BEARING in mind that Bradford Salem and Keighley had drawn 22-22 when they met last season at Shay Lane, most pundits before this Counties One Yorkshire derby were predicting a close game.

However, what they didn’t factor in was that it would be such a low-scoring contest where defences were on top and missed tackles were few and far between.

In the end, Salem scored the only try, by winger Jake Green to add to an Andy Robinson penalty, with the visitors replying with an Alex Brown penalty as Salem triumphed 8-3.

But that is not the whole story, as Keighley dominated the closing stages and it needed gutsy and committed Salem defence to keep them out.

“Our defence was awesome in the last 10 to 15 minutes – full of discipline and character,” admitted Salem’s head coach Bob Hood.

“We had worked hard on defence on Tuesday and Thursday, and it really paid off. It was aggressive and, for the first time this season, we kept 15 men on the field.

“There was no backchat to the referee, no silly penalties, there was a lot more self-control, and that provided us with a solid foundation.

“I don’t have a count of the number of penalties that we gave away, but it would be 50 per cent less than we have been giving away every Saturday.

“We lost the first four line-outs, but gradually rectified that and I was pleased with the rotation off the bench, particularly the props and second rows.”

Hood added: “In the first half we pretty much cancelled each other out.

“Whenever they looked like scoring there was a penalty given against them and whenever we were putting pressure on, we gave away a penalty or we made a mistake.

“There was also a chess-like kicking game, but I said beforehand that the team that plays well without the ball would win.

“Keighley are no mean side, but we deserved that win.”

The only try of the match came just before half-time.

Salem were attacking down the left, with Keighley’s No.8 Tom Whyte an injured passenger, but the hosts switched to the opposite wing for Green to go over.

Hood said: “It was an awesome try, worked to absolute perfection.

“It was what we call a red-pattern try, which was well executed for Jake to score, and that was the difference in the end.

“If we can get consistency in selection then this win can act as a springboard.

“We are doing okay at the moment but we know we’re capable of having an incredible game once we sort out our defence and attack.”

Referee Andy Baker had a solid match, although he was liberal in his interpretation of what constituted a high tackle.

Salem took the lead with a 20th-minute penalty from Robinson, converted on a slight angle between the 22 and the 10-metre line.

Green’s try was a fillip for the hosts just before the interval, but Keighley got on the scoreboard in the 56th minute via that Brown penalty.

Four minutes later, he missed another penalty from in front of the posts, but Salem were unlucky not to get a penalty try soon after.

Hooker James Brown threw into a line-out and then joined a maul that rapidly progressed 30 metres down the hill towards Heaton Woods.

A pile of bodies ended up on the floor just shy of the Keighley line, but the away side went unpunished.

Alex Brown’s cross-kicking to his right winger Alan Ebbrell was a joy to behold but even that pin-point accuracy could not unlock Salem’s defence, despite visiting winger Sam Blakeley going close to a try on the left in the 76th minute.

Play was then concentrated deep in Salem’s 22 but somehow the home side kept out Sam Booker and company to record a victory that lifted them one place up the table to sixth.

That leaves them just two points and two places behind Keighley, with both teams having won five of their eight matches so far this season.

Elsewhere in the division, it was a red-letter day for Bradford & Bingley, who won their first league game in nearly FOUR years.

Suffering two relegations since their last victory, which came against Morley in North One East in February 2020, the Bees were in action at home to fellow strugglers Harrogate Pythons on Saturday.

But after seven straight defeats to start this season, it was eighth time lucky for Carl Paterson's side, as they claimed a nerve-shredding 13-8 win over the Pythons.

Down in Counties Two Yorkshire, Baildon are up to third after also winning a low-scoring affair.

They beat mid-table Ripon 10-5, and now sit just eight points off top spot.

Struggling Cleckheaton's game at home to Heath in Regional One North East was not exactly dripping with points either, and they were left heartbroken after losing 15-14 to their high-flying visitors.