IT WAS classic game of two halves when Dorchester’s 1st XV fell 43-21 to Counties 1 Tribute Southern South leaders North Dorset on Saturday.

The County Town outfit travelled to Slaughtergate and for more than an hour matched their high-flying opponents.

North Dorset started brightly and opened the scoring when veteran prop Dave Stickland drove over from close range for a converted try.

Dorchester’s backs however were looking lively and soon levelled the scores, Henry Bartlett on debut fielding a clearance kick with his first touch of the game and sliced through the entire defence. Jamie Morgan added the extras.

The hosts retook the lead at the start of the third quarter, rumbling over the line from a driving lineout.

Minutes later Bartlett again showed his pace to level the scores once more.

North Dorset followed up using their forward power yet again to add an unconverted try.

The visitors dug in took the lead, their backs cutting through the home defensive line before Jack Hayward touched down under the posts, Morgan’s successful conversion leaving the half time score 19-21.

Given the previous fixture Dorchester went in at the break with nothing on the scoreboard, this was a clear improvement and the belief showed.

A converted try early in the second half gave North Dorset a lead that they would retain to the end of the game.

Dorchester, now playing into the wind, battled on but a series of injuries and North Dorset’s clever use of the conditions kept the visitors at arm’s length.

Bartlett once more showed his pace and chased down the home sides quick fly half who had broken the line well and on any other day would have been in under the posts, however the young Bath U18’s premiership champion hunted him down and tackled him saving a sure fire seven points.

However, with 10 minutes remaining the hosts kicked a penalty to stretch the lead to eight points.

They followed this with two converted tries in the final five minutes, putting a slightly rosy slant on the final score, against a side who had clearly come to play rugby against the table-topping side.

Dorchester remain eighth in the league table, with only two games left against the second and third-placed sides.

The next encounter is at Surcouf Park against Sherborne.

The opposition had the better of the County Town side last time out, but with newer and younger players coming into the squad, this time could be different given some recent strong performances.