Heathfield drew with Deal and Betteshanger in a tense game in which the lead changed hands several times.
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 the possession.
Deal started positively with pressure on the home try line but Heathfield gradually worked their way out. 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 space in the right 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 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 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.
Most of the second half was played in the visitors’ territory but nonetheless Deal made two visits to the home half, collecting a penalty on the first visit to level the scores and then taking the lead on their second visit with a similar try to their first in 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 recent hiccup at Brighton, has recently found its own rhythm and effective style of play.
Tomorrow (Sat, 2.30pm) Heathfield host Sevenoaks.