Barnstaple’s promotion hopes came crashing down around their ears when they lost 44-5 in Southend to Westcliff.

Barum were dealt a blow the day before the match when skipper and play-maker Jake Murphy dropped out for the wholly understandable reason his wife was due to go into labour.

The ensuing reshuffle saw Will Topps go from full-back to centre, Luke Berry move from wing to full-back and Troy Willis promoted from the bench to start.

Barum, runners-up in the South West Premier Division, always knew a trip to their London Premier counterparts was going to be tough.

By the 20-minute mark Barum were 10-0 down and had lost front-rower James Starkey to the sin-bin.

Westcliffe led 20-0 at the break, which arrived with Barum back down to 14 men after skipper Winston James got a 10-minute breather.

By the time Barnstaple got on the board with 12 minutes to go through Matt Gohl, the home side were 37 points up and long-since assured of National Two rugby next season.

Jeremy Chugg, the director of rugby at Barnstaple, said the defeat was not a disaster from his point of view.

“A disaster would have been losing by a point to a try in injury time when we had been ahead the entire game,” said Chugg.

“You have to be a realist and say if we lose this heavily away from home to a team that just scraped into the play-offs themselves we are not ready to go up.

“I would rather find that out now than next season when we would be likely to have 12 or 13 away games against sides better than Westcliff.

“It was not a great way to end the season, but let's not forget where we were this time last year.

“Then we were getting over being relegated from the division we were trying to get back into.

“We have come a long way since then and our journey is not over yet.”

The journey resumes in early July when pre-season training starts.