Barnstaple’s promotion celebrtions will have to wait a little longer after they slumped to a 43-14 defeat at Maidenhead, writes Conrad Sutcliffe.

Barum have been top of the table in the South West Premier Division for so long that promotion appeared inevitable.

Mathematically it is not done yet and losing to second-placed Maidenhead in a double-pointer could prove to be a spanner in the automatic promotion works.

Maidenhead have two games in hand on Barnstaple and can amass 84 points if they win their last five fixtures.

Barnstaple, currently on 77 points, have three games to go and are capable of accumulating 92 points if they win them all.

Okehampton, who sit third, don't have enough games left to finish any higher than second, but fourth-placed Weston have three games in hand on Barum and have to play them too.

Barnstaple's last three games are relegation worriers Newbury, Okehampton and Weston, three potential banana skins if ever there were any. Newbury have beaten Weston and Maidenhead in their last three games and won't be afraid of Barum at all.

Barnstaple have to go to Okehampton, who have only lost at home twice this season. No easy points there.

And Weston, who visit Barnstaple on April 4, could be incentivised by a place in the play-offs if they are out of the title running by then. It's not over yet.

Jeremy Chugg, Barnstaple's director of rugby, said he remains confident the team will go on to clinch automatic promotion.

"The teams behind us have it all to do and both Weston and Newbury have to come to us," said Chugg.

"Weston are probably out of it now after losing to Newbury on Saturday.

"Newbury at Newbury might be a problem, but they are coming to us and I can't see us lowing that one."

Maids raced into a 21-0 lead against Barnstaple and never looked back. Tries from Adam Lloyd and Will Topps, both converted by Kyran McManus, got Barnstaple back to 27-14 down in the second half, but Maids pressed the loud pedal and shot clear again.

Chugg said it was hardly the result he had been looking for, but added there were mitigating factors.

"Maidenhead were at full strength and at home - and we were neither," said Chugg.

"Against good sides you can't go with six missing and expect it to go brilliantly.

"Three yellow cards did not help either. Playing a man short for half an hour is not good."

Barnstaple have no game this Saturday (March 14). They are next in action on March 21, when they will entertain second from bottom Newbury Blues.