GUTSY, brave, heroic. All of those adjectives can be used to describe third-from-bottom Bradford Salem’s performance against second-placed Middlesbrough on a slate-grey afternoon at Shay Lane in Yorkshire One.

However, what Salem’s rugby chairman Chris Robinson wants to emphasise is the bottom line – they lost.

He said: “We have a fantastic young side and Spenner’s (head coach Neil Spence) is doing sterling work, as are Morro (Glenn Morrison) and Scabs (Dan Scarbrough).

“But what we don’t want to be doing every week is saying how proud we are of our side but not taking much away from the game.

“We have a losing bonus point, and it was well deserved, but it could have been four points.

“We have a fantastic young culture around the squad here, and that is built upon the progression of juniors coach Simon Markey, but we’ve had to console these lads every week for the past four weeks when they’ve come away with nothing.

“We are starting to see the fruits of Simon’s work now, and I want us to add to that – possibly with one or two (signings) now that the summer rugby league season has just finished.

“The likes of Bradford Dudley Hill and West Bowling, year in, year out are churning out quality players, and we have a long history of using players from that code.

“We are looking to recruit the whole time and we were missing our captain Christian Baines here, as well as Sam Gardner and Ben Whitaker.”

Potentially joining that trio on the injured list, at least for a couple of weeks, are skipper Jake Green (shoulder) and prop John Bradbury (calf), while No.8 Sam Backhouse went off with a head injury.

Robinson added: “We are not a million miles away, but we have to get away from the culture of ‘well played lads, better luck next week’. We have to start turning these matches into points.

“We are near the bottom of the table but judge us at the end of the season.

“With us getting a walkover next weekend against Old Grovians in the Yorkshire Silver Trophy, it gives us and Spenner time to reset for 10 or 12 days.”

There was an intermittent undercurrent of feistiness in this clash, which displayed itself as early as the second minute when Boro hooker Joe Sawdon was yellow carded by referee Andy Williamson for a tip-tackle on Backhouse.

However, Salem lost the ten-minute period 3-0 when they had a man advantage, Boro’s fly half Andy Baggett landing a sixth-minute penalty when Salem were off their feet.

The first try opportunity went begging in the 17th minute when Salem prop Xander McConville broke but fly half Jamie Simpson could not take his pass with the line open.

An error by the visitors, of which there were plenty in the first half, led to a home try by winger Josh Tenniswood five minutes later.

Full back Harley Robertshaw’s speculative kick downfield was miscontrolled by Boro full back Brendan Hill, and bounced upfield for Tenniswood to kick ahead and dive on the loose ball in the in-goal area.

Green’s conversion made it 7-3 and the winger, who has had to switch to the second row, added a penalty nine minutes later.

Former Wharfedale player Baggett replied in kind in the 36th minute, but a looping Morrison pass put McConville into a large gap three minutes after that for Salem’s second try, with Green converting.

The half ended in some confusion after Boro left winger Rhys Kilbride and McConville were sin-binned after a fracas.

Green’s penalty kick at goal was awarded by one touch judge but not the other, with Williamson ruling that the penalty indeed missed.

Boro not surprisingly upped their game in the second half, but great Salem defence held them out seven minutes in and, despite losing Hill to a yellow card, the visitors reduced the arrears with a Baggett penalty in the 58th minute.

Committed Salem defence and overly-complicated Boro attacks led to more visiting errors, and a home win looked likely until the visitors bagged a penalty try with eight minutes remaining.

That left Salem clinging on to a 17-16 lead, but the dam broke in the 78th minute when Boro No.8 Andy Sloan crashed over for Baggett to convert.

Salem had one more opportunity five minutes into stoppage time when they won a penalty and kicked for the corner, but they lost possession.

That allowed a gleeful Boro to boot the ball off the pitch and claim a victory that did not look likely for 90 per cent of the match.

Baggett said: “I would give us a two or three out of 10 for our first-half performance and a seven or an eight for our second-half performance.

“Our errors were down to the wet conditions and we were a little bit off the boil. Salem were not giving us any time on the ball and it took us nearly the whole game to work out what to do.

“We had a chat at half-time, tightened our game up and we also had the slope in the second half and could kick for position.

“But we always find it tough against Salem because we know that they never give up, unlike some other sides.”