COVENTRY Bears ended a 14-match League One losing streak with a gritty 24-20 victory at London Skolars on Saturday.
Not since the opening game of the season had the Bears won a league match, but they recovered from a poor start to finally bring smiles to their faces.
The home side got off to a flying start, crossing the line in the first minute, and Neil Thorman added the extras to leave Bears 6-0 down.
A couple more points from a penalty followed for the hosts and then Lamont Bryan powered his way over with two Bears defenders still clinging on to him for the Skolars’ second try of the afternoon.
The deficit had widened to 14-0 as the conversion sailed over.
Some inspiration was now needed to prevent the match completely slipping away and this came from Chris Vitalini’s try and Ben Stead’s ensuing conversion.
Sensing this could be a tight game, Bears elected to kick for goal rather than attempt another attack, and this decision proved a good one as it brought the Bears right back into the game with the score at 14-8, which remained it margin until half-time.
Bears showed they meant business straight after the restart and Kam Pearce Paul pounced on the ball to score a try converted by Stead to make it 14-14.
Bears, who have so often faded in the second half, were in the ascendancy as the Skolars started to look weary in the heat.
The comeback was complete as Hayden Freeman crossed over to put Bears ahead for the first time at 18-14.
However, the home side still had something left in the tank as they seized on some sloppy play by the Bears who conceded two penalties on the trot, with further punishment coming from Mike Bishay’s try and the subsequent conversion. The Skolars had retaken the lead with the score now 20-18.
Further twists and turns were to follow though as Skolars’ Mike Greenhalgh was sent off for a dangerous tackle, giving the Bears a numerical advantage as the game neared its end.
Jason Bass was able to spot the extra space opening up and the ball was moved on to Hayden Freeman who bagged his second try before Stead’s conversion sealing victory.
Three successive home games – the first of which is Sunday’s (2pm) visit of Hemel Hempstead – now await resurgent Bears.
Bears head coach Tom Tsang (pictured) said: “I’m really pleased for everyone at the Bears, especially the players who have all worked so hard all season so far.
“It’s been tough going at times and we have shown unbelievable character and resilience to get back up every time we got knocked down.
“The Skolars game epitomised this as we didn’t give in at 14-0 down. We kept cool heads and worked our way back into it.
“In the second half we had to defend four repeat sets on our goalline multiple times and we passed the test. I hope this will give the squad confidence they are capable of performing for 80 minutes.
“Man of the match was Chris Barratt for his tireless effort to play 80 minutes, making almost 40 tackles.”