DESPITE fielding a much-depleted side, Bradford Salem gave a spirited performance before going down 36-5 to third-placed Pontefract in Yorkshire Division One.

Already missing several key players, Salem were dealt with a major blow on the eve of the game when influential utility back, Max Trueman, received news that he had fractured his scaphoid and would be out for several weeks.

To make matters worse, Trueman’s centre partner, Kyle Moore, failed to recover from the knee injury he sustained against Old Brodleians two weeks earlier and he also had to withdraw at the last minute.

Head coach Neil Spence was forced into re-shuffling his team line-up with several players having to turn out in unaccustomed positions.

However, in spite of all the changes, Salem competed admirably, particularly in the front five, although, defensively, they were indebted to a huge tackling stint from No 8 Rhys Green who did a great job containing his opposite number Gaz Burns.

In fact, had referee Tom Howard, who otherwise had an excellent game, not been unsighted when back-rower Jordan Ashworth got the ball down over the line and had Salem not missed too clear scoring opportunities, the contest may have been a lot closer.

With Salem still trying to come to terms with their improvised line-up, Pontefract took the lead after seven minutes when some great off-loading created a try for player-coach Craig Fawcett which fly-half Liam Kaye improved to put the hosts 7-0 ahead.

Five minutes later, Ponte extended their advantage to 12 points when Kaye spotted Burns in acres of space on the right and his pin-point cross-kick enabled the former Sheffield player to dot down in the corner.

With 16 minutes played, another kick from Kaye put Pontefract back on the attack and a well-timed inside pass put centre Andy Coleman over for a try, Kaye adding the extras for a 19-0 lead.

Poor discipline from the home side resulted in a run a penalties against them allowing Salem to launch their first meaningful attack in their opponent’s 22. Then, from yet another penalty 10 metres out, strong-running Latvian hooker, Gundars Griekis, scored from a rehearsed move to reduce the deficit to 19-5.

Minutes later, Salem had an opportunity to close the gap further but dropped a potentially try-scoring pass when attacking down the blind-side.

Pontefract took advantage of their reprieve and swift handling created a try for winger Richard Dedicoat to give the hosts a 24-5 advantage at the break.

Within three minutes of the restart, Ponte went further ahead when a midfield break followed by some fast hands put Dedicoat over for his second.

Both sides then missed scoring opportunities and Salem, in particular, would be kicking themselves for failing to cross the whitewash when their opponents were reduced to 13 men after receiving two yellow cards.

With minutes to go, it was Salem’s turn to go a man down when second rower Sam Savage was yellow-carded for making contact with his knee when attempting a charge-down and Ponte took full advantage as winger Stewart Sanderson scored a try which Kaye improved to seal a 36-5 victory.