Ian Chandler bemoaned the absence of key men as Portsmouth saw their slim promotion hopes dashed by Sutton & Epsom.
The London two south west title-chasers claimed a 32-14 triumph at the Rugby Camp on Saturday.
And Chandler reckoned the visitors’ dominance up front early on proved crucial.
‘We struggled to contain Sutton & Epsom’s powerful set of forwards in the first half,’ said the head coach.
‘They were able to capitalise on the fact we had some key players missing.
‘Once we changed it around at the start of the second half we got back into it.
‘And their last score came from an interception when we were pushing for a bonus-point try.’
Curtis Barnes and Jason Crabb scored the hosts’ tries – both converted by Andy Barnes.
United Services returned to winning ways in Hampshire one as their young guns came good in a 28-25 success over Romsey at Burnaby Road.
Hooker Dave Reed and winger Alex Doolan – the latter teed up by full-back James McAvoy – crossed for tries as Services took a 15-3 led into the second half.
Romsey hit back with a try five minutes after the break.
But McAvoy danced through to score the try of the game and, with outside-half Kit Wapshott adding further points with his boot, the hosts lead 28-13 with 15 minutes left.
Services had to work hard to resist a late fightback, though, as the visitors scored two late tries.
‘It was a good all-round performance, with Andy Tart leading the side well,’ said coach Simon Burns.
‘I was also pleased with wing-forward Tom Perring, full-back McAvoy and young debutant Mike Canning.’
In Hampshire two, Fareham Heathens lost 27-12 at Fawley.
Manager Chris Lee insists the final scoreline did not reflect Heathens’ display.
‘The final score flattered Fawley,’ he said.
‘We certainly had the better of the second half.’
Sammy Raloka scored both Heathens’ tries.
Southsea Nomads were crushed 45-14 by Ventnor at Furze Lane.
Chris Marsh and James Hardy scored for Nomads.