Date: Friday 3rd April
Venue: Butts Park Arena, Coventry
History will be made as semi-professional Rugby League takes place in Coventry for the first time as the Bears open the League One campaign at home to Oxford.
Last Time Out
The Bears were defeated at the hands of Oldham for the second consecutive weekend as they exited the Challenge Cup.
Matt Cooper scored the Bears only try of the afternoon as the Roughyeds handed out a 46-6 thrashing to send the Bears out of a second cup competition after also knocking Coventry out of the iPro Sport Cup the week previous.
Oxford were humiliated by amateur outfit Leigh Miners Rangers a fortnight ago in the Fourth Round of the Challenge Cup.
Despite taking the lead through Jonny Payne after only five minutes, the amateur outfit went into a different gear scoring six unanswered tries to knock Tim Rumford’s side out of the competition.
Coventry boosted their ranks earlier this week as four players arrived on loan at the Butts Park Arena.
North Wales Crusaders Matt Reid and Hull Kingston Rovers young trio Connor Robinson, Matthew Marsh and Josh Guzdek have all joined and will be available for selection having trained with the squad since last week.
The four new recruits add new options to Tom Tsang’s side who has no injury or suspension worries ahead of the historic game for the Coventry club.
Oxford will be giving a first taste of League One Rugby League to the majority of their squad but can rely on the likes of Kashley Watkins to lead the team around the park. Tim Rumford is also expected to have players available to him on dual registration from the London Broncos.
Both sides boast a leader in the centres with the Bears having leadership team member Stephen Coleman up against Kashley Watkins, the Oxford skipper and younger brother of Leeds centre Kallum.
Both men are also threats when their respective sides are in attack and who can control the middle of the park with more effect out of the two will decided who comes out on top in this fixture.
What The Coaches Say
Coventry Bears Coach Tom Tsang: “We’ve got some decent stuff planned for pre-game so it should be good.
“I’m happy with the way pre-season has gone. It was a fairly rushed job and it was all hands to the pump and to make sure we got everything done in the right way but I think we’ve pulled together what I think is an exciting looking squad.
“We played the two games against Oldham and saw where we needed to be. We’ve brought in a couple more since then but everyone’s in the squad because they deserve to be. There’s a great feeling in there and a real good blend of people; everyone seems to be working together really well.
“I’ve watched a bit of video of Oxford, their most recent performance against Leigh Miners Rangers was a bit of blip, I don’t think you can read too much into that. They had a very good result against Hemel so you take them lightly at your peril, we’re certainly going to give them a lot of respect.
“To be honest this first part of the season it’s all about us, we’ve just got to get our performances right.”
Oxford RL Coach Tim Rumford: “We’re really looking forward to it, especially after the manner in which we exited the Challenge Cup. We know we’re going to have to perform much better than we did last time out, which is a challenge in itself. The guys are itching to get out there
“Coventry, as a development club, are a bit like ourselves. This week is a benchmark for us to we’re up against a team, who I would say are on a par with us in terms of their development.
“They played in the conference league for a number of years so they’ve probably got as much if not more experience in terms of playing personnel than we have. We have a number of rookies but it’s a challenge for us and one that the boys are looking forward to.”
A big occasion which brings the seventeen year journey and dream for Alan Robinson and the Bears to reality. The scars of a humiliation will run deep for Oxford and this plus the will to get off the mark in League One will make for a very competitive game. – Coventry by 8