Heathfield draw with Deal
As the league table had suggested, this was a close contest in which on balance the Deal defence did just enough against a home team who had most of
Heathfield 13 Deal & Betteshanger 13
Heathfield drew with Deal and Betteshanger in a tense game in which the lead changed hands several times. Handling was always difficult on a cold day with consequent handling errors. Otherwise conditions were good with a dry surface and a fluky wind that did not provide a consistent advantage in any direction.
Deal started positively with pressure on the home try line but Heathfield gradually worked their way out as it became apparent that these were two well-matched sides.
What had threatened to become a stalemate was broken at the start of the second quarter by a Heathfield try in one of their first visits to the visitors’ half. Tom Sheffield made a decent break and quick ruck ball combined with good hands gave Charlie Smith a little space in the right hand corner where he had the pace to finish well (5-0).
Inevitably Deal responded positively and drove into the the right hand corner. A front lineout move was stopped initially but they eventually worked the ball over the line, although some Heathfield players claimed it had been grounded short (5-5).
The Deal scrum-half was replaced for injury at this point which will not have helped the visitors as Munch May was having a very positive game in that position for the home side.
The latter stages of the half were dominated by Heathfield who started to control possession and build successive phases in the manner beloved of coaches. This pressure resulted in two penalty chances one of which was converted by Ethan Walker (8-5).
Heathfield will feel that they had the better of the scrummage area with Ollie Smith, Richard Cooley and Matt Finney all doing well in the tight as well as being effective in open play. While Heathfield several times drove the visiting pack back, Deal were probably better at wheeling and disrupting the home team ball and this remained a messy area. The Deal lineout looked very secure throughout the game while some early errors by the home lineout were gradually corrected with David Yates dominating that area in the latter stages.
Most of the second half was played in the visitor’s territory but nonetheless Deal made two visits to the home half and collected a penalty on the first visit to level the scores and then on the second visit took the lead with a similar try to their first with a move at the front of a lineout (8-13).
Apart from these annoying distractions, Heathfield had majority possession and position. Smith and Finney were noticed throughout the game carrying the ball as the home side tried to work out the very efficient Deal defence. Bruce and Damien Pestell made welcome returns to the team with Bruce having even more impact ball-in-hand as the game progressed.
The final score came from another break by Sheffield in the centre and he gave Ollie Brown just enough space to work his way into the corner (13-13).
Lee Vockins, Fern Yaber and Ollie Robertshaw all made useful contributions from the bench and illustrate the pleasing competition for places in a team which, apart from the hiccup at Brighton last week, has recently found its own rhythm and effective style of play.
Heathfield had enough chances to win this game but made too many unforced errors, especially in the first half, which disrupted their efforts to build pressure.
This Saturday (9 Feb 2.30) Heathfield entertain Sevenoaks.