BRADFORD Salem made a mockery of the top versus bottom billing against Middlesbrough in Yorkshire One on Saturday and held a 10-5 lead, before their North-East opponents levelled matters just before half-time.

However, the fact that Salem were forced to play 45 minutes of the game with 14 men following the dismissal of No.8 Dom Bailey for two yellow cards proved crucial in the end, as Boro romped to a 50-24 win.

In ideal playing conditions at Acklam Park, Salem were first on the board inside five minutes courtesy of a well-struck Jake Green penalty for a 3-0 lead.

Salem then suffered a blow when stalwart prop forward John Bradbury had to leave the field with a calf injury and it needed some resolute defending to prevent Middlesbrough from scoring.

The leaders tried to get inventive as a way of breaking through, but Andy Baggett's drop goal attempt drifted just wide of the uprights.

With 14 minutes gone, both teams were reduced to 14 men as Bailey and Boro skipper Pete Homan were sin-binned following a scuffle.

Salem found themselves on the back foot for the next 10 minutes and it took last-ditch tackles from Callum Smith and Caleb McConville to keep Middlesbrough out.

However, the pressure eventually told, as wave after wave of attacks created space for Baggett to stroll in for a try to put the hosts 5-3 ahead.

Salem responded positively, and, after Jamie Simpson's quick tap penalty got them to within metres of the opposition line, replacement flanker Calum Stocks picked a superb angle to cut through and dot down under the posts.

Green added the simple conversion for a 10-5 lead.

Straight from the restart came what proved to be the turning point in the game.

Middlesbrough full-back and man-of the-match Matt Todd was tackled to the ground by Bailey.

But the referee, Steve Penfold, felt that he had made contact with the player's neck and issued a second yellow and therefore red card.

With the extra man, Middlesbrough threw everything at Salem in the final stages of the first half and they were rewarded when Homan crossed in the corner to bring the scores level at 10-10 at the break.

Early in the second half, Middlesbrough scored a converted try to take a 17-10 lead, but, minutes later, Salem hit back when Elliott Cousins intercepted before sending 17-year-old Caleb McConville scampering over for his first ever try in senior rugby.

Green's conversion went in off the post to bring the game back level at 17-17.

The next 15 minutes belonged to Middlesbrough though, as they made the most of their one-man advantage to score three tries to put themselves 36-17 in front.

However, Salem refused to let their heads drop, and, following a fine break by Xander McConville, referee Penfold awarded them a penalty try for a deliberate knock-on although, surprisingly, he did not sin-bin the Middlesbrough player responsible.

Nevertheless, Salem had renewed hope with the deficit now cut to 36-24.

Unfortunately, despite having chances, Salem were unable to score a fourth try towards the end, which would have earned them a bonus point they probably deserved.

Middlesbrough, though, showed the sort of clinical finishing that has propelled them to the top of the table.

They ran in two more tries to give a final scoreline of 50-24, a margin of victory that both sets of supporters felt was not a fair reflection of the game.