KEIGHLEY’S long unbeaten home record has fallen at the hands of fierce derby rivals Bradford Salem.

After 34 wins and two draws in a sequence stretching back to October 2019, Keighley were beaten 23-17 by Salem on Saturday in a gripping Counties One Yorkshire encounter at Rose Cottage between two in-form sides who had each won their last nine league matches.

That Salem, who went a point clear of Keighley at the top of the table, punctured the record probably made it harder to take.

Yet it looked as if the home side would retain their Utley superiority when debutant full back Taylor Prell scored after 79 minutes, with Alex Brown’s easy conversion giving them a 17-15 advantage.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Alex Brown thought he had kicked Keighley to a narrow victory late on.Alex Brown thought he had kicked Keighley to a narrow victory late on. (Image: John Ashton.)

However, Salem full back Danny Belcher stroked over a penalty four minutes later and, if he had converted Logan Simpson’s breakaway try in the 86th minute, Keighley would even have been denied a losing bonus point.

Salem’s coach Bob Hood said: “The issue at half-time (when Salem led 15-3) was that we were playing the middle third and the attacking third really well, but we weren’t exiting and kept ourselves under pressure.

“That got a little bit better (after half-time), but then came a tirade of penalties and pressure and we let Keighley back into the game.

“We got very little possession in the second half, but what we did with it we did quite well.

“We were still full of belief, we galvanised ourselves and the fitness was there and the intention was there.

“It is better now that we are one point ahead at the top of the table rather than six points behind.”

However, Hood added: “I have reminded the players in the changing room that the job is not done, but it was quite nice to take that four-years-plus record off them and we were the underdogs going into the match.

“Out set-piece went well, as did the way that we kept the ball in the middle, and the lines that we ran in the final third were excellent.

“Also we scored a variety of tries - by driving through them, putting the ball over the top of them and by going round them, so we have all that in our armoury.

“We are not just a one-trick pony, and that is 79 tries for the season for us now.

“Our discipline was a lot better too. We have been down to 12 men at times this season, and our discipline was right up there as that was one of our worries before kick-off.

“We kept our heads in the fridge but still had fire in our bellies.

“We have now won 10 matches in a row but we still need to win all four of those that remain with a couple of bonus points thrown in.

“But the lads know that and they will enjoy this win, which was a biggie, and all credit to Keighley as they never stopped.”

Salem, playing towards the clubhouse, went in front in the second minute when winger Jake Green slotted a penalty from between the halfway line and Keighley’s 10-metre line.

The visitors stretched their advantage after 22 minutes when hooker James Brown forced his way over on a second surge, but it was a half to forget for his namesake Alex, who landed a penalty in the 32nd minute but missed three kickable attempts from the tee for the hosts.

Worse followed for Keighley just before half-time when Salem centre Suaia Matagi danced his way over for a try after looking like he would be stopped.

Green’s conversion made it 15-3 but, after something of a stalemate, Keighley were awarded a penalty try in the 68th minute by referee James Bex, with Salem fly half Andy Robinson also seeing a yellow card.

However, Salem skipper Christian Baines looked like he got away with a neck-roll tackle five minutes later, before Keighley prop Sam Booker found himself being sin-binned.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: The decision not to sin-bin Salem skipper Christian Baines (pink and white) late on was arguably decisive.The decision not to sin-bin Salem skipper Christian Baines (pink and white) late on was arguably decisive. (Image: JT Sports Media.)

Despite their numerical disadvantage, the home side hit back with a try by former Wharfedale three-quarter Prell, Brown’s conversion making it 17-15 to give Keighley the lead for the first time all afternoon.

But Salem, via a Belcher penalty and Simpson’s try from a grubber kick by scrum half Callum Smith, were not to be denied in what was a seismic encounter.

The upshot is that Salem lead the table on 69 points, with Keighley and Wetherby back in second and third on 68 apiece.

Only the champions are guaranteed to go up, and do not discount West Leeds either.

They currently sit fourth on 58 points, but have a game in hand on all three of the clubs above them.

Salem now have week off before they host eighth-placed Leodiensian on Saturday, March 2.

Elsewhere in the division, Bradford & Bingley suffered a crushing blow in their attempts to avoid relegation.

The basement dwellers were at second-bottom Harrogate Pythons, knowing a win would see them overtake the North Yorkshire side.

But the hosts edged a gripping contest 22-19, leaving the Bees almost certain to go down.

Baildon’s title challenge in Counties Two Yorkshire has collapsed since Christmas, and they suffered yet another defeat on Saturday, going down 23-6 at high-flying Ripon.

By contrast, in Regional One North East, Cleckheaton have been excellent since the turn of the year.

Their relegation fears reduced further on Saturday, as they pulled off a stunning 23-17 win at title-chasing Heath.