Barnstaple dipped out 18-15 away to the University of Exeter, which dropped them down to fifth in the South West Premier table.
Two tries from Luke Mehson gave the Students the edge in a close encounter.
Kieran Kelly booted the Students ahead with a penalty on nine minutes. Mehson went over for his first try on 19 minutes.
Barum got a try back through scrum-half Noah Nash and the Jake Murphy penalty left a point in it at the break.
Kryan McManus darted in for a try eight minutes into the second half to put Barum ahead for the first time. But not for long.
Mehson’s second try was converted by Kelly for an 18-12 home lead.
McManus poked over a penalty for Barum with eight minutes to go, but time ran out before they could make further inroads.
Although Barum are gunning for promotion straight back to National Two South this season, rugby chairman Jeremy Chugg said it won’t always be plain sailing.
“We are going to lose a few on the road which just means we have to work a bit harder at some of the other places we go to,” said Chugg.
“I would rather lose now, with time to get the points back, than when things are hotting up at the end of the season.
“You can’t say we did anything that badly. The bounce of a ball, a missed tackle, a decision that goes against you. It can be something that small that turns a game one way or the other.”
Barnstaple will be keen to bounce straight back this Saturday when former coach Steve Perry returns with new club Exmouth to Pottington Road.