BRIDPORT suffered a 51-15 defeat to Blandford on their long-awaited return to Tribute Dorset & Wilts One South action.

In front of a large crowd, skipper Andrew Livingston led out the Blues through a tunnel of Bridport flags to play their first league game in 18 months.

With several of the first-team squad injured, the Blues put up a spirited performance for the first hour, but injuries including a serious looking one to Sam Petchey and a tiring defence allowed a late rush of tries by the Blandford backs for a convincing victory.

From the off both sides exchanged a series of kicks trying to create scoring opportunities in their opponents’ 22.

It was the Blues who quickly gained the ascendancy with a series of strong forward drives earning them a penalty under the posts, which Ben Dobson took quickly to dart over the line, Waters converting.

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The Blues were soon back on the attack when Daragh McLoughlin, after a strong break, almost put Harrison Crane through but he was well tackled just short of the line and Blandford cleared their lines with a kick into the Blues’ 22.

After an altercation over the loose ball both teams had a player yellow carded. Blandford upped the pressure on the Blues and following a penalty on halfway found an excellent touch and from the five-metre line-out the ball was quickly down the line for a score in the corner which was well converted for 7-7.

Blandford continued to press the Blues’ defence and despite some good clearance kicks from Waters the Blues were caught offside on the halfway line with Blandford taking the three points.

From the kick-off Blandford were quickly back on the attack forcing the Blues to defend deep in their 22, conceding a five-metre line out. The Blues gained a turnover scrum but were themselves turned over allowing Blandford to score a converted try under the posts for 17-7.

The Blues bounced back and, after an excellent Waters kick into the 22 was repelled, the Blues forced a turnover and a lightning break by Jack Streeter ended when he was bundled into touch just short.

From the line-out Blandford tried to clear their lines but excellent work by McLoughlin in the loose forced a penalty and from a quick tap the ball was down the line for Adam Vickery to score in the corner.

From the kick off the Blues broke out of the 22 with Andrew Livingston and Mitch Waters making good ground and forcing a penalty. After a poor kick Blandford offended and Waters took an excellent kick from the half way line to make it 17-15.

Despite good ball retention from the kick-off Blandford were soon back on the score sheet when they got turnover ball from a Blues line-out, kicked long and won the chase for an unconverted try. This was quickly followed by excellent handling by the Blandford backs for their bonus point try.

The Blues briefly threatened when Waters was just wide with a long range penalty and after a series of forward drives they were held up over line resulting in a drop-out from under the posts allowing Blandford to clear.

With more injuries and a tiring defence, the Blandford backs were too quick running in four more tries.

Despite the final scoreline, coach Ayo Fraser was very pleased with the way the Blues dominated the early exchanges and maintained their momentum early in the second half. He recognises that there is a lot to work on to maintain an 80-minute performance.

Bridport visit North Dorset on Saturday.