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Gardner’s digging it at Bradford Salem!
Bradford Salem 22 Yarnbury 15
About six months ago, Sam Gardner had a sporting epiphany.
“I looked at my watch and it was ten to three, and I thought ‘I should be with the lads in the dressing room’.”
Having given his troublesome left shoulder, which was operated on in 2010, the chance to recover, Gardner realised he wanted to have a bash at union again.
He said: “Since retiring for Cougars, I have been playing cricket for Bramhope in the Wetherby League.
“The impact of rugby league would be a bit much for me but I am a Bradford lad and wanted to play in the city.
“I am mates with Salem forward James Cunliffe and knew Matt Steel, who played with Salem last season, and he introduced me, and it is great down here.”
The Hollybrook Primary School teacher added: “Keighley Cougars’ conditioner Paul Royston, who got me fit to play in the 2009 Grand Final for Keighley, also worked on me to get me fit for the start of this rugby union season, and I have had a full pre-season.
“But, apart from my shoulder injury, I have plates and screws in my left arm so I am just taking it a match at a time and treating every game as if it could be my last.”
Salem may have finished this Yorkshire Two derby with 13 men, and Yarnbury managed a late bonus point, but the Shay Laners still gathered a full haul of five points to climb to sixth, one place and three points behind the visitors.
Gardner said: “Promotion has to be the ambition, and I know we went close last season. If I can help them achieve it that would be nice but all we can do is keep together, keep playing and see what happens.”
Salem took the lead when prop Simon Davies threw a nice dummy and pirouetted over in the seventh minute, Yarnbury’s man of the match Carl Patterson reducing the deficit with a penalty before Salem’s man of the match, left winger Ryan Jolly, scored in the corner to make it 10-3.
Yarnbury responded by drawing Salem out of position for full back Graham Maycock to cross in the 32nd minute but poor tackling allowed his opposite number Sam Savage to break the whitewash four minutes before the interval.
The visitors had scrum half and skipper Ollie Cashman and prop Adam Pike sin-binned just before the hour, and more lax defence gave Salem’s skipper Damien Pearson the opportunity to cross in the 64th minute after further good work by Jolly, Salem getting the four-try bonus point.
Cashman’s converted try in the 74th minute brought Yarnbury into losing bonus-point territory but, despite Salem hooker Simon Markey and winger Carl Walker being sin-binned inside the final five minutes, the hosts did not give Yarnbury a chance to haul themselves level.