Bears in narrow loss at St. Cuthberts
Coventry Bears marked their NCL debut with a strong performance against a talented Wigan St. Cuthberts side, losing 34–28 to a try scored in the final throes of the game.
The Bears took an early lead in the first five minutes when hooker Reece Needham darted from acting half-back, catching the St. Cuthberts defence on the back-foot to score the game’s opening try. Steve Coleman converted easily.
St. Cuthberts hit back after only two minutes with a 50 yard break from forward Sean Foster who was supported by full-back Mike Scrivens who scored under the posts. The try was converted, levelling the scores.
With St. Cuthberts gaining some momentum, Sean Foster burst through to score, the try again converted, reversing the Bears early advantage.
However, the Bears still played positively, testing the St. Cuthberts defence and continuing to find gaps. On 12 minutes, Ross Bayston took advantage of some slick passing and strong build up to find a gap and cross unopposed. Coleman converted to draw the scores level at 12–12.
With barely 20 minutes of the game played, St.Cuthberts extended their lead with quick-fire tries from Cain Thompson and Danny Clayton. Simon Meehan converting Clayton’s try to put some daylight between the two teams.
The Bears weren’t beaten, and on 27 minutes, Ben Tyers showed strength to burst over the line after back-to-back sets of six gave some valuable field position. Coleman was once again good with the boot and a tantalising four point gap remained.
With the interval fast approaching, St. Cuthberts’ Danny Clayton snatched an interception try, killing what could have been a try scoring opportunity for the Bears in St. Cuthberts 20 metres. Meehan converted, taking the Wigan side into half time with a 28–18 lead.
With the second half only four minutes old, the Bears grabbed the initiative, taking advantage of field position from two handling errors by the home side. First, Bayston added his second try of the game, scything through the defence on the left after some slick passing across the line.
Then, classy scrum-half Ryan Gowing forced his way over after fielding his own grubber kick With Coleman converting, the scores were now level on 60 minutes, creating a tense last quarter for both teams and the fans.
Both sides stood firm in defence, with some good end-to-end attacking rugby, but on 65 minutes the Bears were penalised, giving St. Cuthberts the perfect opportunity to take a crucial two points. Meehan slotted the ball over.
The Bears continued to test the St. Cuthberts defence, making strong yards and almost posting a try on the home side’s right, before the ball went to ground.
Finally, with the game very much in the balance, St. Cuthberts snatched the victory when Jacob Clarke pounced on a cross-field kick to score.
The match was a thrilling start to the Bears campaign, and while the two points were out of reach the performance is a clear indication that the Coventry side will be a force to be reckoned with in the NCL league.
Head coach Tom Tsang commented on the performance.
“It’s obviously disappointing to lose any game – especially one so close on the scoreboard.
“However we are remaining positive as we felt we did more than enough to win the match, but a lack of discipline without the ball, conceding over 15 penalties through the game meant we had to defend much more than we should have – making almost 100 extra tackles.
“At 28-all with 20 minutes to go, camped on the St. Cuthberts try-line, we had all the momentum, but we gave away 4 penalties in a row to let them off the hook. If we had scored at this point, I am confident we would have come away with a win. But fair play to St. Cuthberts they worked hard for each other and dug in for the full 80 minutes.
“In attack, I am happy with what we are doing, but we need to be much more street-wise when it comes to defence, and this is something that we will focus on in training as we prepare to travel to Crosfields on Saturday.”
Final score: Wigan St. Cuthberts 36 – Coventry Bears 28
Coventry Bears man of the match: Ben Tyers
Coventry Bears team.
1 Fabrizio Ciaurro, 2 Chris Dixon, 3 Mat Turner, 4 Dan Durston, 5 Gav Grant, 6 Trent Achilles, 7 Ryan Gowing, 8 Ben Tyers, 9 Reece Needham, 10 Stefano Cardella, 11 Chris Barratt, 12 Steve Coleman, 13 Ross Bayston, 14 Demetrius Gonsalves, 15 Tom C Davies, 16 Ben Vivian, 17 Andy Cooper.