A cracking game between two well-matched sides and a cracking Beverley RUFC performance.
Salem are a different proposition from the team that struggled earlier in the season and the young Beverley side would have expected a tough afternoon here. That they romped home in such fine style owed much to a composed team effort and a fearless attacking game.
They got off to the perfect start with Luke Hazell getting in at the corner after only four minutes. Five minutes later Salem were back in it when Alfie Hart-Fisher was yellow carded for a high tackle and Matt Booth kicked the penalty to make it 5-3.
Phil Duboulay was then narrowly wide with a penalty attempt but after 20 minutes Beverley went further ahead with a second try. A quite remarkable kick down the touchline from deep in his own half by Jacob Holmes found touch in the home 22. From the ensuing lineout and a following scrum Beverley went right and Junior Tupai sprinted in at the corner.
Duboulay was pulling the strings majestically at fly half allowing Beverley to play some scintillating rugby, and with Tupai adding fluidity in the centre their speedy back three were seeing plenty of the ball. Another try followed on the half hour although this one was handed to them on a plate when a Salem pass went loose allowing Will Turnbull to hack on and Tupai to touch down under the posts. Duboulay’s conversion took it to 17-3.
At this stage things were going well and looking rosy for Beverley but Salem struck back with a converted try by wing Nick Fountaine after some dilatory tackling allowed the home full back to scythe 50 metres upfield from his own 22. 17-10 and Salem might have narrowed it further had Booth not seen a penalty attempt go wide. On the stroke of halftime a Hazell run out of defence for nearly the length of the field set the pulses racing and very nearly brought a fourth Beverley try but he was hauled down just short.
None the less Beverley turned round 17-10 up and were looking very much the smarter side.
Not for the first time this season they found the opposition regrouping at the interval and Salem came back at them strongly after the break. For ten minutes Beverley were bogged down in their own 22. A fine diving tackle by Lewis Starbuck saved an almost certain try but eventually Salem number eight Christian Baines got over in the corner.
Now at 17-15 there were only two points in it and the meatier home pack were getting increasingly on top in the scrums as well as enjoying the advantage of the slope.
Beverley were getting much less possession and a year ago they might have wilted under the pressure but here they continued to play with remarkable composure, upped their game, and slowly re-asserted themselves. Hazell, Holmes and Rob Smith all made good ground and there were some determined carries by Isaac Keighley from the back of the scrum. Two Duboulay penalties took it to 23-15 giving Beverley breathing space and leaving Salem now needing two scores to get ahead.
But within a minute of the second penalty going over the outcome was settled once and for all. Beverley fielded the restart, counter attacked, and Hazell was away on a thrilling run down the right. Although he was caught just short of the line he released the ball to Holmes who evaded a couple of tackles to touch down for a fourth converted try. Salem were suddenly a spent force and their game fizzled out in a string of infringements and a yellow card leaving Duboulay to round it all off with a final penalty.
All in all it was a splendid Beverley team effort with all eighteen players putting in a good shift, not least the two debutants Jack Houseman and Raymond Coates who both made an impressive impact up front.
If Beverley can reproduce this sort of performance at home next week in the return encounter with Hullensians the Hull side will have plenty to think about this time round.
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