Gosport & Fareham saw their title hopes crushed as they lost 32-10 to London two south west leaders Guildford.
Coach Scott Ashley now accepts the Gosport Park outfit will have to settle for a play-off place in their bid to be promoted.
He admitted the team were well beaten by hosts Guildford, who are marching on towards London one south next season.
‘We were beaten by a better side who were stronger and quicker than us,’ said Ashley.
‘Guildford play a powerful, punchy style of rugby and possess the strength to do that.
‘Their back-row forwards were exceptional and were everywhere at the breakdown and the offload points.
‘They played a very clever game and we struggled to deal with it.
‘As a team they have been the most consistent in our league and since Christmas we have failed to match them in that area.
‘Our problem continues to be injuries and lack of availability.’
Ashley was again hampered in having to field a side, who included a number of players out of position.
They only had one of the regular first-choice players in the front row and the home side were able to exploit that.
Despite the problems, the visitors started well and put Guildford under pressure in the opening 10 minutes.
Once the home side weathered the storm, however, they took charge to open up a 17-0 lead at half-time.
A harsh yellow card for winger Dave Cleary, at the start of the second half, piled Gosport under more pressure.
And the home side started to turn the screw as they powered to victory.
Gosport never gave in, though, and Chris Thompson and Wes Dugan crossed for the consolation tries.
Ashley was pleased his team battled on to the end.
He has warned they must quickly recover their top form to ensure they are not hunted down by other sides in the battle for promotion.
‘Guildford have bullied opponents this season and put 40 or 50 points on them,’ said Ashley.
‘To our credit, we didn’t allow them to do that and hit back with two tries of our own.’
‘We have to regroup and make sure in our remaining games that we are not caught,’ said Ashley.
‘I am confident we can still get promoted through the play-offs but we can’t afford to take our foot off the pedal.’
In Hampshire two, Locks Heath Pumas secured a 28-9 win at Aldershot & Fleet.
The Pumas trailed 9-8 at the hour mark, before stirring themselves out of their slumber.
‘We are still managing to pick up bonus-point wins, despite not playing well,’ said coach Jim Pearce.
‘When we started we looked as if we didn’t want to be there and allowed the opposition to control the game.
‘The players are giving us coaches heart attacks before pulling it out of the bag in the end.
‘We need to start better and keep going to kill teams off.’
Tries from Alex Ainscough, Matt Newton, Joel Stocker, Tom O’Grady, and Nick Di Stefano gave Pumas their win.
Di Stefano also kicked a penalty to complete the tally.
Fareham Heathens showed basement side Alresford no mercy.
They stormed to a 108-0 win at Cams Alders.