We’re gonna get to that place
Where we really wanna go
We’ll walk in the sun
But till then tramps like us
Baby we were born to run
Tramps like us baby we were born to run
Tramps like us baby we were born to run
(Oh oh oh oh)
Bruce Springsteen – Born To Run
The Bears were born to run…and so far it’s a run of 4.
First London Skolars…
…then Hemel Stags…
…next came Keighley Cougars…
and yesterday saw the Bears take the luckless West Wales Raiders apart, winning 64-6 in a display full of confidence and not a little competence, too.
The full house completed against York perhaps? Two northern ‘powerhouses’, three extensions sides…
Two Kings and a couple of Jacks.
Anyone supporting the Bears right now is living the dream, for sure.
It’s the Bears who are holding all the cards at the moment.
The history of the Bears is very much a rags-to-riches story, from it’s humble origins some 20 years ago to its current position of one of the top 40 clubs in the country.
Maybe the riches aren’t of the financial kind, but they must be worth far more than that to those who have been part of the Bears’ journey right from the very start.
So whilst Bruce Springsteen might have had a different kind of ‘tramp‘ in mind when he penned his rock classic, it’s also highly appropriate to the Bears’ own situation in recent years.
On the evidence of what I’ve seen in these last few weeks, maybe the Bears are indeed:
…gonna get to that place
Where we really wanna go
We’ll walk in the sun
These are still just small steps and there will doubtless be a fair few tough times still to come. However, having got that first win against one of the ‘big boys’ in the form of Keighley Cougars last week, and having also shown that on current form the Bears are probably the pick of the expansion sides in National One, the rest of the League is having to sit up and take notice.
It’s now as much about consistency and self-belief, as it is about potential. The Bears have certainly proved what they are capable of, what they have yet to do is show that the can retain the levels of performance that we’ve seen in recent games against the top sides…and for as near 80 minutes as possible.
The Bears face a daunting trip up north to York City Knights next weekend, made all the more challenging after the Knights defeated league leaders Bradford Bulls at the weekend to go level on points with them at the top.
In the 18-58 defeat at home to York earlier in the season, the first game I attended after the end of the union season, the Bears had periods of play in which they took the game to the visitors, but in between times defensively they were far less organised that they have been in recent weeks.
The team talk for the York game on Saturday must surely be a relatively easy one:
‘believe in yourselves and each other, continue to work hard as a team, and the performance will follow. All things are possible and the players know they are competitive now at this level…turn a few more heads with a display against York to match that of the one against Keighley’.
The players gave their all back then…to a man.
You can ask no more.
Somewhat ironically, the Bears did to West Wales Raiders yesterday what York City Raiders did to us back in May. In fact, the Bears win was possibly even more of a convincing one given that the Raiders weren’t able to put any sustained pressure on the Bears line over a number of sets of 6.
The Raiders certainly had a couple of chances close in, but they lost possession either through unforced errors or infringements, the result of Bears pressure. Indeed, the one try they did score was, not unsurprisingly, from a fair distance out.
But what a try it was. The Bears scored some extremely well-worked tries of their own, including a couple of great solo efforts, but nothing to match the Raiders’ lone effort. Picking up a kick from well inside his own half, the full back scythed his way through the Bears’ chasers and then out-sprinted the Bears defence to the line. And all from perhaps 80m out. it was some effort.
Other than that and some isolated attacks, Raiders struggled to breakdown the tight Bears’ defence which perhaps gives me some hope that against York next weekend the Bears will have far more of an impact on the game than was the case when they met earlier in the season.
The game lost a little of its fluidity in the second half as things opened up a little more and it became a bit scrappy at times, but even then Raiders weren’t able to gain the initiative at all. The combination of a lot of rugby in a short space of time (especially for the returning students) and some hot sultry weather once again made it tough going for both sides.
With Bears currently on fire, I guess the odds were always on a home win, but I certainly hadn’t expected it to be quite so one-sided as it ultimately turned out. 12 tries in all, I think, and a hefty 58 point winning margin was well deserved against a side that had also had some improved performances, although not winning ones, in the run-up to the game.
And despite the scoreline, Raider battled to the end and deserve plenty of credit for the way they made the Bears work for their points.
One of the things that really impressed me was the physicality that the Bears brought to the game. On several occasions there were some bone-crunching tackles going in and there was definitely an intensity that wasn’t evident a couple of months back.
And I guess it doesn’t matter how good the opposition is, if you’re facing a side that is prepared to hit you as hard as the Bears hit the Raiders at times yesterday, it’s going to affect your game somewhat. The Bears look to be formed of a group of players, mainly youngsters, whose confidence has rocketed these last few weeks.
Several of the players in the squad yesterday had come back from representative fixtures over the previous few days, presumably having gained invaluable experience in the process and as a result , they probably don’t fear the teams in this league quite as much as they might have done at the start of the season.
Confidence is always a key factor in performance in any sport and right now it must be flowing through the veins of everyone involved in the Bears’ match day squads and it’s a hard thing to play against, especially if it’s not present in the opposition.
That’s why the York game next weekend will be such an interesting one for me – two teams full of confidence, even if they are at different ends of the table. York will be the more skilful for sure, but after taking a 24 point lead against Bulls, they showed they can be vulnerable too and the Bulls in the end fell just two points short.
A good start once again from the Bears and who knows what could happen…?
I’m only just starting to understand some of the finer points of the league game and I remain very much in the dark about a lot of what is happening out there on the pitch. What seems pretty obvious to me, though, is that when they don’t have the ball, the Bears are up much quicker than they were earlier in the season, putting pressure on the player with the ball and those around him.
And in doing so, the opposition appear to have made far more unforced errors than in the first few games – perhaps a sign of the relative quality of the opposition in part?
The penalty count has been very much in the Bears’ favour in recent games, or so it seems, and when that happens it also means there’s a territorial advantage to be had as well. If the Bears are able to continue to keep their discipline next weekend, then York will have to work that much harder for the points…
The Bears also have tended to keep the ball alive a little better and one or two delayed passes or last-minute off-loads have hurt the opposition a great deal in recent weeks, especially with the runners hitting difficult angles for the defenders to defend against. If Martin Watson release highlights of last night’s game, then they should be well worth a look, some great tries there and one or two that should illustrate exactly that point.
I enjoyed the evening kick off and although it was midweek, it didn’t appear to have had a great impact on the attendance which looked pretty similar to that of previous games, other than against the Bulls of course.
It would have been more difficult for the away supporters to make the journey but as a one-off it made a pleasant change and, despite the heat, it would still have been a lot cooler than playing mid-afternoon.
I never really followed the arguments for making rugby league into a predominantly summer sport at the time, but whatever they were, I do think there is something special about watching rugby on a cold, rain-drenched winter’s day with the pitch something of a quagmire and the players unrecognisable in their muddied shirts.
I guess that’s just the old romantic in me.
Anyway, that’s pretty much it from me this season as far as the Bears are concerned, although I might post infrequently between now and the end of September.
I’ll get to see, hopefully, the Doncaster game in a couple of weeks (thanks, Warwick,) and the last home game of the season against Hunslet, but I’m away for the North Wales game, the only other home fixture left. The Bears family is a special one and I feel really privileged to have been made so welcome by so many within it.
I shall certainly be back next season, and hopefully from the start this time, provided the games don’t clash with Cov’s.
All the very best to everyone involved in the Bears over the remaining few games of the season.
In this together…
I’m indebted to eagle-eyed Martin Watson for pointing out that I’ve added a photo of the Bentley’s Batches trailer in all the galleries of photos I’ve included since first watching the Bears back in early May.
As some followers to the blog will recall, I am partial to the odd pre-match burger or three, but the inclusion of the photo is less about the food and more about the intention…
…in this case, given the burger bar has been parked up at the BPA all summer, it seems fair to assume that Bentley’s Batches will be a regular offering at all Cov’s forthcoming home games this coming season.
Either that or the trailer has been abandoned, in which case it open up, quite literally, a window (or perhaps a hatch in this case) of opportunity for the catering corps at the BPA.
In all seriousness though, if this is a sign of the club’s intention to offer more ‘street food’-style drinks and refreshments now we’re in the Championship (and crowds are hopefully big enough to make it worth while for external caterers to provide additional food and beverages), then that’s a big thumbs up from me.
I thought the atmosphere generated by the crowds gathering around the food area at the Hull game at the end of last season was a welcome addition to the pre-match build up and so much better than the rather more mundane offerings served up in the clubhouse. I have to say it possibly ranked as some of the least appetising on offer at any of the National One grounds last season.
Just an opinion, mind.
Born to Run…
Springsteen is a legend…
Everyone else is just left dancing in the dark…
‘In the end nobody wins..’less everybody wins…’.