Yorkshire Division One: Bradford Salem 24 Keighley 40

ALEX Brown ended his last game as Keighley captain – and possibly his last ever game of rugby – with a revenge derby win.

Keighley had lost the opening game of the season in Yorkshire Division One with a 52-22 home defeat to Bradford Salem, but they finished it with a victory that was almost as emphatic, beating their rivals from along the A650, 40-24.

Brown, 30, said: “I have been at Keighley since I was six years old but my work commitments as national accounts manager at Kone, which is very intensive Monday to Friday, has to come first, and we are also expecting our first child in August.

“The kind of person that I am, I cannot turn up and play at Keighley on a Saturday in a half-hearted fashion. It would not be fair.

“I have been captain for two-and-a-half seasons after Will Armitage got injured and it is time for someone else to have a go in what will be our centenary season.

“I am definitely not saying that that is it for ever, but it is certainly it for the moment.

“I want to thank the coaches at Keighley, we have a great group of lads and there is a solid leadership group, and I am sure that with a few additions that we can be even stronger next season.”

At one time it looked as if Keighley would be relegated as they lost their first three matches and eight of their first nine, but they hauled themselves up the table to 10th by winning nine of their last 17 matches.

Brown said: “It has been a challenging season, firstly under Dave Duxbury.

"We started to pick up on his ideas, and there was an instant reaction for whatever reason, as often happens, when we changed our coach (Danny McGee took over) and we have been brilliant towards the back end of the campaign, apart from the couple of weeks prior to this.

“This was not the best performance of the season but a great result. It does not define our season but I was proud of the lads.

“We are losing some lads to university next season unfortunately but we have young lads like Adam Kemp and Tom Willson available in the back row and Leon Hobson-Sheriff in the backs, so we have a huge amount of talent.

“Although there may be a couple of seasons where we don’t have a colts team, the junior section is thriving.”

Salem finished ninth, one place and three points above Keighley, and Salem centre Harry Hall said: “It has been a difficult season for us as we have used 62 players in the first XV so we haven’t had the consistency that we would have liked.

“We started pretty well but tailed off a bit around Christmastime, and have had a season that was the opposite way round to Keighley in many respects.

“There was nothing on the game in terms of survival, but it was still a derby and the lads that came in for us put a shift in.

"Keighley threw the ball about early doors and played well but we got back into it, there were plenty of people watching and it was a good day out.”

Keighley played towards Heaton Woods in the first half and went ahead in the 11th minute when flanker Willson scored in the left-hand corner, while winger Jake Hill scored in the opposite corner nine minutes later, with Brown adding a superb touchline conversion.

No 8 Leigh Sugden bagged try number three, showing his customary strength from close quarters, in the 26th minute, Brown’s conversion extending the visitors’ lead to 19-0.

However, Salem got on the board via a try by left winger Ryan Smith six minutes later after centre Chris Clough had gone close.

Livewire fly-half and skipper James Simpson added a superb conversion but Keighley’s response was immediate, with in-form centre Sean Kelly scoring two minutes later for Brown to convert.

The hosts benefited from good support play when prop Will Collins crossed in the 39th minute, with Simpson again converting, but Keighley went into the break 33-14 ahead when Kelly went against the grain to score his second try after the sin-binning of Salem No 8 Mike MacDonald by referee Andy Williamson for a high tackle on Kemp.

The second half was scrappier on what was a chilly afternoon, and both sides had their moments before Salem prop Tom O’Sullivan scored on the blind side in the 55th minute.

Each side then scored one more try, with Hobson-Sheriff going over for Keighley in the 72nd minute, with Brown converting, and flanker James Callendar dotting down for Salem a minute later.

Keighley thus gained a maximum haul of league points, while Callendar’s try earned Salem a four-try bonus point.