Selby RUFC 18 - 12 Bradford Salem RFC
Selby off the bottom after a hard fought win over Salem.
Selby RUFC 18 v 12 Bradford Salem RFC
Report by Ian Marlow
Selby won a tense, hard fought and injury littered match against Bradford Salem at Sandhill Lane to record only their second win of the season which, nevertheless, moves them off the bottom of the Yorkshire One league table and gives hopes for further upward movement. However, the win came with high costs as a number of Selby players suffered head injuries which will likely sideline them during the crucial period to come.
Selby started well and with the breeze at their backs exerted considerable early pressure on Salem with their scrum in particular dominating. Salem though are a tough tackling lot and, with their big 8 and 6 to the fore, the watching crowd were treated to a blood and thunder spectacle as a number of shuddering collisions ensued as Selby pressed the visitors line. Selby, showing their usual profligacy, failed to capitalise on a number of good chances as Salem hung on before a clever quick tap by Danny Wilkinson allowed the backs to move the ball to Liam Hogan to cross near to the posts for an unconverted try. However, in touching down the centre received a nasty head injury which curtailed any further involvement of his in the match – and worse was to come as, earlier in the same move, second row Jack Hebden also suffered a ‘mysterious’ head injury which forced him from the field shortly afterwards.
Selby’s woes then escalated as minutes later Selby’s other centre, Alex Webster, also had to leave the field permanently with yet another head injury, leaving the Swans to play the last three quarters of the match with a decidedly makeshift back line. Selby continued to dominate in the forwards though but again nothing was to come of it as Scott Hunt, having an off day with the boot, failed with a couple of eminently kickable penalties following Salem transgressions. Salem then came into the match themselves and after some excellent forward drives they transferred the ball down the backline to go over in the corner for a well worked try – and when their kicker converted from out wide into the wind Selby, for all their dominance, were behind.
The Selby pack again returned to their work with veterans Duncan Hardy and Rob Taylor, playing his first game of the season after long-term injury, leading the way but backed up magnificently by the youngsters - with Charlie Cicero in particular having an outstanding game. Hunt was finally successful with another penalty to regain the lead but again, with Salem a man down to a yellow card, Selby spurned a number of other good scoring opportunities to finish the half with the slenderest of leads and a sense of disappointment that they were quite a number of points short of where they really should have been.
A curious incident opened the second half as Salem, looking to regain the lead, attempted a surprise drop goal, which flapped and wobbled and looked to be falling wide and short before getting a last second boost from the following wind to apparently sneak over. However, much to Salem’s chagrin and Selby’s benefit, the referee was not convinced and the ‘score was not allowed.
Despite facing the breeze Selby continued to dominate possession and territory but again, despite making a couple of fine breaks in the backs, a failure to retain subsequent possessions prevented any real chance to get near enough to the Salem line to score. Finally, however, Selby hit their stride as a great break by Cicero was followed by enough phases of possession to work the gap in the Salem defence for Hunt to cross for a great team try. Better was to follow as another excellent break by Millar McCoy was improved by even better hands from the hefty hooker as he put fellow front-rower Hardy in for another score – which yet again went unconverted.
With the clock ticking down and in apparent control Selby then showed their inexperience in being able to close a game out, something that has been an issue all season, as they committed rugby suicide from the kick off in trying to push the pass in their own half and losing possession to gift the simplest of chances for Salem to score and come right back into the match. Suddenly the game was a completely different proposition and with their tails up Salem started to exert strong pressure of their own, leaving the Selby faithful nervously looking to their watches. More chances to kill the game off came Selby’s way but again good breaks by the backs were followed by frustrating losses of possession before the pack again came to the rescue, demolishing another Salem scrum to earn the penalty and a chance to finally clear their lines before time was blown.
So, Selby’s recent improvement in form continues but they travel to Old Brodleians next which has been quite a graveyard for Selby hopes in recent years and, particularly given the glut of injuries they have suffered, this will be a stern test of their resolve.