Yorkshire Division One: Bradford Salem 17 Goole 19

WITH five minutes left of this tense Yorkshire Division One encounter, something was clearly wrong with referee Graeme Hall.

Knees on the turf and head bowed, he was helped to his feet near the 22-metre line but, as if he had just gone 12 rounds with Tyson Fury, the Ilkley whistler’s legs were like jelly.

It transpired that the referee had copped an inadvertent shoulder to the jaw.

“Have we just scored?” said Salem lock Damien Pearson cheekily as the referee speedily recovered.

Sadly for the home team the answer was no as Goole, beaten 33-0 the week before at home to Heath, broke a seven-match losing streak against the Heaton-based hosts.

Heath recognised that Goole were not that bad, and one of the Halifax club’s members even tipped them to win 19-18 at Salem, but there were still plenty of harsh words spoken during the on-pitch post mortem afterwards by Salem’s players and coaches.

“The performance just wasn’t good enough,” Salem skipper Christian Baines explained to the Telegraph & Argus.

“We should have won that game 100 per cent. We had the ability but if the opposition turn up with more desire they are going to win every time.

“We just turned up expecting to win, we haven’t put it out there and we can offer so much more than we just have done.”

To be fair to Salem, the loss of scrum half Harley Robertshaw with hip and knee injuries in the 13th minute was massively disruptive, but Baines added: “We have let ourselves down.

“It wasn’t a question of technique. We just didn’t have the desire to get around the park, to win the breakdowns – the breakdowns were a massive winner for them – and do the basics.

“That will be fully addressed in training this week but it is a long season and we will go again next week (at Selby) and will improve a heap.”

On the flip side, Baines said: “When we have better numbers in training we will improve the week after, but fresh faces are turning up all the time, the second team were playing today, which will give us selection problems, and we should have To’i Auali’itia back next week.”

Goole made a positive start, putting together several phases before conceding a penalty, but most of the early penalties went the visitors’ way, mostly for Salem being pinged for sealing off after players were isolated.

Visiting fly half Rhys Moore was short with a penalty attempt in the 17th minute, but that was just a sighter for successful kicks in the 20th and 25th minutes.

“That’s three more points than we scored last week”, said 77-year-old Goole president Huwie Walton followed by “that’s six points more than we scored last week” - quotes which may have been an indicator that they weren’t expecting too much out of the game.

The balance of the game did indeed change in Salem’s favour as they threatened a score on the left in the 28th minute, with their man-of-the-match Nick Fontaine then almost getting on the end of a flipped pass three minutes later.

Salem did cross in the 34th minute, however, with a catch-and-drive try for Baines and the home side went in at half-time with a 10-6 lead after an injury-time try that was all the work of full back Max Trueman.

He kicked the ball downfield, won a 50-50 challenge in Goole’s half and dived on the ricochet for an impressive individual effort.

If lively Goole were feeling a sense of injustice at being behind at the interval, they did not appear to let it bother them.

Salem lock Rhys Green was sin-binned for hands in the ruck in the 51st minute and the visitors went back in front three minutes later when full back Daniel Holt scored a try to make it 11-10.

Moore didn’t allow for the crosswind in missing the kickable conversion but made amends with a much more difficult effort from in front of the stand in the 62nd minute.

With Fontaine again threatening to either make a try or score one, Sam Dunn touched down five minutes later after an interchange with impressive fly half Glenn Morrison, with winger Jake Green popping over the conversion for 17-14.

The lead had now changed hands three times and that became four when Goole centre Sam Smith scored in the 73rd minute, with Moore’s conversion attempt cannoning back off the far upright.

Salem had a last-gasp chance to win it with a Jake Green penalty from just outside the 10-metre line in the fourth minute of injury time, but it fell short and they probably didn’t deserve a victory anyway.