BRADFORD Salem stand on the brink of a return to north-east regional rugby after an absence of 25 years.

Their 45-12 home win over Wensleydale, which was in the balance just after half-time, kept them one point ahead of Wetherby, who beat Hullensians 35-12 at home, in Counties One Yorkshire with one game to go.

The Heaton club have 84 league points and Wetherby 83, with just the matches on April 6 to go, with Salem at West Leeds, who have lost four of their last five, and Wetherby at home to Beverley, who beat West Leeds 27-5 on Saturday.

There is only one automatic promotion place, with the second-placed club having to go to a comparison of results with equivalent league runners-up, which tends to go against Yorkshire divisions due to their competitive nature.

Salem scored seven tries, every one of which had something special about it, but the news on the injury front was not so good.

Lock Ian Maycock came off with a calf problem and Jake Green injured a hamstring when knocking over a fine conversion from the right touchline.

Both are set to miss the West Leeds clash, but Green reckons that Salem have enough quality in reserve to triumph at Blue Hill Lane.

Winger Green, who has now clocked up 102 first-team appearances, said after the game: “We were not nervous before kick-off today due to the squad that we have got and the way that Bob (head coach Hood) had prepared us.

“We were confident that would get the win and the four tries for a bonus point and now we have West Leeds to go.

“When we were only leading 14-12 early in the second half, our skipper Christian Baines pulled us together and reminded us that we are better than that.

“We then got the ball back from the kick-off and scored three tries in nine minutes.

“Our confidence never dipped and we have a back line where everyone is an athlete and our forward pack are monsters.

“We also have Callum’s (Smith) skills at fly half, and when you put all of that together you get some unbelievable tries.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Callum Smith is arguably the most talented scrum half in the division, and has been key to Salem's rise to the summit this season.Callum Smith is arguably the most talented scrum half in the division, and has been key to Salem's rise to the summit this season. (Image: LDR Photography.)

“We can score from anywhere, which makes us dangerous, and we have got over 100 tries this season.

“I have got 12 this year, Bainesy has got 10 and Josh (Charnock) and Vasu (Adrea Vasuitoga) both got two here.

“As a winger playing outside centres Suaia Matagi and Pauli Pauli, then with Callum and Andy Robinson pulling the strings in the halves, you just know that you are going to get opportunities to score.

“I didn’t score, which I am annoyed about, but the other backs scored six tries between them today.”

The downside of the win were the injuries to Maycock and Green and the latter said: “I am pretty sure that I have torn my hamstring.

“I have done it before so that might be me for the season, but we have people to come in, such as Aaron Magee, who was on the bench here, and Logan Simpson, who wasn’t in the squad.

“Danny Belcher and Ben Whitaker can come in too, so we still have a right squad and I don’t think that we will miss a beat.”

As for the match at West Leeds, Green said: “They are still a dangerous team and they were tipped for the title before the season started, so we won’t be taking them lightly.

“They have good players all across the pitch and if you go there just expecting to win and get five points then you are going to be beaten.”

Green added: “With the talent that we have got down here, every season that I have rocked up I thought that we would do something.

“The coaching staff (Bob Hood and Andy Robinson) have been excellent, the players have stuck together and it just shows what you can do with a consistent team.

“That has been the difference, and with that you get good results.”

As for bringing up that personal century earlier this month, Green said: “I am very proud of that, and at the start of the season I was thinking about winning something and getting 100 appearances.

“I now have 102 appearances and hopefully the boys will get us over the line to get me some silverware.”

On afternoon when a biting wind was blowing across the pitch, Wensleydale got off to a slow start and were 14-0 behind after 12 minutes.

Despite not taking advantage of a Tom Cummins 50-22, Salem went ahead in the sixth minute.

Prop Conor Wood burst through the middle to link with Vasuitoga and Smith, who put full back Josh Charnock over, with Green adding the extras.

Six minutes later, lock Dom Bailey threw two sublime dummies to give Smith the chance to score, Green making it 14-0 from the kicking tee.

Then Wensleydale awoke from their slumbers and, just after Baines was treated for an elbow injury, the visitors scored an impressive pushover try in the 29th minute from No.8 Tom Lawson, which was converted by fly half Jack Reynard.

Salem, who lost Maycock to an injured left calf just before half-time, conceded another try five minutes into the second half to flanker Ewan Metcalfe, though the conversion attempt to bring Wensleydale level was missed.

The hosts were a different side after that aforementioned Baines pep talk, and they put the game to bed with three tries in quick succession.

Firstly, a switch by Robinson gave Charnock the chance to showcase his power and pace to go over in the 48th minute before Vasuitoga showed his fleetness of foot to score on the left two minutes later to wrap up the four-try bonus point.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Josh Charnock scored two tries as Salem eventually pulled away from Wensleydale on Saturday.Josh Charnock scored two tries as Salem eventually pulled away from Wensleydale on Saturday. (Image: JT Sports Media.)

Green produced an excellent conversion for the latter’s try to make the score 26-12.

Vasuitoga was soon at it again, putting on the afterburners to run in from 55 metres, again down the left.

With 10 minutes remaining, Salem’s pack got a pushover try of their own, hooker James Brown getting the final touch.

Green landed the conversion, but that was the one that came at some personal cost to his hamstring.

There was still time for centre Pauli to show his determination from a bullocking run that produced Salem’s seventh try in the 78th minute.

Robinson popped over the conversion to seal an emphatic victory, one which leaves Salem on the brink of ending a quarter of a century of hurt.

That big victory for Salem ends Keighley’s hopes of the title, as they now sit six points off the summit with only one game left to play.

But they did all they could on Saturday, romping to a comfortable 45-5 win at already-relegated Harrogate Pythons.

Bradford & Bingley are also going down, but could move off the foot off the table with a final-day win.

They sit just three points behind the Pythons and were competitive at home to Leodiensian on Saturday, before eventually losing 25-17.

Baildon harboured hopes of switching divisions with the Bees at the turn of the year, but a poor second half of the season has kiboshed their hopes of promotion from Counties Two Yorkshire.

They are going to finish fifth at least, and did claim a morale-boosting home win on Saturday, edging out third-bottom Ossett 12-5.

Cleckheaton suffered a disappointing 33-14 home defeat to Sandal in Regional One North East on Saturday.

But their mood quickly improved when they learned that second-bottom Doncaster Phoenix had lost 7-5 at home to Harrogate, a result which confirms the South Yorkshire side’s relegation and Cleck’s safety.