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Second-placed Bradford Salem almost shoot themselves in the foot
Bradford Salem 15, Hullensians 11
Bradford Salem finished the year on a high with a hard-fought win over fellow promotion-chasers Hullensians in SSE Yorkshire Division Two but, once again, they gave their supporters a few palpitations in the closing stages.
Playing with a strong wind at their backs, the Hull side took an early 6-0 lead courtesy of two penalties from full back Guy Martinson but Salem hit back when outside centre Omar Al-Rawi’s off-load in a tackle found fly half Andy Robinson in support, and the former Wibsey Warriors star managed to hold off the cover defence to score in the left corner to get his side back to within a point at 6-5.
The Heaton side then had to absorb a period of intense pressure on their own line, and Hullensians were held up over the whitewash on no less than three occasions.
The relentless pressure was always likely to pay, however, and Hullensians’ scrum half Chris Smith eventually managed to catch the Salem defence unawares from a quick tap and he dived over the line for a try to take the visitors into an 11-5 lead.
However, Salem then started to put some plays together which enabled them to launch a rare attack in their opponents' 22, and, on the stroke of half-time, some slick handling in the backs allowed full back Danny Belcher to ghost under the sticks for a try he improved himself to give his side a slender 12-11 lead at the break.
With the wind now in their favour, Salem would have been confident of kicking on in the second half, and coach Phil Nilsen assured his troops that, as long as they stuck to their patterns, they would come out on top.
Unfortunately, however, the game developed into a bit of an arm-wrestle and Salem seemed incapable of exploiting the elements.
The Bradford side continuously put themselves under pressure and, but for Salem’s tenacious defensive qualities, Hullensians could easily have scored.
With ten minutes remaining, Belcher relieved some of the tension with a well-struck penalty to take Salem into 15-11 lead but in the final minutes, the home side seemed intent on throwing the game away.
First, after South Yorkshire referee Daniel Woods had awarded Salem a penalty in midfield which would have surely sealed victory, Robinson inexplicably gave him some back-chat, meaning that the penalty decision was reversed, giving the visitors chance of a last-gasp victory.
Once again, the home defence performed heroically, and, when Salem managed to steal possession, wingman Connor Malarkey had only to kick the ball off the park for the game to end.
However, his attempted clearance kick was charged down and the home crowd had to endure further anguish in the dying seconds before the referee finally blew his whistle to bring the contest to a close.
The 15-11 victory takes Salem into second place in the table and with several players due to return from injury in the New Year, the Bradford side can go into 2014 with a degree of optimism.
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