Yorkshire Division One: Old Rishworthians 55 Bradford Salem 38

WITH Bradford Salem trailing 40-7 early in the second half, it looked like they were going to be on the wrong end of one of their heaviest ever defeats.

Thankfully, however, the team showed great character as they scored five tries in a remarkable fightback in this Yorkshire Division One derby.

After heavy rain earlier in the week, the pitch at Copley was in much better condition than many would have predicted and this enabled both teams to play some fast, exciting rugby.

Although the hosts missed an early penalty, Salem took the lead after 11 minutes with a well-worked try from a solid scrum.

After the ball was moved swiftly to the left, full back Danny Belcher burst through a gap before sending supporting winger Ryan Smith scampering under the posts, with Belcher landing the simple conversion for a 7-0 lead.

This seemed to spur Rishworthians into action, and brilliant handling, together with excellent ball retention, soon put them on the offensive.

Desspite some tenacious last-ditch defending by Salem, the pressure was always likely to tell and the home side reduced the deficit to 7-5 when No 8 Jack Andrews dived over from close range.

Then, following more pressure in their opponents' 22, Rish went in front as teenage full back Sam Bake showed good pace to score under the posts, with fly half and skipper Josh Kelly adding the extras to give his side a 12-7 advantage.

At this point, the Halifax outfit could do no wrong and they extended their lead to 19-7 when outstanding open-side flanker Harvey Keighley-Payne finished off a flowing move to score a fine try which Kelly improved.

With the first half drawing to a close, referee Simon Tyler, who was on an exchange visit from the Gloucester Society, had little option but to send Salem scrum half James Simpson to the sin-bin for a deliberate knock-on.

From the ensuing penalty, Rish took advantage as Simpson’s opposite number Ed Cockcroft darted over for a try that was improved by Kelly to give the hosts a healthy 26-7 at the break.

Immediately from the restart, Keighley-Payne burst through four half-hearted tackles on a rampaging run.

Although Salem managed to force a scrum, their seven-man pack was unceremoniously shoved backwards at a rate of knots, allowing Andrews to score his second try.

With Salem still down to 14, they conceded another try straight from the restart when Keighley-Payne also took his tally to two tries, and, with the home side leading by 40-7 with 35 minutes remaining, there was a danger of it being a cricket score!

However, to their credit, the Salem players refused to throw in the towel and they received a lift when fly half Andy Robinson intercepted a loose pass to canter over for a try that was improved by Belcher to reduce the arrears to 41-14.

Unfortunately for Salem, this reprieve proved to be short-lived as Rish winger Anthony Shoesmith scored a converted try for a 47-14 lead.

Once again, the Salem players did not let their heads drop and a try from blind-side flanker Sam Savage, improved by Belcher, got them back to 47-21.

Salem now had the sniff of a comeback and they got an all-important bonus-point try when Smith squeezed over in the left corner to score his second try, with Belcher landing a magnificent touchline conversion to bring the score to 47-28.

Salem were now playing with increasing confidence, and when open-side flanker Nick Fontaine scored a brilliant solo effort to reduce the deficit to 47-33, there was hope of a losing bonus point.

With five minutes remaining, Rish were awarded a penalty for offside on Salem’s 22, and, despite being in perfect field position, the hosts elected to relieve the pressure by taking the three points on offer as they increased their lead to 50-33.

Salem were still not done and were soon attacking the opposition try-line.

After going close on several occasions, a great pass from Simpson put replacement hooker Callum Manchester over in the corner, and with the score at 50-38, a losing bonus point was once again within the visitors' grasp,

However, the home side had the final word when Shoesmith became the fourth player to bag a brace of tries as Rishworthians ran out 55-38 winners.