COVENTRY Bears had a Good Friday to forget, after losing out at the death to London Skolars in Betfred League 1 at Butts Park Arena.
The 30-28 defeat, decided by a Skolars conversion, brought late heartbreak for the Bears – who seemed destined to end their four-match winless streak when leading with just two minutes to go.
Bears head coach Tom Tsang summed up the anguish that his side had to endure, having fought so hard in the contest.
“It’s always tough to lose in this way, and a lot of focus will be put on the end of the match.
“But it was our poor start to each half that really cost us the game.
“I have to praise the enthusiasm and character of my side though.
“To come from behind twice and take the lead towards the end of the match shows improvement from previous performances.”
A match of high drama, intensity and controversy began with the London side heading in front through Joe Brown’s converted try, leaving the Bears on the back foot on a dry, dusty pitch.
Their early attempts to draw level were in vain, after a converted score by Jordan Williams on a breakaway left them with a 12 point deficit.
Then came controversy, when Bears thought they had scored their opening try of the game, only for the linesman to rule out the score and leave the hosts empty handed.
A second score by the Bears was also ruled out, leaving them to rue their cruel luck, but, to their credit – they dug in to finally get on the scoreboard.
Toby Richardson finished off a move from close-range, added to by Nick Newman’s conversion to bring them back into contention.
The Bears roared into life on the back of their opener, and drew level just before the break.
A Sam Davis try was again finished off by Newman’s conversion, leaving the second-half hanging in the balance.
With Coventry taking great confidence into their play after the restart, the game then descended into a scrappy affair.
It was the Skolars who went ahead for a second time in the match, thanks to Liless Macani crossing the whitewash in the corner.
A penalty kick added further points to their cause, before Williams added his second try of the game, leaving Bears with a 12-point mountain to climb once more.
But Coventry did not lose heart, and levelled through Elliot Hall’s converted brace, making it anyone’s game once more.
When Hayden Freeman fell over the line to put Bears in front for a first time, the conversion was crucially missed.
Even from there, the points looked like they were secured for Tom Tsang’s side.
What no-one expected was for Lameck Juma to level in the last minute, which offered up a chance for Neil Thorman to win the game through his conversion.
He did just that, clipping the post en route to clearing the crossbar and winning it for the Skolars.
Bears now have a few weeks to let the result sink in, before visiting Oldham on Sunday May 19 (4pm).