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Bradford Salem go to town against Skipton ahead of crunch clash
Bradford Salem 67, Skipton 0
As expected, which division Bradford Salem play in next season will probably be decided next Saturday when they travel to promotion rivals Wath.
It is Salem’s last league game, while RFU Senior Vase finalists Wath have three left – two before they play at Twickenham on May 5 (they are at Yarnbury on April 28) and one after (at West Leeds on May 12).
Salem’s lead is currently eight points, so if Wath gain five points from each of the other two matches, it will all hinge on what happens next weekend, with not even two bonus points (for losing by seven points or less and for scoring four tries) being enough if Salem themselves collect five points.
What was not expected on Saturday, however, was that Skipton would arrive with only two replacements, concede four tries in the opening 11 minutes and finish the game with just 13 men due to injuries.
Winger Chris Savva (first minute), fly half Tony Williams (fifth), full back Danny Thomas (ninth) and a penalty try (11th) gave Salem their fastest-ever try bonus point, and with centre Jonny Robinson knocking over three conversions, it was 26-0 in the blink of an eye.
As so often happens, though, when the outcome is sewn up early, the front-runners become too loose and play becomes untidy as they try to score off every attack.
Skipton, who had tested Salem at Sandylands earlier in the season, then at least spent some time in Salem territory, and even threatened a try when centre Jonathan Richards galloped down the left-hand side of the field.
But Salem, given vociferous backing by their second and third team in the stand, as both their matches were postponed, finished the half off with tries by prop John Bradbury and Thomas, Robinson’s conversion of the latter’s try making the half-time score 38-0.
Injuries to the visitors’ full back Alex Naylor, Richards, prop Paul Shearer and hooker Jordan Emmison led to uncontested scrums in the second half, and plucky Skipton managed to hold out for 18 minutes after the interval before Williams went over from Robinson’s break.
That preceded another steady stream of tries, with Savva, winger Amesh Ahir, Thomas (his hat-trick score) and in-form centre Matt Steel all crossing, Robinson adding two more conversions.
Salem’s director of rugby Craig Busby said: “It is possible to start a game too well. Four tries in 11 minutes means it is then a test of mental resolve, and we made a series of errors.
“But we got back to our patterns and we picked things up again.
“We didn’t beat ourselves up about things at half-time and remained positive but great credit should go to Skipton for their efforts.
“The good things are that we didn’t pick up any injuries and we were able to rest one or two players during the match and we are now looking forward to a good week leading up to the Wath match.”
Skipton captain Darren Howson, who spent a season at Salem in 1999-2000, said: “We had a couple of injuries last week and a couple cried off on the morning of the match, and we only have 26 registered players.
“The game was over after 11 minutes but the lads who stepped up have done a job for us and, as we are safe from relegation, we can start looking forward to next season.”