By Ian Golden at Stebonheath Park
COVENTRY Bears sneaked a win over West Wales Raiders on Sunday (Aug 19) after a good second half performance saw them through to a 28-18 win.
The Raiders showed that when they have substitutes to call on, then they can be a threat, and there was little between the two sides. They remain winless but it was their lowest home defeat of the season.
Just seven Raiders players survived from last week’s home defeat against York as they welcomed back six who were injured, three who were on international duty with Wales under 19s and gave a debut to prop James Walter, who played for Gloucestershire All Golds for five seasons between 2013 and 2017. That made it six former All Golds in the Raiders’ squad, who were back to a full quota this week.
Coventry fielded five Welsh qualified players including three former South Wales Scorpions captains – two full Welsh internationals in the record Scorpions’ points scorer Paul Emanuelli and record appearance holder Ashley Bateman, as well as full Italian and former Wales youth international Chris Vitalini. Age-grade Wales international players Zak Williams, another former Scorpion, and Liam Rice-Wilson, one of four former All Golds in the Bears side, completed this quintet.
Hayden Freeman was given too much space to collect Ben Stead’s chip to give Coventry the lead on seven minutes. Stead converted.
In a first half, that lasted nearly 50 minutes, littered with handling errors and with no-one able to really gain a stronghold on the game, Bears finally extended their advantage on 21 minutes when Rice-Wilson dived in the corner and Emanuelli converted well.
Raiders were soon back in the game. After winning the ball from another Bears handling error, Steve Parry crashed over and Luke Williams converted.
Then Raiders levelled and for the first time ever went into half-time not in a losing position. Williams intercepted a stray Bears pass on Raiders 10 metre line. He combined with Nye Walker to set up Sam Baker to score in the corner. Williams converted well.
Coventry upped their game at the start of the second half. Malikhi Lloyd-Jones, a player with no known Welsh background, had an early second half try chalked off for offside.
But from Bears’ next opportunity, given to them via a scrum, Bateman, who had been a workhorse throughout the game, stormed through and Emanuelli converted.
A Rice-Wilson run led to Freeman’s second and Bears’ fourth try, scored in the corner, Emanuelli missing the kick.
Raiders hit back on 58 minutes after winning a penalty, Parry went over for his second and Williams converted again.
They were near to sealing the game a couple of times before the 70 minute mark with just solid West Wales defence preventing them from scoring again.
Five minutes to go and for the first time in West Wales this season, it was still anyone’s game. That was before Kieran Sherratt got the Bears’ matchwinner and Emanuelli converted.