HEAD coach Tom Tsang remained upbeat despite seeing his Coventry Bears side extend their winless streak to four games, after a second-half fightback by hosts North Wales Crusaders led to a 33-16 defeat on Saturday.
The story was almost so different in the Bears’ latest Betfred League 1 clash after leading 16-4 at the interval, but a scoreless second period, coupled with the sudden resurgence of the Welsh side, meant Coventry were left to wonder what might have been.
Tsang pointed to the sizeable list of players unavailable for selection as a cause for the second-half slump, but felt his side demonstrated improvements from previous weeks.
“I have to give a lot of credit to my lads, leading the game for 60 minutes despite immense adversity,” he said.
“We entered the match with just two recognised props, as Harry Kaufman, Ollie Purslow and Lewis Taylor were added to our ever expanding unavailable list, plus Toby Richardson, in on loan from Dewsbury, was scratched on game day due to a sickness bug.
“In the first 20 minutes of the match we also had one of those props Jack Ray removed from play due to concussion, quickly followed by Sam Davis, neither would return.
“So with players out of position and with no interchange, we put in a very good account of ourselves, in particular our defensive mindset saw a big turnaround from the last few matches.”
Tsang highlighted the impact had by Hayden Freeman, who played the majority of the game out of position, and felt he was one of the Bears’ bright sparks during a rollercoaster encounter.
North Wales pushed hard in the opening 20 minutes but were unable to find a way through, before Bears went on the counter to score the first try of the game.
Reece Rance burst through down the right flank and touched down for his fourth try in as many games, whilst Harvey Whiteley scored a converted try to put the visitors ten points in front.
Moments after adding the extras to the previous score, Elliott Hall added a try of his own, scoring his second conversion of the game.
It proved Coventry’s last score of the afternoon, as the Crusaders reduced the deficit through Alex Thomson to take some momentum into the break.
Bears were forced to hold firm for the opening ten minutes after the restart as the hosts began to pile on the pressure, with Rob Massam’s converted score proving the breaking point as North Wales ran riot.
Dec Gregory then crossed the whitewash immediately after the kick off for their second converted score of the game to level the scoreline, while Brad Brennan, a former Bears played, notched the go-ahead try to punish his old side.
Coventry’s misery was compounded by two final tries from David Ecclestone and Joe Ryan, converted by Ben Stead, followed by a drop goal for Steve Roper to finish the scoring.
While Bears defended well in periods, their overall display did not warrant a result in Wrexham, with another away trip awaiting them this Sunday (3pm) when they visit third-placed Newcastle Thunder.