Rugby League in the Midlands? That seems an unusual concept, yet the Coventry Bears have been in existence for 17 years; they run 2 senior men’s teams one in Kingstone Press League One and the other in Conference League South. The club entered the KP League One in the 2014/15 season thereby going from Amateur to Semi-Professional status.
The club is also busy spreading the game in the community through their dedicated Community Interest Company – Bears in the Community CIC. Having played 5 games this season they had a solitary win to their name.
The history of the opponents on the day Keighley Cougars couldn’t be more different. Although they weren’t one of the break away teams in 1895 but they joined the Northern Union in 1900 having decided to make the switch from union.
I always try to keep an eye on clubs outside of the rugby league ‘heartlands’ but I’d never been able to watch Coventry Bear, the opportunity of watching them play at the Ricoh Arena having been in Worcester overnight was too good to miss.
This was to be their first foray into the new home of Wasps, a taste of rugby league for the Ricoh Arena before they host the 4 Nations Double Header on 5th November. With top tickets on sale at £40 and starting at £20 it’s a great opportunity to see international rugby league. With England v Scotland and Australia v New Zealand; I bought my won ticket as part of a 4 venue package including the final at Anfield on 20th November.
On this day just under 1100 people came to watch some Championship 1 rugby league; they were treated to a lovely dancing display by a young dance troupe, they were better than some cheerleaders I’ve seen over the years!
The main fare saw some good rugby league, Cougars dominated in the first half scoring 3 tries to Bears 1 – with Adam Brook, Vinny Fenian and Charlie Martin touching down for Cougars and James Geurtjens for Bears. Adam Brook converted Martins try seeing the teams go in at half time with the scores on Coventry Bears 4 Keighley Cougars 14.
The game of rugby league is all about momentum and Keighley carried on where they’d left off in the 2nd half with Ross Peltier scoring for the visitors. Brook added 2 to his personal tally.
However that momentum shifted the way of the Bears when they had their own period of dominance – Grant Beecham then Liam Thompson touching down for the home team. Joel James turned both into 6 pointers.
The scoreline was close at this point with Bears on 16 and Cougars 20 – it felt as if the game could go either way. A small flurry of handbags saw Bears’ Joel James and Cougars’ Liam Danville sent to to the sin bin for the remainder of the game. The resulting penalty was awarded to Cougars and they took advantage with Adam Lindsey scoring, Adam Brook added the extras.
Cougars then pulled away with a further 2 tries, with first Paul White then Hamish Barnes scoring, Brooks converted the first. The final score was Coventry Bears 16 Keighley Cougars 36. A scoreline that didn’t really tell the story of the game.
The afternoon was thoroughly enjoyable only marred by one of the most one eyed fans I’ve ever encountered shouting out behind me. I’m very used to very refereeing decision being questioned, it happens in both codes, it was laughable but annoying. However questioning every time a player went down went beyond the pale for me; I do wonder if the ‘fan’ wondered what it’s like to play rugby league in 28 degrees of heat!
Keighley Cougars moved to second with their win, it would seem they could have a successful season ahead. I’m sure that Coventry Bears took a lot of positives from the game.