BRADFORD Salem are warming up nicely for their forthcoming big derbies.

Having despatched fifth-placed Pocklington 31-13 in Counties One Yorkshire at the weekend, Salem visit basement boys Bradford & Bingley next Saturday and travel to holders Baildon the following Saturday in the first round of the Yorkshire Shield – a repeat of last season’s final at Doncaster.

What stood out for Salem on Saturday was their defensive resilience and then how clinical they were in attack, scoring three tries in the final 17 minutes.

Salem’s head coach Bob Hood said: “Without a doubt that was our best performance of the season.

“Our performance at Beverley was good as it was the first time that we have won there, so that was a milestone, but this was the best of the four so far.

“We decided to put pressure on Pocklington with the ball and without the ball and, apart from when we went down to 13 men, we absolutely did that, but we also played out of skins with 13 men.

“The way that we controlled the game in the second half and the processes that we have been working on are starting to appear.”

The only downside was that period of short-handedness, and Hood said: “We have played with 13 men for 40 minutes this season, and it is going to be more difficult to keep 15 men on the field with the new tackle law as it is.

“But Pocklington kept 15 players on the field and having men sin-binned for high tackles is going to be more common this side of Christmas as referees are having to learn it, and you cannot argue with one or two of them (decisions).

“It is just a pity that it has to go straight to a yellow card instead of a penalty, so I would like to see more leniency there.”

In a game pock-marked with high-tackle decisions from referee Chris Sheryn, the visitors took the lead with a penalty by full-back Christian Pollock in the seventh minute.

However, Salem soon answered with a half-break and kick from fly half Andy Robinson to Pocklington’s right-hand corner up the slope, winger Logan Simpson eventually getting the touchdown.

It soon got better as livewire scrum half Kyle Carter got on the end of a break by captain Christian Baines, with full-back Callum Smith converting for 12-3.

Pollock’s second penalty was popped over in the 19th minute after Salem were penalised for not rolling away and the hosts then lost lock Dom Bailey and flanker Baines for high tackles within 60 seconds of each other.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Christian Baines' yellow card did not prove too costly.Christian Baines' yellow card did not prove too costly. (Image: JT Sports Media.)

Pocklington forced a goal-line drop-out but that was as good as it got for the visitors with that two-man advantage, both sides then showing their frustration as a melee erupted near the touchline which spread to the pitch-side barrier.

After all that Salem still held that 12-6 lead at the interval, and Hood said: “That was massively crucial, and if I had been the opposition, I would have been very disappointed, but I don’t think that Pocklington exploited it, although our defence was heroic.”

Pocklington lost winger Jed Jackson to concussion at half-time and flanker Archie Wilcock to the blood-bin soon after, although he came back on, and it was difficult to believe that the score was still 12-6 as Smith and Pollock both missed kickable penalties inside the first 15 minutes of the second half.

Still, Salem defended like trojans, with former Cleckheaton scrum half Jack Bickerdike almost putting Pocklington replacement Andrew Argo-Bennett over.

But then Salem took charge, with Carter going over from a short line-out in the 64th minute, England Lions RL selection Elliot Cousins putting fellow centre Max Trueman through a gap to score four minutes later.

Although Argo-Bennett did cross in the 76th minute, with Pollock converting to make it 24-13, Salem had the last word when Carter completed his hat-trick in the final minute, Robinson adding the conversion.

Salem, none more so than hooker James Brown and veteran prop John Bradbury, enjoyed themselves, and although Trueman is now missing for three weeks, there are the likes of Jake Green, Harry Williams and Danny Belcher to come back into the mix, plus an as-yet-unnamed new signing.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Jake Green's return should boost Salem further.Jake Green's return should boost Salem further. (Image: JT Sports Media.)

Hood said: “This result might have shocked a few people, as they will have said that Salem are struggling having lost at West Leeds, but we then won at Beverley and finished on top last week in defeat at Wetherby and got a four-try bonus point.

“I will tell you what we are capable of at Christmas as the difficulty is keeping the same side week in, week out.

“But we are adding to the squad and we are looking forward to Conor Wood coming back from his nasty head injury.

“I would like to think that we are a top-half-of-the-table side.”

Hood said of the next fortnight: “I don’t like to see how Bradford & Bingley have plummeted through the leagues, but I am professional and want to go there and win.

“Then it is Baildon, which like, Bradford & Bingley, I have captained and coached in the past.

“I don’t think that Salem played particularly well in that final last season and Baildon did and very much deserved to win.”

Speaking of Baildon, they beat Leeds Corinthians 36-19 in Counties Two Yorkshire.

Back up in Salem’s league, lowly B&B lost 40-20 at Beverley, while Keighley suffered a first defeat of the season, going down 24-20 at Old Rishworthian.

Cleckheaton remain at the foot of the Regional One North East table, after losing 33-14 at Blaydon.