a rugby league aficionado by any stretch of the imagination and Moimoi isn’t someone I’d heard of before last Saturday, but those in the know would be very familiar with him.
For any Cov fans reading this and unaware of the legend that is Moimoi, imagine Latu Makaafi – only bigger and a little older and even more physical. He’s a prop, 38 and 20 stone plus and is built like the proverbial brick ‘house.
It was his first game for Workington and there was a real air of expectancy amongst both sets of supporters as he took to the pitch somewhere around the midway mark in the first half.
Workington Town, unsurprisingly at this stage, were on the attack and it wasn’t long before the Tongan took a pass around 20 metres out only to be hit with huge force by Bears’ Peter Ryan, a young Irish lad and playing only his second game for the Bears.
It was a crunching tackle and looked perfectly legal – Fuifui went down and took a while to get up, much to the enjoyment of the home supporters who appreciated the strength, and indeed courage, of the youngster.
There seemed to be no complaints from the opposition but the referee deemed it an illegal challenge and awarded a yellow card, followed seconds later by another for the captain (?) who must have questioned the decision. It was certainly a tackle that Ryan’s team mates felt was fair, as this tweet from Bears’ James Geurtjens shows. Even Sky Sports retweeted a recording of the hit with no comment to suggest it was in any way an illegal tackle.
I believe I had the best view in the house.(number 8) Petes chest caused the impact not the loose hand. Solid shot. Young Irish kid and second ever semi pro game fresh out of the local university side. Good on him.
— James Geurtjens (@JGeurtjens) May 21, 2018
All afternoon the referee incurred the wrath of the home supporters and whilst I don’t know enough about the intricacies of the game to understand all the laws, even to the untrained eye it was clear he was very inconsistent in his decisions and it was of little surprise to me that he was given a hard time of it from the stands.
Down to 11 men, Coventry Bears only conceded two further tries during those 10 minutes and, if anything, Ryan’s tackle appeared to galvanise the home side. From there on in they played with more conviction and in the second half took the game far more to the opposition and were eventually rewarded with a try following a good deal more possession and territory.
It was no more than they deserved.
Workington were clearly the better side and seemed to do everything with a little more pace and skill than the Bears. They were often able to offload in the tackle and it caused the home side no end of problems, especially when they spread the ball wide. The home defence was too often stretched early on and Workington were ruthlessly efficient in capitalising on any space created.
Coventry enjoyed more possession as the game went on but whereas Workington were able to exploit the gaps they were able to manufacture, Bears found Workington’s defence parsimonious in the extreme and in the end tended to concede possession a little too easily, although they had several decent opportunities to score and were even held up over the Workington line at one point.
What has impressed me most about the Bears though in the two games I’ve watched is that although they’ve fallen quickly behind, they’ve never given up.
Far from letting their heads drop, they’ve found the strength and mental toughness to step it up a gear and they’ve turned what on each occasion could have been a very one-sided game into a really entertaining one.
And the crowds have appreciated that.
On Saturday they stayed behind to applaud their team off the pitch, something that was clearly welcomed by the players.
That might seem strange given the size of the two defeats, but it’s impossible not to be impressed by the Bears resilience. They’ve been competitive in each game and earned the respect of the crowd with their refusal to give up despite the odds. Both opposition sides have been strong, apparently both promotion contenders, and as such the Bears were always going to be up against it. I’m sure it won’t be too long before they bounce back and earn the win that such displays ultimately deserve.
I’ve also really enjoyed the atmosphere generated by the crowd at the BPA, despite the obvious lack of numbers.
The Bears’ supporters seem very different to those that follow Cov. Despite conceding over 100 points in the two games, I’ve not heard a single supporter moan or complain (other than at the quality of the refereeing!). The same could not be said of Cov crowds who in the past have been known to be critical of the team, or of individuals within the team, even when the side is relatively successful.
I have no real emotive link to the Bears, although that might well change if I continue to watch them over the rest of the season, so I don’t feel the same sense of attachment as most there and most likely a defeat means more to most present than it does to me.
And they were loud and proud, which is exactly as it should be.
They aren’t well-supported by Cov standards but everyone is super-friendly and the club is very quick to acknowledge a supportive text or message of thanks which is really impressive.
For just £12 it’s hard to know where you’d find a more agreeable couple of hours of entertainment as a neutral watching sport locally. I’ve enjoyed watching Coventry United a couple of times this season at the Butts and maybe it’s just a rugby thing for me, but the Bears offers far more excitement.
Being honest, for me it’s no alternative to watching Cov, but in the close season it’s the next best thing.
If you haven’t watched them in recent years, it’s well worth a trip to the Butts in the coming weeks.
Sadly, the two games I’ve watched haven’t been particularly well attended, certainly there aren’t the numbers watching that the quality of the rugby deserves – from Cov as much as the opposition. There were a few familiar faces I recognised from Cov games, but not many…
I just wonder if it might be worth perhaps offering all Cov season ticket holders free entry to one nominated Bears game just to get them in to experience watching rugby league at the Butts. Make it one after the union season has finished and hopefully there might be some decent weather to go with it.
Even if very few were to return, the bar profits that day would be greatly improved if nothing else. However, I reckon there would be a number who would come back.
Get the email details of those who attend and send fixture lists and a reminder of the next home game a few days before and who knows..?
I’m sure there will have been plenty of discussions between the two clubs but there must be ways of helping each other out. A couple of hours spent with Cov learning how to use the main scoreboard would help although it might be that the sponsorship deal with Elonex doesn’t allow for its use with sporting events other than Cov games (pure guess on my part there).
It would have been really nice to have seen the National One trophy on display for at least one of the two games – hell, even I might have had my picture taken with it and given my photo has yet to appear on the blog in three years, well that would have been a first. It might also have brought in a few Cov supporters keen to have their photos, or those of their children, taken holding it as I believe has been done in the city centre and elsewhere?
Someone’s going to leave a comment to say the cup’s been in the clubhouse the last two weekends and then I’ll look pretty stupid, but then again…
Anyway, it’s easy to come up with suggestions, far harder to implement them so I’ll leave it there.
All-in-all it was another very enjoyable afternoon spent watching the Bears.
A big thank you to all involved.
It’s clear that a fair amount of work has been undertaken already to get the pitch back to its best in readiness for the start of the Championship season in September (it’s still a great feeling to be writing that even now). From memory the pitch is probably in a worse state than it was 12 months ago, this despite the herculean efforts of Eric Richardson and co all season – hardly surprising given the adverse weather and the extra usage its had of the last nine or 10 months.
Last Thursday the club ‘tweeted’ a photo of what I imagine is sand being spread across the areas of the pitch that have sustained most wear:
Sponsors Spotlight – @LakesideGm
Thanks to Lakeside for their continued support and current maintenance work on the pitch 🚜
— Coventry Rugby (@CoventryRugby) May 17, 2018
and this was even more visible from a raised viewpoint in the main stand:
When I arrived at the ground, a good 90 minutes before kick off, one or two of officials (I’m presuming from Coventry Bears) were collecting handfuls of stones/’chippings’ from the pitch and depositing them on the other side of the advertising hoardings by the scoreboard where I happened to be standing. This they continued to do for a good 25 minutes or so and one or two of the players removed some in their warm up as well. There were a lot of handfuls gathered in the end.
I can only think they must have been an unwanted extra (the stones, not the players!) in whatever was deposited on the pitch during the week. But given the size of them, they could have caused problems had they remained on the pitch during the game (although I can’t believe they were all removed).
It seemed odd to say the least and is certainly not something I’ve seen happen before.
I’m sure it was just a consequence of the work done during the week, but the stones were clearly something those picking them off the pitch wanted removed prior to the start of the game.
The good news is that the areas that were well grassed already looked much greener and the pitch held up extremely well during the game, although it became something of a dust bowl at times.
With three weeks before the next Bears’ fixture the Cov groundsman will have plenty of time to work his miracles. At the current rate of progress it looks certain to be in great condition in readiness for the pre-season friendlies.