Bank Holiday Monday saw the Coventry Bears host a rearranged league match against Bramley Buffaloes at the Butts Park Arena. This, the first of two final league ties offered the chance for the Bears to take third place in the National Conference League.
Scoring commenced after only two minutes. Bramley gave away a penalty, from which the Bears spread the ball out to Tawanda Chipadza on the right wing who used his pace to beat two players and round the fullback to score under the posts. Steve Coleman stepped up to take his first conversion of the day and slotted the ball between the posts. 6-0 to the Bears.
The opening stanza saw some tentative rugby played by both sides, but on 14 minutes, the Bears forced another knock on from the visitors. This time, the ball was fed to Brad Massey close to the line, the rangy second-rower half busting the tackle and using his height and reach to stretch over the line and ground the ball. Coleman was again good with the boot, giving the Bears some daylight on the Buffaloes at 12–0.
Both sides took advantage of the strong swirling wind to put in some testing high kicks, and neither side looked to have the impetus to step the pace of the game up. Bramley hit the scoreboard next when on 26 minutes a quick passing move gave them the overlap for George Clarke to score. Steve Suddards missed the conversion but the visitors were back in the game.
This gave the Yorkshire side the encouragement they were looking for and on 33 minutes they posted another try. Carl Linley making good yards returning a Bears kick, and from the good field position Bramley fired the ball out to Danny O’Connor who beat two defenders to score. Suddards was successful with the kick this time, closing the gap on the Bears at 12–10.
With half time closing in, the Bears had the last of the points when a set play saw Ashley Johnson draw in two defenders before offloading to Chris Dixon who raced over in the corner. Coleman added the two points to finish the first half with the Bears a nose in front at 18 points to 10.
The second half started much the same as the first, with a quickfire try from the Bears on 2 minutes. A Bramley knock-on gave the Bears possession close to the line, Luke Srama passing to the charging Ryan Jenkins who barged his way over the Buffaloes line, grounding the ball through a pile of defenders. Coleman converting, stretching the Bears lead to 24–10.
The Buffaloes fought back, on 46 minutes Steve Suddard put a deft grubber kick in from 15 yards out, and put in a good chase to field his own kick and score. Bramley still in touch with the Bears on 24-14.
The fightback continued from the visitors on 52 minutes. The Buffaloes worked another overlap on the Bears right-hand side, Hafeez Yesufu having the space to score in the corner. Suddards missed the conversion but suddenly an upset was on the cards with Bramley only six points behind and playing with some enthusiasm.
A double sin-binning then occurred when Tawanda Chipadza made a dangerous tackle on Carl Linley, the Bramley player taking offence and retaliating. Referee Michael Mannifield giving both players time on the bench to cool down.
On 60 minutes it was then the turn of the Bears to re-establish their dominance. The home side putting in a flowing passing move for Steve Coleman to release Ashley Johnson into space, the Jamaican international scoring in the corner. Coleman missed his chance at the two extra points leaving the score at 28–18.
Deadlock arrived for the remainder of the match, and with frustration creeping in Bramley coach Craig Linyard was sent off for dissent after disagreeing with a penalty decision. And on the final whistle, a player scuffle resulted in the Bears Luke Srama and Buffaloes George Clark both shown the red card.
1) Ash Johnson, 2) Tawanda Chipadza, 3) Mark White, 4) Tom Davies, 5) Richard Synnott, 6) Christopher Stevenson, 7) Scott Clendenning-Fenton, 8) Thomas Davies, 9) Luke Srama, 10) Ryan Jenkins, 11) Bradley Massey, 12) Leigh Saunders, 13) Stephen Coleman, Subs (All Used); 14) Tijronie Rowe, 15) Michael Venn, 16) Alex Brown, 17) Chris Dixon
Synott (2), Massey (14), Dixon (36), Jenkins (41), Johnson (60)
1) Aaron Henry, 2) Hafeez Yesufu, 3) Thomas Langton, 4) Omar Al-Rawi, 5) Carl Linley, 6) Steven Suddards, 7) Ben Pitts, 8) David Parker, 9) James Doyle, 10) George Clarke, 11) Benoit Rogers, 12) Steven Gill, 13) Daniel O Connor, Subs (All Used); 14) Graham Nash, 15) James Woods, 16) Jake Doyle, 17) Anthony Mills
Clarke (25), O’Connor (33), Suddards (46), Yesufu (53)
Man Of the Match
Coventry Bears – Brad Massey
Bramley Buffaloes – Steve Suddards
Referee – Mick Manifield
Sin bin, Coventry Bears, Tawanda Chipadza, Dangerous Tackle
Sin bin, Bramley Buffaloes, Carl Linley, Retaliation to Dangerous Tackle
Dismissal, Bramley Buffaloes, Craig Lingard, Dissent
Dismissal, Coventry Bears, Luke Srama, Fighting
Dismissal, Bramley Buffaloes, George Clarke, Fighting