An Ursine Rhapsody
Is this the real life?
Is this just fantasy?
You’re not caught in a landslide.
No, this is definitely reality.
Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody
There were just 360 at the BPA yesterday to witness the Bears’ historic win against Newcastle Thunder, a win that coach Tom Tsang describe post-match as ‘the highest of highs‘ that ‘ranked as one of the club’s most significant moments’.
And anyone listening to the celebrations that greeted the hooter at the end of the game would have been forgiven for thinking the crowd was three or four times that size given the noise the ecstatic home supporters generated as they cheered their heroes off the pitch.
And no wonder.
Against one of the promotion favourites this season, as well as apparently being one of Betfred National One’s big spenders, the Bears had fully deserved their 32-28 win.
No fantasy win, here…
It was though, the stuff of dreams.
The Bears never once trailed Newcastle, even though the visitors clawed their way back to parity 10 minutes before half time after the home side blitzed the visitors with 16 points in as many minutes. They outscored Newcastle Thunder 6 tries to 5, many of their 4 pointers resulting from play some way out from the Newcastle line.
When the Bears got the ball wide, they always looked more of a threat, with plenty of place and power amongst the backs. They took their chances brilliantly but also defended resolutely when it was most needed, especially in the final 10 minutes when Newcastle came back strongly and the Bears were a man short following a yellow in the closing stages of the game.
The Bears play fluid rugby. I’m no connoisseur of the game at all, but whenever I’ve watched them over these last couple of seasons they’ve always been intent on playing what appears to be attacking, expansive, rugby and don’t depend as much on the big forwards hitting the defensive line at speed as some of the visiting sides seem to do. I’ve not seen the stats, but I don’t think the Bears score too many tries from close range.
Newcastle were very effective in that respect and several of their tries were scored from close in, but the Bears were able to show far more invention and didn’t rely nearly so much on pressuring the wingers/full back from the high ball in the corners on the last tackle. They were clinical in their finishing at times and for me were the more entertaining of the two sides to watch in fairness, although Newcastle Thunder contributed greatly to a game that was pure entertainment from start to finish.
And all for £12.
There’s plenty of discussion on Cov’s Unofficial Messageboard at the moment as to how the club could/should improve the match day experience – something that the union side has never really managed to get quite right.
Cov could do far worse than take a look at what the Bears do.
They are lucky enough to have in Tim Griffiths perhaps the best PA announcer of any club I’ve visited and he does a sterling job both before and during the games to entertain and inform the Bears’ faithful. Tim’s a natural and like John Butler for Cov, Tim has a background in radio which clearly helps
The PA always seems to work well, his voice is crystal clear, and his use of sound effects and short music clips immediately after scores is always a talking point.
It’s never overbearing, the clips are changed regularly and like the best music worms, they stay with you for a while.
Catchy and quirky.
On Sunday, the BPA really was the ‘House of Fun’ (#pureMadness) and we were all made to feel very welcome.
And as for the roar of the Bear – well, it never fails to bring a smile to visiting supporters faces. It’s the Bears’ USP as far as the PA is concerned. How Cov could do with something similar.
In terms of support, the northern sides always bring down some of the best supporters, often very vocal, full of song and wise-cracks but always appreciative of good rugby, from either team.
Yes, there’s been the odd drum at some games but I’ve never found that offensive; quite the reverse really.
(Indeed, it was noticeable that Irish fans a couple of weeks ago loved their drummers and their rhythmic beat helped involve the crowd far more. And at games where there is such involvement, the atmosphere is far more lively than at Cov, for the most part. Just an opinion).
What the Bears do, they do on a much smaller scale obviously, but more often than not they get it just about right.
I was really pleased to see the Elonex scoreboard in use for yesterday’s game and that certainly was a big plus over last season. Great, too, to see Coventry Rugby Club liaising with the Bears on this. Hopefully this is happening more in other areas, too.
After a few warm days, the pitch was looking in pretty good nick. It’s clearly dried out a lot since the Hartpury game and their was plenty of dust flying up in several areas, something we don’t usually see until nearer April. With Cov still intending to replace the grass with an artificial surface during the close season (the last I heard work was due to start mid-April), I’m not altogether sure where the Bears will play their home fixtures.
It might well have been announced and I’ve just missed it as presumably alternative arrangements were finalised months ago…apologies if that is the case.
Coventry Bears were on fire from the first whistle and three tries was just reward for the uncompromising pressure they put on Newcastle during that opening 15 minute period. They were clinical in everything they did and the opposition had no real answers as the Bears’ attacked and defended as if their lives depended on it – indeed their first try came as they defended, with the Bears’ tackler somehow emerging with the ball to race clear from a good 30 plus metres.
However, 16-0 soon turned to 16 all. Unsurprisingly, the Bears just couldn’t maintain that level of intensity and one or two unforced errors, together with the physicality of Newcastle, allowed the visitors back into the game. And the visiting supporters began to find their voices, too.
With both teams level on points after 30 minutes and the momentum now with Newcastle Thunder, I have to admit I feared that they might well pull away as their experience started to tell.
Not a bit of it. Despite the heat and the efforts expended by the home side early on, the Bears regrouped, regained control and scored a fourth try to go into half-time 22-16 up. It was heroic stuff even then…the Bears certainly were unfazed by the opposition and despite being a relatively young side, they showed bags of resolve and tenacity, and not a little skill, to regain the lead in those closing minutes leading to the break.
Nor did the pace drop in the second half.
Newcastle scored an early try to once more level with the Bears and again it looked a little ominous.
But for the next 15 minutes Tom Tsang’s men took the game to the visitors, scoring twice more and, in the process, suggesting that they’ll make life very tough for teams this season, especially in front of their very vocal home support.
Both teams were tiring by this stage and the game opened up even more. Newcastle scored to get to within 4 points of the Bears one more and with Bears’ Rob Butler then falling foul of the referee following an outbreak of handbags in which Newcastle were arguably lucky not to also have a player sin-binned, the Bears’ had to dig deep to keep out Newcastle who just couldn’t find a way through the Bears’ defence.
It was scrappy at times but the Bears were truly immense in those final few minutes.
It made for some tough watching. The Bears had done enough to deserve the win, but how many times have we seen teams deserving of the points fall to a score at the death? At every break in play, eyes turned to the top of the stand to where Alan Robinson was calling out the time.
And as the clock ticked down, so the tension increased. It wasn’t for the faint-hearted.
League favourites they maybe, big spenders too by all accounts, but Newcastle just couldn’t break the Bears’ indomitable spirit. It was brilliant to watch.
Even as a rather fair-weather supporter, at least until the union season comes to an end, I was still a wreck after 80 minutes, so goodness knows what the true Bears’ fans must have been feeling as the hooter sounded.
I don’t get too animated when I watch Cov, but I did find myself fidgeting incessantly in those final few plays, sharing a few observations with the referee and biting my nails to the quick. In many respects it was even more tense than the 53-52 loss Cov experienced earlier in the season. There was an air of inevitability about that defeat despite all Cov’s efforts and it certainly didn’t have quite the David v Goliath feel about it that yesterday’s game had, for me anyway.
Tom Tsang, the Bears’ Head Coach, looked to be the coolest man in the whole stadium as the game played out to a conclusion and no one knew for sure how it would end. He stood pitchside, seemingly unflappable, as Newcastle pounded the Bears’ line, sharing insights with the other coaches and using his Interchanges to such good effect that the Bears were able to hold Newcastle for the 10 minutes they were a man down.
The performance of his match day squad must have given him immense pleasure. It’s rare these days for a coach to stay with the same club for 8 years, so to see his team begin to achieve the kind of results we’ve seen at the back end of last season and the beginning of this must make him particularly proud.
Happy days indeed.
I thoroughly enjoyed my afternoon at the BPA and will definitely be back again. It was one of those really special games that will live long in the memory and whilst only 360 were present to watch the Bears’ win, I’m sure there will be at least the same number again who now wish they had been.
Perhaps against Workington on 17th March…
On the day the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was awarding an Oscar to Rami Malek for his portrayal of Freddie Mercury in the film Bohemian Rhapsody, each and every Bears’ player was deserving of an award for their part in the Ursine Rhapsody that was unfolding at the BPA a little earlier.
Is this the real life? – Yes
Is this just fantasy? – No
And hopefully the show will go on for the remainder of the season.
Over to you, Freddie.