BRIDPORT were victorious in their final game of 2023 at home, beating Wheatsheaf Cabin Crew 16-15.

The opening stages of the game were reflective of the ebb and flow nature that proceeded, as both teams traded blows.

Daggers gained ground through playing the ball wide and applying pressure through territory. The strong defence counted, as a fumbled ball was seized well by Cameron Frank Waite, who went over in the corner for an unconverted score.

In the next passage of play, Wheatsheaf kicked long to Corben Newman who began a weaving run, only to be brought down illegally by a high tackle. The referee awarded Wheatsheaf’s outside centre Josh Hough with a red card, taking them down to 14 players.

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From the subsequent penalty, Daggers continued to gain territory and build pressure in Wheatsheaf’s half. Sensibly, Bridport made this early pressure and additional man count, as Sam Petchey took three points on offer from a penalty close to the posts.

Daggers continued to press on and raise the tempo of the game against a large Wheatsheaf pack. A well-taken quick tap penalty by Rory Greening caught the Wheatsheaf defence asleep, as he went over for an unconverted try and a 13-0 lead.

Wheatsheaf then began to throw some shots of their own, playing into their strengths around their line-out and maul drill.

The pressure brought on through heavy forward carries enabled the Wheatsheaf second row to pick the ball through the ruck and find the gap in the backfield to score.

Daggers continued to find tempo in the game, moving the ball wide and taking quick tap penalties when they were on offer.

One of these quick taps drew reward, as Wheatsheaf’s winger was yellow carded for not retreating the full 10 meters and preventing a clear line break.

This took Wheatsheaf down to 13 men running into half-time.

Sadly, Daggers were unable to capitalise on this advantage and an unfortunate injury to flanker Kian Bentley saw the game moved to the roadside pitch at half-time.

Wheatsheaf were clearly galvanised by some strong words at the break, as they came out with ferocity in their forward carries and defence.

Wheatsheaf continued to attack through their maul and some loose tackling from Daggers enabled the visitors to score an important try to bring them within one point at 13-12.

In the second half, Daggers’ discipline began to subside, gifting a succession of easy penalties.

After a sustained period of attack, a high tackle from Daggers on the Wheatsheaf player saw a penalty awarded. This enabled Wheatsheaf fly-half Rory MacTaggart to put his team in front for the first time.

In the closing stages, the Daggers managed to retain the ball and stretch the Wheatsheaf defensive line.

Strong performances from Tom George and man-of-the-match Luke Richards were continued in this telling passage, as Daggers attempted to get an important score.

With minutes left to play, Wheatsheaf were penalised at the breakdown to give Daggers the chance to re-take the lead.

Despite facing a difficult kick, Petchey stepped up under pressure to give Daggers a one-point advantage going into the closing moments.

With space behind the Wheatsheaf defence, Greening kicked long and to the corner, hoping to keep the pressure on the away team.

However, Wheatsheaf calmly returned to their solid line-out drills and created challenges for Daggers from their mauling game, drawing penalties from the referee.

This enabled Wheatsheaf to send the ball deep into Daggers’ half and once again drive with their maul.

It was from this that Wheatsheaf were awarded a penalty with no time left on the clock.

MacTaggart attempted a challenging kick, which just drifted wide, sending Daggers into the Christmas break with a well-fought win.

Bridport jump one place above East Dorset Dockers to seventh in the Counties Two Tribute Dorset & Wilts South table.

Daggers next visit Blandford on Saturday, January 6.

Match, ball and man-of-the-match sponsor: Palmers Brewery