A POPULAR margin on the Guess the Score competition at the pre-match luncheon was for Bradford Salem to win by 20 or 30 points.

Even some die-hard Bradford & Bingley fans didn’t believe that their team would win the Counties One Yorkshire derby after 54 successive league defeats stretching back to February 2020.

On a rainy afternoon at Wagon Lane, the game seemed to be panning out the way that most people expected when Salem led 17-0 after half an hour.

But eventually Salem’s major issue of the season kicked in – their failure to keep 15 players on the field – in a contest that contained six yellow cards and one red.

Ed Cook was sin binned (71 minutes), as was fellow replacement Jake Green a minute later, while skipper Christian Baines (85) was sent off for a high tackle in a half that lasted 54 minutes.

Then, in a contest in which they looked like getting nothing, tries from flanker Thomas Dunn-Birch (78 and 91) gave the Bees their first losing bonus point since a 33-29 defeat at Dronfield last February.

Salem’s head coach Bob Hood, returning to an arena where he was both a player and then later a coach, said: “We definitely left a four-try bonus point out there.

“That is what we had come for, and if we had won 20-19 with four tries that would have been all right, but there was the long, wet grass and horrible weather and then going down to 12 men, which is our Achilles heel.

“Maybe the referee got a bit trigger happy, and the amount of penalties against us in the second half was ridiculous.

“We had three opportunities to score in the second half but because of the conditions we dropped the ball but fair play to Bradford & Bingley.

“They were spirited and never gave up and got the bonus point. However, on the bright side it is a four-point win for us in a rare meeting between the sides.”

No-one carried the ball with more purpose for the Bees than their No 8 Jim Nicholas, who said: “It was a game of two halves.

"We were a bit sleepy in the first half and got a right telling off at half-time for playing the occasion rather than our structures, but we really enjoyed our attacking rugby in the last 30 minutes.

“The plan in the first half was to tire out their forwards, try and get as much width as we could and then run through the middle and capitalise on their fatigue, but we got caught in scrappy rugby instead.

“It was a shame that we couldn’t get that extra try to draw us level but Salem were good in the first half. It was a disappointing result for us, although there were a lot of positives to take from the match.”

Fly half Andy Robinson – one of four ex-Bees players in the Salem ranks alongside hooker James Brown, No 8 Tom Cummins and winger Aaraon Magee – soon showed his jinking feet, but scrum half Callum Smith got their first try from close range in the third minute.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Callum Smith gets over for the first try of the afternoon.Callum Smith gets over for the first try of the afternoon. (Image: JT Sports Media.)

Bees fly half Dom Walker then missed a penalty, awarded for a no-arms tackle, and then right winger Luca DeVittoris almost went over in the right corner.

However, Salem made it 12-0 in the 21st minute when Robinson’s chip ahead was caught on the full by Magee, who found flanker Ben Whitaker with an inside pass, Baines finishing off the attack in the second phase for Smith to convert.

The first melee off the match soon followed, with Salem lock Fin Southcott and Bees prop Alex Leadbeater sent to the cooler for 10 minutes by referee David Rhodes, and the visitors then made it 17-0 with a try by right winger Josh Charnock.

Salem, who gave a debut to former Castleford Tigers prop Suiai Matagi at centre, then could not capitalise on some sloppy Bees midfield passing as the half ended.

In the second half, Whitaker went close to scoring only to knock on before Bees replacement Ricky Palacio was sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on.

The Bees had lost centre Connor Capper to injury by this time, while Salem lost Magee (muscle spasm) and lock Dom Bailey (hamstring).

Salem’s Achilles heel kicked in just after the hosts had forced a goal-line drop-out, with Cook and Green seeing yellow in successive minutes.

The home side capitalised when full back Bill Marshall kicked to Salem’s right-hand corner, where Dunn-Birch was waiting to pounce on the rolling ball.

Both captains were then summoned to referee Rhodes after another kerfuffle, and the whistler soon produced a red card for Baines after mistakenly pulling out his yellow one.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Christian Baines scored this try, but his late red card allowed the Bees to hit back for a losing bonus point.Christian Baines scored this try, but his late red card allowed the Bees to hit back for a losing bonus point. (Image: JT Sports Media.)

Centre Jason Muranka then saw yellow for the Bees in a fractious end to the contest, and the home side took advantage off their extra numbers to give Dunn-Birch a second try in that same corner, this time from a passing move.

Walker’s conversion came off the far upright and bounced out and the final whistle meant that the players and spectators could finally draw breath on a pulsating afternoon.

Elsewhere in Counties One Yorkshire, Keighley earned their fourth win from five after seeing off Wensleydale 27-20.

Baildon are into third after edging out North Ribblesdale 9-3 on the road in Counties Two Yorkshire.

Finally, up in Regional One North East, Cleckheaton remain rock-bottom after losing 23-10 at home to Alnwick.