Barum survived despite finishing in the bottom three thanks to the London Welsh wild-card

Barnstaple retained their National Two South status by the skin of their teeth despite slipping back into the third relegation place after a 68-21 loss away to Old Elthamians.

And they can thank the London Welsh wild-card effect for sparing them from the drop.

Barum knew they were unlikely to get much change out of an Elthamians side gunning for every point to reach the promotion play-offs. For them it was mission accomplished.

Right-wing Dom Lespierre scored three tries in the first half as Elthamians shot into a 49-0 lead – and scored two more in the second.

Barum then knew their fate lay in results elsewhere in games involving Worthing, Barnes and London Irish.

Barnes lost at Bishop’s Stortford, which was curtains for them, the Irish picked up a losing bonus point at Chinnor to go ahead of Barum and Worthing walloped Exmouth to shoot clear.

The unexpected lifeline came in the National Two North, where Harrogate lost at Hinckley to finish in the bottom three.

The mid-season demise of London Irish meant one fewer relegation place was needed out the National Leagues this season. Instead of six going down – three North, three South – only five faced the drop.

It was decided the wild card would go to the team with the best playing record of the six relegation candidates.

Barnstaple (51pts) shaded it from Harrogate (47) on match points, which seems convincing.

Eight minutes into the second half at Old Elthamians the home side were 54-0 up.

In the time left, Barnstaple scored tries through Ryan Carter, Max Dugard and Linford Brock, all converted by Jordan Petherbridge.