HEAD coach Rich Squires saluted Coventry Bears’ gritty determination to overcome tough circumstances to chalk up a victory at London Skolars.
The gruelling 14-12 win on Saturday in rain-lashed conditions boosted the Bears’ play-off hopes in Betfred League One, leaving them eighth but only four points behind third-placed Doncaster.
“We were forced into some changes last minute and some players were forced out of position but the group came together and really worked hard for each other,” said Squires. “The win was bigger than the group actually thought and although they knew they didn’t play to their potential, if took some determination to overcome the adversity.”
The ‘el classico’ derby between the two Southernmost teams in League One also continued the bizarre tradition of the away side winning, as has been the case in all but one game since the Bears joined the Londoners in the semi-pro ranks.
But this was a close one, a gruelling, bruising match which looked like it could go either way until the very end.
The home side scored first, with Lameck Juma crossing the line, ably converted by Neil Thorman to give a 6-0 lead.
This was always going to be tight, so Thorman went for the kick a goal after a penalty was awarded to take the score to 8-0.
Liam Welham pulled the Bears back into the game with a 23rd minute try, converted by Dan Coates, a scoreline which held until half time, as the game descended into a war of attrition.
After finishing the first half well, the Bears moved up a gear as they came out for the second half, and Dave Scott ripped through the Skolars’ defence to score a try, the successful conversion putting the Bears in the lead for the first time at 12-8.
A challenging kick from Skolars’ Jacob Thomas led to Juma pouncing in the corner for his second try of the afternoon.
The conversion was difficult and ultimately unsuccessful, rendering the scores equal at 12-12.
This may have been a fair result but both sides were still hungry for the victory, and the Skolars looked the best bet as they pressed hard.
Twice they had players bundled into touch within striking distance of the line as they applied relentless pressure.
Then Peter Ryan was sinbinned reducing the Bears to twelve men in the dying minutes of the game.
Just a couple of points would decide this now and Coventry had a great chance with a penalty but it was not to be.
But then another penalty came their way, barely inside the Skolars half, and this time Coates was successful with two minutes to go.
The Bears held on to gain their fifth victory of the season, and are still very much in contention for a play off place at the end of the season.
Bears meet fourth-placed North Wales Crusaders at the Butts Park Arena on Sunday (3.00)