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Bradford Salem pinch victory with late Danny Belcher penalty
Bradford Salem 19, Barnsley 17
Bradford Salem got their SSE Yorkshire Division Two campaign off to a winning start after they overcame Barnsley in a close and tough encounter at Shay Lane.
Salem came into the game in confident mood after excellent victories over Ruthin and Wath, but, with several key players, including new skipper James Cunliffe missing, it was never going to be easy against Barnsley, who were surprisingly relegated from Yorkshire Division One last season.
The opening 30 minutes ended in stalemate with the strong defences of both sides holding firm.
However, the deadlock was broken when Salem fly half and man of the match Andy Robinson showed tremendous upper-body strength to burst through four would-be tacklers for an excellent try, improved by full back Danny Belcher, to give the home side a 7-0 lead.
The Bradford side then suffered a major setback as flanker Jamie Booth (late tackle) and second-rower Ben Scarbrough (killing the ball) were sent to the sin-bin either side of half-time.
With the home side briefly reduced to 13 men, Barnsley took full advantage and a penalty from full back Josh Smith, who also converted a try from hooker Todd Cheetham, put the visitors ahead 10-7.
Belcher got Salem back on even terms at 10-10 with a penalty and he was on target again shortly afterwards to give his team a slender 13-10 advantage.
Barnsley hit back in somewhat bizarre circumstances when an attempted clearance kick from fly half Mikey Hayward, which looked like it was sailing into touch, bounced infield and fell kindly into the arms of Hayward, who, after stepping Belcher, fed supporting centre Craig Jeffels, who touched down for a try improved by Smith to take the visitors into a 17-13 lead with 15 minutes remaining.
Belcher reduced the arrears to a single point with a third successful penalty and, after a five-minute period defending in their own 22, Salem finally managed to get into their opponents' half.
With seconds remaining, referee Andy Baker awarded Salem a penalty and Belcher stepped up to kick his fourth succesful kick from as many attempts to seal a hard-fought 19-17 victory.
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