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Bradford Salem 2nds 10 v Old Otliensians 11

On a day with no League fixture, ‘Ensians arranged a friendly and travelled to Bradford to face Salem 2nds. With Salem 1st XV currently riding high in Yorkshire League 2 and with their 2nd string having only lost one match this season, a tough encounter was expected. In the end, it was a close and lively match with the visitors coming out on top by the narrowest of margins.

On a muddy pitch with patches of lying snow, the visiting pack set about their opposite numbers with some strong drives from the front row of Peter Bonner, Alan Harker and Tony Myers. With the Salem defence taken aback, good attacking positions were established and quick ball along the line saw full back Josh Howarth link up and go over in the corner to give Ensians a 5 – 0 lead on 10 minutes. The hosts responded five minutes later when they broke away up the left wing to level the scores at 5 – 5 on 20 minutes

Despite the conditions, the visiting backs produced some enterprising moves with centres Nathan Rogers and Lee O’Donnell making ground up the middle. Salem ended up defending desperately and gave away a penalty on 35 minutes which fly half Kristian Keinhost to give ‘Ensians an 8 – 5 lead at the break.

In the second period, half backs Rob Lofthouse and Kristian Keinhorst continued to spread the ball wide and again the Bradford side infringed to give Keinhorst his second penalty on 45 minutes, stretching the lead to 11-5.

At this stage, Salem realised that they could be heading for rare defeat and started to rough things up a bit. Visiting centre O’Donnell cut though with a weaving run and wingers Josh Hebditch and Ieaun Cranswick were a constant threat. When Keinhorst put a long kick through into the home 22, chasing centre Rogers was violently obstructed and this resulted in a skirmish before the referee at last took control. Keinhorst struck the resultant penalty wide and both sides then settled down to try and play some rugby.

The big home pack was now beginning to gain ground with some driving mauls and the improved supply of ball gave the Salem backs some running opportunities. The visiting back row of Toby Barltrop, Sam Featherstone and Dom Birkin defended fearlessly with locks Michael Wilson and Michael Moore providing solid support.

With five minutes remaining, the hosts used their pack to batter away at the ‘Ensians line and, after being held up three times, they eventually crashed over in the corner for a try. The conversion shaded the outside of the posts and the visitors came away with the narrow victory of 11 points to 10.

This was a well deserved result with a fine all round performance from the forwards and ‘Ensians young backs. The side came out on top through enterprising play, resolute defence and their ability not to respond to provocation.