A slow first half cost Barum in Suffolk on Saturday

Barnstaple are getting anxious for a win in National Two South after a 39-25 defeat at Bury St Edmunds condemned them to a fourth defeat in a row.

Barum still have a 12-point gap between them and the bottom three, but sides below are gaining on them. The margin was 18 points two rounds ago.

Mid-table Canterbury visit Pottington this Saturday, a side whose patchy away form makes them an obvious target for a Barum win.

Then Barnstaple visit Clifton, one of the four sides below them in the latest table for a 10-pointer in the survival fight.

Barum had it all to do at Bury St Edmunds after going 25-6 down in the first half. A spirited second-half fightback wasn’t enough to change the outcome, or earn a losing bonus point.

Jeremy Chugg, the chairman of rugby at Barnstaple, said whatever the mitigating circumstances, 40-minute performances aren’t enough at National League level.

“The team is a bit threadbare in places and far-away trips to places like Bury are a sharp learning curve for the young players in the side,” said Chugg.

“Even so we just did not turn up in the first half and at 25-6 down had a huge amount to do in the second half.

“Ryan Carter came on at half time for his first game since breaking an ankle and that helped shore up the defence.

“Hopefully, Jake Murphy will be back this Saturday, which will help with our defensive structure and game management.

“Jake has a vast amount of experience with Plymouth Albion and when you have a young side like ours you need an older head to organise the team.

“It isn’t that our youngsters aren’t capable players: they are. But they have a lot to learn and not a lot of time to learn it in.”

Barnstaple’s pre-Christmas form has kept them clear of the relegation places until now, but Chugg can see trouble ahead if results don’t improve.

“When we look behind us we see teams picking up points when we aren’t and narrowing the gap on us,” he said.

“What we have is a top-of-the-ground side that likes to play lots of rugby, sometimes not the right type of rugby for heavy pitches.

“We have got players starting to come back after injury that should enable us to be more adaptive to the conditions. Sometimes the right thing to do is hoof the ball down field, not try anything fancy.”

Gwyn Parks kicked two first-half penalties for against Bury St Edmunds, who stretched their interval lead to 32-6 early in the second half.

Tries by Jarrard Hayler, Rob Dugard and Kyle Speare, two if which were converted by Parks, made the second half more competitive.

Frazer Honey, who started the season with Barnstaple before work took him away from the area, came on as a second-half replacement for Bury.