DESPITE starting 2022 on a losing note, going down 37-11 at title-chasing Old Crossleyans, Bradford Salem received a huge boost with the return of talismanic skipper Christian Baines.

He returned to action after an absence of 16 weeks. Baines, which came about when he injured his knee against, ironically, Old Crossleyans on September 18.

In this battling defeat, the No.8 made some telling runs and his experience and leadership will be vital as Salem enter a testing period in their Yorkshire One campaign, where they still sit second-bottom and face some tricky fixtures later this month.

In heavy conditions at Broomfield Avenue, Salem soon found themselves under pressure.

Following an excellent run from full-back Josh Hunt, who was a permanent threat, winger George Akroyd crossed in the left corner to give Crossleyans an early 5-0 lead.

Crocs were soon back on the attack and they extended their lead to 10 points when prop Sam Ives powered his way over from close range.

Although fly-half Joe Gallagher missed his second conversion attempt, he made amends moments later with a successful penalty to put the hosts 13-0 ahead.

To compound Salem's woes, in their first meaningful attack in opposition territory, a speculative pass by fly-half Glenn Morrison was intercepted by centre Matty Beswick who, despite running out of legs, passed for his fellow centre Callum Dunne to dot down under the posts.

Gallagher added the simple conversion and with the home side in front by 20 points in as many minutes, things were looking ominous for Salem.

The visitors did begin to stage a comeback, although they missed a clear scoring opportunity when centre Chris Clough chose to dummy rather than pass to winger Jake Green, who was clear outside him.

Instead, Salem had to be content with a Green penalty to reduce the deficit to 20-3.

Clough soon made amends, as he was instrumental in the try of the match and what has to be a contender for try of the season.

After withstanding a period of pressure from a catch and drive, Salem were awarded a scrum on their own line.

A solid set-piece enabled Baines to pick up from the base and pass to Morrison.

The former Bradford Bulls star took the ball up from inside his own 22 and a half-break and smart off-load sent Clough racing 40 metres downfield.

This time the centre drew the last defender before passing to Green, who sprinted a further 30 metres to score a magnificent length of the field try to the appreciation of both sets of supporters.

Although Green was unable to add the touchline conversion, Salem were back in it, as they went into the break 20-8 down.

Salem were much the better side as the second half got underway and a Green penalty soon reduced the arrears to 20-11.

Crocs were visibly rattled at this stage and their indiscipline and frustrations cost them two yellow cards in quick succession.

However, despite having a two-man advantage, Salem were unable to add to their tally, and ultimately this proved to be the turning point in the match.

Typically, back to a full 15 and in their first visit of the half into Salem territory, Crocs won a penalty and Gallagher took the three points on offer to give his side a 23-11 advantage.

At that point, the momentum swung in the home side's favour and late tries from Akroyd and Jack Lumb, both improved by Gallagher, gave Crocs a deserved 37-11 win, though perhaps the margin of victory did not reflect how competitive the game had been.