COVENTRY Bears prepared for the return of fans to their Butts Park Arena home this weekend with a dominant display in beating West Wales Raiders 36-10 in Betfred League One.
Storming into a 22-4 lead at the break, Richard Squires’ charges finished off the job in the second half in Llanelli, prior to a landmark fixture this Saturday when spectators can once again back the Bears against London Skolars.
It was a near-perfect response to an opening-day loss at the hands of Barrow Raiders.
Applying pressure from the first whistle, a defensive mistake by the hosts’ Rangi Chase offered Coventry an early inroad into Raiders territory. With Chris Cullimore pulling the strings as hooker, Peter Ryan had the simple task of bundling over from a matter of yards for an opening try. Dan Coates provided the extras.
Buoyed by the early breakthrough, the away side remained intent on adding to the scoring.
Following two near misses, Ryan added his second converted try of the afternoon on 21 minutes, before a quickfire reply by West Wales’ Marcus Webb closed the deficit to eight points.
Reece Rance had to perform heroics to deny the hosts from building momentum with a last-ditch tackle shortly thereafter before the Bears re-established their 12-point lead through AJ Towse’s darting run to the corner on his debut.
Then, with the half-time whistle approaching at Stebonheath Park, Liam Welham strengthened Coventry’s stranglehold of the match with a superb jink past a defender en route to the try line following Cullimore’s pass.
Raiders hit back five minutes into the second half when Daf Phillips capitalised on a gap in the Bears defence to notch a converted try and provide a reminder of the hosts’ danger.
Squires’ men had to knuckle down and regain a foothold, and they did exactly that. A penalty from Coates with ten minutes remaining added to his three previous conversions to increase the advantage, and served as a warm-up to the rest of his kicking duties that would follow.
Three minutes later, a blistering attack through the hosts’ rearguard caught West Wales by surprise and resulted in a third try in two matches for Nathan Hill following a precise forward kick from player-coach Dave Scott.
Then, to put the icing on the cake, Kieran Sherratt outsmarted a defender with seconds remaining to clinch a fifth and final try of the afternoon and take the points back to Warwickshire.
And with a first fixture involving Coventry played in front of fans since February last year to come this weekend, hopes will be high of a second positive result to follow.