AFTER four successive victories in Counties One Yorkshire, Bradford Salem travelled to Hullensians full of optimism, despite the fact that they were missing several key players.

However, the hosts showed superb determination as they hit back to win 28-22, despite being behind at half-time.

Salem still have one game to go, at home to fellow mid-table West Leeds this Saturday, but regardless of what happens in that encounter, they are now guaranteed to finish sixth in the league.

Salem started brightly at the weekend against Hullensians, and were soon on the attack after the hosts were caught offside.

But they were unable to turn territory into points as a number of scoring opportunities went begging.

With 20 minutes gone and against the run of play, it was Hullensians who took a 3-0 lead when referee James Bex penalised Salem for not releasing the ball in the tackle.

Salem responded well, and, within five minutes, they went 5-3 in front when Xander McConville crashed over from a quick tap penalty, after good work in the line from Ben Whitaker.

Ten minutes later, Hullensians retook the lead when Salem centre Morgan Mirzaali failed to hold on to miss pass.

Opposite number Ben Stutely picked up the loose the ball before running in unopposed for a try, which Billy Knapp improved to put the hosts 10-5 in front.

Again Salem responded positively as Mirzaali went some way to making amends for his earlier error.

He launched a counter-attack after collecting a wayward attempted clearance, the move was then continued by McConville, before Jake Green sent supporting scrum-half Callum Smith darting in under the posts.

Green added the extras to give the visitors a 12-10 lead at the break.

Two minutes into the second half, Hullensians retook the lead as speedy winger Harrison Holmes scored a brilliant solo try.

Knapp converted from the kicking tee to give the home side a 17-12 advantage.

Salem suffered a big blow when McConville was forced to leave the field with a shoulder injury, veteran John Morrell replacing him.

While their head coach Neil Spence was desperately trying to reshuffle his line-up, Salem conceded a penalty.

Knapp took the points on offer to extend his side's lead to 20-12.

Hullensians could then consider themselves lucky when they escaped punishment for a seemingly blatant high shot on Whitaker.

It certainly looked like it was not going to be the away side's day when, shortly afterwards, Mirzaali was sent to the sin-bin for what looked to be a far less serious challenge.

Minutes later though, Salem were perhaps fortunate.

Flanker Nick Fontaine's last-ditch tackle was deemed to be legal, much to the dismay of the Hullensians supporters, who clearly thought that the tackle was high and should have resulted in a penalty try and yellow card.

This reprieve for Salem proved to be short-lived as, in the next passage of play, swift handling in the backs created a try out wide to give the hosts a healthy 25-12 advantage with less than 15 minutes remaining.

Straight from the restart, Salem's luck took a turn for the better when referee Bex seemed to ignore a number of infringements.

He allowed play to go on, with centre Clayden Paranihi breaking away before feeding Fontaine, who sprinted 40 metres to score beneath the sticks.

Green adding a simple conversion to reduce the arrears to 25-19.

With 10 minutes left to play, Salem were in the ascendancy, and the deficit was cut to three points courtesy of Green's well-struck penalty from 40 metres.

Green then had an opportunity to level the scores with another long-range attempt, but this time the ball rebounded agonisingly off the crossbar allowing Hullensians to clear.  

With time ticking away, Salem were awarded another penalty, this time inside their own half.

Unfortunately, Green's huge clearance kick went dead, and the away side lost their chance.

In a frenetic finale, Hullensians had the last laugh when they won a penalty, Sam Furbank stroking that through the uprights to seal a 28-22 win.

Elsewhere in Counties One Yorkshire, Keighley ended their game against promotion rivals Beverley with 13 men, but clung on to win 30-25.

That wraps up second spot for the West Yorkshire side, though they will have to wait until all of this season's fixtures are completed to find out whether there is a promotion vacancy available to them.

Baildon still have two matches left in Counties One Yorkshire, and sit six points behind second-placed Harrogate Pythons with a game in hand. They visit eighth-placed Bramley Phoenix at the weekend.

It was another ugly afternoon for winless Bradford & Bingley in Regional Two North East, as they were thumped 74-11 by Old Crossleyans.

They have one last chance to claim a victory this season, with a final-day derby at home to Old Brodleians on Saturday.

Cleckheaton’s Regional One North East season had already ended, but they are now guaranteed to finish seventh.