Heathfield undone by early missed opportunities
By Philip Bell
Deal survive slow start to collect clear win
Heathfield 13 Deal & Betteshanger 31
Deal survived an initial home assault and ended up clear winners by five tries to two. Deal are on a run of good results and thus have the depth of confidence that Heathfield, on a long losing run, do not have and this allowed the visitors to survive early pressure.
From the kick off Munch May showed outstanding commitment to recover the ball and this helped to put Heathfield on the front foot which they mostly sustained for the first half hour. The game was probably decided in this period as, although most of it was played in the Deal half, and indeed in their 22, Heathfield contrived to find any number of ways not to score.
A sequence of attacks was denied partly by solid defence but mainly by execution errors and wrong options. Oli Robertshaw probably did touch down in a heap of bodies from a lineout catch and drive but it was impossible for the referee to give the score. The referee afterwards commented that, although Deal had arrived early, in the first half hour they did not seem to have got off the coach.
Occasional break outs by the visitors had hinted at the potential of the visitors’ back line so it was not entirely surprising on the half hour when a missed tackle in mid-field gave the Deal fly half a chance to release the players outside him for well-taken try at the other end.
Richard Poole, who had been scrummaging well, now had to retire through injury to be replaced by Kevin Parker. Heathfield soon returned to the Deal 22 and another penalty resulted in a yellow for the visitors’ 12. Since the penalty count at this point was 0-8 against Deal this was not a surprising decision. As most of these occurred in the visitors’ half it could be argued that Heathfield should have kept the scoreboard ticking over rather than going for the corner – but it’s an easy game on the touchline.
In spite of being a man short Deal charged back down the slope and after just being denied in the bottom corner, they efficiently set up a drive from the ensuing lineout and when this was taken down the referee awarded a penalty try. Parker was adjudged responsible and saw yellow.
Deal finished the half back in that corner but were just denied. By now it was clear that the momentum in the game had shifted in favour of the visitors.
Both sides had selection issues in the front row. The home front row, in ascending order of age, were 28, 34, 47 and 50 as this year’s usual injuries and availability issues restricted selection options. Senior members Julian Porter and Parker did all that could be asked while relative youngster Dan Bird put himself about to good effect.
The home lineout mostly worked efficiently with stand-in thrower Robertshaw doing well and allowing in particular Henry Ross to secure plenty of possession.
At half time Ed Koops replaced James Woodroofe and Dan Jones moved to scrum half in place of May.
In the first fifteen minutes of the second half Deal ran away with the game with three well-taken tries by their back division as their confidence allowed them to run riot against an uncertain home defence.
When Sam Goatcher had to retire through injury Lucas Cuming moved up to fly half with May coming back on to full back.
Gradually Heathfield came more back into the game, although by now the result was clear. Charlie Butler went close in the right hand corner but the defence just closed down the opportunity. On the other wing Alex Langdon was looking increasingly threatening but could never completely break free.
A yellow for a Deal forward provided some late encouragement for the home side who duly collected two tries. First skipper Gus Taylor, who been leading from th front as usual, barged over from an attacking lineout and then Robertshaw was the beneficiary of an efficient lineout catch and drive.
Next Saturday Heathfield visit fellow relegation-doomed Aylesford in a game to determine the league wooden spoon (30 March 3.00).