Fareham Heathens stretched their lead at the top of Hampshire one to four points with a 20-8 local derby win at Locks Heath Pumas.
Heathens, without six first choice players were far from their best, and coach Bernie Rhodes was disappointed to miss out on any bonus points.
‘We will need to be significantly better if we are to stand any chance of winning the league,’ said Rhodes.
‘Millbrook and Bognor are hot on our heels and we still have to play both between now and the end of the season.
‘We were guilty of making too many mistakes, especially in the line-out.
‘There we kept missing our jumpers and gifted possession to our opponents.’
In the opening quarter Heathens struggled to cope with the enforced changes to their team.
The situation wasn’t helped when they lost two more players to injury.
Dynamic wing-forward Michael West took a knock to the head when making a heavy tackle and had to be replaced.
Soon afterwards, Heathen’s powerful ball carrying Fijian Inia Qiolevu was also forced off with an ankle injury.
Both replacements Jim Gardner and Cas Aston did well after coming off the bench.
Pumas opened the scoring midway through the first half with a penalty before Heathens hit back with two converted tries before half-time.
Both tries were scored by youngster Rikki Curtis, in his first year of playing rugby and converted by Cam Guthrie.
‘We all knew we hadn’t played well in the first half and there was a lot of frustration in our half-time team talk,’ said Rhodes.
‘Unfortunately we continued to misfire in the second half.
‘Our problems in the line-out meant we struggled to get our usual quality first phase possession.’
All Heathens could manage after the break were two further Guthrie penalties, while Pumas crossed for a try to increase the pressure on the visitors.
The defeat leaves Pumas 10 points adrift at the bottom of the league with just one win all season.
Relegation back to Hampshire two after last season’s promotion is looking more and more on the cards for the Brookfield School-based club.