Heathfield 'gutted' as Deal snatch last gasp win
Heathfield collected a losing bonus point from a game that they could and should have won, finally losing to a try deep in injury time.
Heathfield & Waldron 13 Deal & Betteshanger 15
The third team in the league were under almost continuous pressure from the eleventh team throughout so credit must be given to the defensive qualities of the visitors while again highlighting the home team’s failure to finish good opportunities.
A few changes in personnel and position seemed to produce a different team compared to recent Heathfield performances. Damien Pestell and Ethan Walker returned to the side as the new centre pairing and both made serious contributions. Win Barrett switched to his preferred back row slot and his first half performance in particular impressed many. Calum Fraser was back at hooker and Alex Borg who had previously made his debut at this level in the front row had a fine game on the wing.
Initially Deal had the benefit of the slope and slight breeze. In the first few minutes they looked an efficient unit and a good field position from a penalty was well exploited for their scrum half to dart over from a ruck on the home try line (0-5). Given the relative league positions many will have thought that this was looking like a long afternoon for Heathfield. However the home team now gradually worked their way back up towards the clubhouse corner and had a consistent period of pressure in the visitors’ half. After twenty minutes a lineout in the visitors’ 22 was efficiently exploited and Gus Taylor touched down at the back of a heap of bodies (5-5).
This was now an enjoyable well-contested match with play flowing all over the pitch. Barrett, Pestell and Walker were making good yards but the last pass and support were just not working. Heathfield had majority possession but Deal still looked dangerous out wide. A ruck very close to the touch line was won by Deal and the lack of a blindside defender was ruthlessly exploited by a fine individual effort down the touchline for Deal’s second try (5-10).
The rest of the half was again dominated by Heathfield and Walker was able to convert one of two penalty chances to leave the game well balanced at the interval (8-10).
The Deal scrummage always had a slight edge and ultimately this was to prove decisive while the lineout was generally even. In the second half Heathfield scored an early try when Fraser showed good individual skill and pace to touch down in the left hand corner (13-10). Until the last five minutes the rest of the game was played in the Deal half but their defence proved adequate to the task. Jamie Walsh was having one of his best tactical kicking games and several times gained good position but the visiting defence always managed to scramble the ball away.
Borg had an eye-catching run down the left wing and was only denied a try by a cruel bounce. Also and perhaps critically another Heathfield penalty chance drifted wide. With six minutes remaining Deal were awarded a penalty and they seized the opportunity to take play deep into the home half. This is a team who have won most of their games this year and they recognise an opportunity. The last few minutes were all on the home try line with a sequence of at least five scrums all of which ended with a penalty award to Deal. The Deal scrummage was pressuring Heathfield who somehow held out when a pushover try looked inevitable several times. However Deal finally secured the result with quick ball to their right wing who squeezed into the corner (13-15).
Even the ref acknowledged that Heathfield would feel gutted by the outcome having had so much of the game. Deal take much credit for resilient defence although some of their players felt they played poorly – but it is the mark of a decent team to win when not playing well.
Given the relative league positions Heathfield will take plenty out of the game. As players return from injury the team is looking in decent shape whatever the league table says. Joe Burford was not called off the bench today and is now returning to south London rugby but Heathfield have much appreciated his contribution to the team at the peak of the injury problems this year.
This Saturday (2.15 14 Dec) Heathfield visit Lewes in the last league game before Xmas in a match which could have a decisive impact on the relegation issue.