Bears on the run…not a strip of sticky-backed plastic in sight…oh, for a drop or two of rain

17Jul - by Tim - 6 - In Club talk

Neon signs a-flashin’, taxi cabs and buses passin’ through the night
A distant moanin’ of a train seems to play a sad refrain to the night
A rainy night in Georgia, such a rainy night in Georgia
Lord, I believe it’s rainin’ all over the world
I feel like it’s rainin’ all over the world

Randy Crawford – Rainy Night in Georgia

A case of sixth time lucky for me, I guess.

Five previous visits to the BPA and five defeats for the Coventry Bears, albeit against stronger opposition. To be fair,  four of them included periods of play in which the Bears at least matched or, on occasions, even bettered their visitors.

Against Oldham, well perhaps not.

But still five losses.

But on Saturday, against Hemel Stags, a team one place below the Bears and for a change one  they were probably just about favourites to beat, they duly delivered.

The first double of the season, although they might struggle to get a second… 🙂

That said, Hemel must have come up to the BPA believing they, too, were in with a great chance of taking the points, being just one win and two points behind the Bears.

On paper, it always looked as if it was going to be a tense affair and that’s exactly how it proved on the day, with both sides always within a score of each other. Indeed, at half time the game was literally in the balance at 10-10.

It all made for an intriguing encounter and one that ebbed and flowed for much of the 80 minutes.

In the end, Bears won the game 20-18 which was somewhat closer than perhaps it should have been. But for a well-taken 74th minute try out wide, the Bears might have lost a game in which at times they had made life extremely difficult for themselves with a catalogue of unforced errors that put them on the back foot time and time again.

It was almost as if they were trying a little too hard.

Following their hard-fought win against the Skolars the previous weekend, expectations were probably as high as they’d been all season and perhaps the pressure they put themselves under was the root cause of what, for me, was the least impressive of all their performances I’ve watched to date, with the obvious exception of the Oldham game of course.

Hemel, though, fared little better and whilst I’ve no idea of the penalty count, it seemed as if the visitors incurred the wrath of the referee rather more than the Bears and the home side were able to relieve the pressure they put on themselves on a number of occasions  thanks to the visitors’ ill-discipline.

I don’t know enough about the nuances of the game to understand quite what was annoying the officials, but most of the infringements seemed to occur in or around the tackle.

In the programme notes, Alan Robinson, the Bears owner and CEO, had suggested that the Hemel game:

is a game we must target to sustain our positive momentum and it’s a match we can win if we take to the field with the right attitude and focus

In the previous games I’ve watched, the Bears had always been the underdogs and I guess in that sense the team had little to lose and much to gain and it allowed them to perhaps play with a little more freedom.

On Sunday they seemed to tense up a little  and having started off so well with a great try from Jason Bass in just the third minute, they began to make a number of basic errors that allowed Hemel Stags to have greater control in the game than they probably deserved.

The Bears’ handling was poor really, certainly in comparison to previous games. I lost count of the number of times players dropped the ball, often in the most innocuous of situations and a couple of these were severely punished by Hemel in the next set of tackles.

I might be being harsh here and I’m no connoisseur of the game for sure, but it certainly seemed that way. Yes, it was hot and the game was always tight, but it did appear as if at times the importance attached to the result almost got the better of them.

A game that should have been won fairly comfortable became that much harder as a consequence of a few disappointing lapses in concentration. It wasn’t the best rugby I’ve seen from the Bears, but it was nevertheless an enjoyable game that kept everyone entertained right up until the final whistle.

And, I was mightily impressed by the Bears in other ways…

In the 67th minute they’d taken a deserved lead with a smart individual effort from Kieron Sherratt (Yay, I’m beginning to learn some names at last 🙂 ). With scoring at something of a premium up until then, it looked as if the Bears had done enough to win the game, even with 13 minutes still on the clock.

But Hemel had other ideas and all credit to them; within two minutes they’d retaken the lead after yet another Bears’ knock on.

At 16-18 down and with just 10 minutes to go, it would have been all too easy for the Bears to wilt. Not a bit of it though. A young and fairly inexperienced side it might well be, but there’s certainly no lack of bottle and back the Bears came. They fully deserved  to retake the lead for the final time following a well-worked Harry Chapman try out wide that was unconverted.

To recover as they did was hugely encouraging and although I’m sure Tom Tsang won’t have been totally convinced by the performance, the way the team saw the game out in the final few minutes must have pleased them greatly. That final ten minutes was probably the best passage of play during the whole game, at least from a Bears’ perspective.

In the end, the home side deserved the win and two games on the bounce now means that there’s the chance for the Bears to create some momentum – confidence must be strong now, especially as the Bears played so well for periods in the Bulls’ game as well.

With another home game on Saturday, against Keighley Cougars, the Bears should feel they are in with a chance of extending that unbeaten run to three games. That said, Keighley have won 10 games this season to the Bears’ 3 and will doubtless provide rather sterner opposition than Hemel Stags and will surely go into the game as clear favourites.

Which is always a danger for any side…

If the Bears can do the basics rather better than perhaps they did on Sunday, especially in terms of their handling, then I really believe they could make life very difficult for the Yorkshire side.

I had wondered beforehand just how much of a factor the World Cup Final would prove to be in determining the size of the crowd on Sunday.

In the end it proved a massive one.

Just 281 made it through the turnstiles which was lower than I’d expected given England’s all too predictable demise at the hands of Croatia midweek.

With the Bears having won away from home the weekend before and on the back of such a fantastic afternoon’s rugby against Bradford Bulls the last time they played at home, you might have expected a crowd a little above the average for the season.

As it was, it was well below.

And perhaps the lack of atmosphere on Sunday played its part in unnerving the players a little, too. In all the games I’ve watched so far this season the crowds have been loud and appreciative, bolstered also by a number of travelling supporters from up north for whom rugby league appears a way of life rather than a mere hobby.

There’s been a warmth and camaraderie in the main stand in previous weeks that just wasn’t there on Sunday, the result of a lack of numbers and because so much more was a stake. Both sets of fans rightly felt their team was capable of the win  – rather more to play for in that sense than against, say, Bradford Bulls.

Fewer fans, making less noise would have had an impact for sure and the London supporters where I was sitting certainly didn’t have the same sense of humour as their northern counterparts, with the referee in particular seeming to cause them more than a little grief.

Bears’ Ben Stead was also the target of a fair amount of unnecessary criticism in the area I was sitting, too..

I probably shouldn’t say this, but watching sitting amongst the Hemel fans on Saturday was rather akin to travelling to Ampthill, Esher or Old Albanian to watch Cov – small crowds that are inclined to be rather more critical than they are supportive, although I imagine supporters travelling to the BPA might well feel something similar, except the crowd is rather bigger!

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As always, I arrived at the ground well before kick off – part of the enjoyment for me is  watching the crowd grow and the atmosphere build.

I sat on the picnic tables on the far side and watched a gentleman set up a temporary scoreboard. In many respects it was reminiscent of the late, great John Noakes during his Blue Peter days – no sticky-backed plastic (although there was plenty of Velcro) but it was a really simple, but brilliant, design that was clearly visible from the main stand.

Using plastic strips, numbers and letters can be quickly formed in the same way lights on a digital scoreboard work. Such a clever idea, not necessarily original but all home-made and one that could have so easily put an end to the grumbles of supporters at Cov games who prefer to watch across from the main stand, annoyed because they have no access to a scoreboard on from that side of the pitch.

Little did I know at the time that the person responsible for the said construction was none other than Martin Watson (aka CameraShake), the man who has provided Cov fans on occasions with some quality video footage of Cov games and someone who has followed the blog for a while now. I even exchanged a few words with Martin about his creation (oblivious to his true identity) and he was very modest in suggesting it was no more than adaptation of others in operation elsewhere.

As I hope the photos show, it is such and effective way of keeping the score when there is no other means available and maybe Cov should invest in something similar for the Development Squad/A games on pitches where the facilities might be somewhat Spartan.

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Two weeks away from the BPA and it’s clear the long spell of hot sunny weather is beginning to take its toll on the pitch.

Last week, from a distance and looking through the railings, it had looked in good nick, but on closer inspection it seems as if there are some quite large areas now where the grass is fairly bare. And with just over three weeks until Cov play their first home game of the pre-season (against Moseley, too!), there’s still a lot of growing to be done.

The pitch has clealry had a lot of work  done to it in the intervening weeks since the Hull Ionians game, but however hard Eric has been working, I can’t help but feel his efforts will have been undone somewhat by the lack of rain over the last month or so.

The first photo in the sequence of four below was taken on 30th June, the remaining 3 last Sunday, two weeks on from the Bulls’ game. As you’d expect, the grass was rather more scorched at the weekend, but there also seemed to be areas where the grass was breaking up and the ground underneath was extremely dusty. It’s probably normal under such unusual weather conditions, but I was surprised at how different it looked, even despite the rain.

DSCN4083
The pitch on 28th June
DSCN4252
15th July
DSCN4183
15th July
DSCN4253
15th July

Photos released by Coventry Rugby Club on social media this week show the players training on the pitch, so I guess there’s no concern from within the club which would suggest all is well, but the above photos do show just how dry the surface is at the moment.

Oh for a drop or two of rain…

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Lord, I believe it’s rainin’ all over the world
I feel like it’s rainin’ all over the world

Trust me, Randy, it isn’t…

Although a bit of a squall over the BPA right now wouldn’t go amiss…

(Had hoped to include the Brook Benton version but I couldn’t find a decent video to go with it…)

6 thoughts on “Bears on the run…not a strip of sticky-backed plastic in sight…oh, for a drop or two of rain”

  1. Re Steady getting some stick .Tim ,Steady was an ex Hemel Player so hardly any surprise there 🙂

      1. Good job I wasn’t sat in that bit ..my over protective Godmother /Auntie rant might have just kicked in 🙂 Great write up though !

      2. Thanks, Rachel! Looking forward to the game today, although not too sure what to expect if the Bears are missing several players. Win or lose, it’s always a great afternoon watching them, though.

  2. Let’s not forget the great efforts put in by the ball boys to keep the scoreboard ticking over!

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