BRADFORD Salem climbed two places to ninth in the Yorkshire One table after a hard-earned 30-24 victory at second-bottom Wheatley Hills.

Salem, still reeling from the unfortunate ankle injury to talisman Christian Baines, were rocked further when Conor Wood – their other major strike runner – had to withdraw at late notice due to work commitments.

This forced coach Neil Spence into making a number of positional changes, with Connor Malarkey moving from centre to No 8 and second-team scrum-half Kenny Wan making his first team debut on the right wing.

Salem's lightweight pack was always likely to struggle against a much bigger and well-drilled Hills front five.

Yet despite being up against it in the scrums, the visitors had an opportunity to take the lead after five minutes, only for outside centre Danny Belcher's long-range penalty attempt to sail just wide of the uprights.

Moments later, the hosts were awarded a penalty of their own and, after taking a quick tap, fly-half Craig Barker's clever chip and take created a try in the left corner to give his side a 5-0 lead.

To make matters worse for Salem, full-back Ryan Smith rightly received a yellow card from Yorkshire Society referee Chris Bloomfield for his late challenge on Barker.

Despite being a man down, Salem nearly got back on level terms when a great run from Wan got the visitors to within striking distance. However, his inside pass found a Wheatley player and the opportunity was missed.

With 20 minutes played, a Hills penalty extended their lead to 8-0 but, on the half-hour mark, Belcher replied to reduce the deficit.

There was a significant moment on 33 minutes as Bloomfield lost patience with Hills winger Owen Gillvray, who seemed more intent on provoking opposite number Jake Abram than playing rugby, and justifiably sent him to the sin-bin for ten minutes to cool off.

Unlike their opponents, Salem soon began to make their one-man advantage count and, after a period of a pressure, Smith sent skipper Andy Robinson scampering over the line for an excellent try, which was improved by Belcher to edge the visitors 10-8 in front.

Two minutes later, a fine break by fly-half Harry Hall found Smith in support and the former Wibsey Warriors player just managed to hold off the chasing defenders to score an excellent try, Belcher again tagging on the extras to extend Salem's lead to 17-8.

The two sides then traded penalties, so Salem went into the break with a 20-11 advantage.

Three minutes into the second half, Salem were caught offside and a third successful penalty got the hosts back to within a score at 20-14.

Yet the visitors hit back within four minutes as they forced a turnover just inside their opponents' half and winger Abram raced over 50 metres to score a fine individual try which gave his side a 25-14 cushion.

Wheatley kicked a fourth penalty to reduce the deficit to 25-17 and, with 12 minutes remaining, they got back to within a point at 25-24 when they scored a converted try from a driving maul.

At this point, the game could have gone either way, but when Hills were awarded a scrum on Salem's 22-metre line with only stoppage time left, the odds were suddenly stacked in the home side's favour.

However, referee Bloomfield bravely penalised the dominant Hills front row for boring in, which allowed Salem to relieve the pressure.

As if to rub salt in the wound, a huge clearance kick by Robinson earned Salem a line-out in their opponents' 22 and, from the ensuing breakdown, flanker Chris Watson forced his way over on the blind-side to seal a five-point win, much to the elation of his team-mates.