Horsham head coach Nick Stocker bemoaned a ‘below-par’ display as they suffered their first defeat in three matches away to Deal & Betteshanger on Saturday.
The Green and Whites went down 31-15 against a side that started the day with just ten points from their opening eight games so far this season.
That had left them third-from-bottom in London 2 South East, while at the other end of the table, fourth-placed Horsham slipped a place with the defeat, missing a chance to go third.
Horsham were forced to make five changes to the team that won 39-24 at Heathfield & Waldron last week, which had an effect on the game.
Joe Wilde was the only point scorer for the visitors as he kicked five penalties.
That told a story as the home side dominated the game, making the two-hour journey back for Horsham an unhappy one with Stocker reflecting on a ‘disappointing’ performance, but deserved result for their hosts.
Conditions were almost perfect for rugby, as the weather was overcast with a slight breeze. The match started with both teams creating chances, but it was the home team that was clinical when they were near the tryline.
They scored the opening try of the game, as they got off to a good start and settled the quickest. They soon put down their second after exerting plenty of pressure.
Horsham’s Wilde was able to score two penalty kicks before the end of the first half, but it was Deal who went into break with the lead.
There was no real difference in the pattern of play in the second half, as another try was scored by the home team, to seal the game off and secure the win.
However, the moment of the game was when the hosts scored their fourth and final try, a real move to savour which secured the bonus point to close the gap on the teams above them.
Wilde scored three more penalty kicks as a mere consolation for the visitors.
Horsham head coach Nick Stocker said: “It was disappointing to be fair, we didn’t turn up. We had a lot of changes throughout the team. We lacked penetration and they were desperate for the win.
“To be fair to Deal, they performed well, and their skipper came up to me and said, ‘that was four weeks worth of frustration that came to you (Horsham),’ it was a backlash.
“They played well, and we played below par, and that’s what happens in rugby unfortunately.
“What played a part ultimately was that 15 players from Horsham decided not to go on top against a side that was desperate to win. They were physical and they did well.
The result leaves in fifth place with nine games gone.
Horsham are in Intermediate Cup action this weekend, having been drawn away to Barnes-based London Exiles in the second round.
The Green and Whites’ first round game against Crowborough in the Bob Rogers Cup has been put back to December 2.
Horsham: N.Bell, Fisher, Fairs, Clarkson, Maguire, O’Rahilly, Lowe, Smith, Mills, J.Bell, Barber, Carvell, Wilde, Gonzague, Blewitt.