FOURTEEN-MAN Bracknell RFC began the New Year in disappointing fashion with a 32-17 South West Premier home defeat to Barnstaple on Saturday.

The Lily Hill men started in fine fashion and opened the scoring in just the fourth minute, attacking runs from Ian Burch and Michael Clarke putting Bracknell deep into opposition territory.

From quick re-cycled ball, a well-timed delayed pass from Peceli Nacamavutu saw the excellent Callum Lee score under the posts. The conversion from Vic Hardwicke was successful and Daniel ap Daffyd's men led 7-0.

Barnstaple second row Ben Hilton was then sin-binned for a no-arms tackle, but almost immediately the numbers were equalled when Bracknell captain Michael Clarke was also yellow carded.

Barnstaple reduced the lead on the half-hour mark with a Jake Murphy penalty, and things did not look good for the hosts when they were further reduced in numbers, Cam MacDonald receiving a yellow card for a tip-tackle.

However, Bracknell scored their second try of the afternoon when Simon Bayliss found space on his wing, going over in the corner.

An excellent conversion from Hardwicke out wide increased the Bracknell lead to 11 points, but with five minutes remaining of the half came the turning point of the game – the hosts' Ken Dowding sent off for unwisely retaliating after being punched.

Taking advantage of their superior numbers Barnstaple struck back, with centre Ryan Cater scoring a converted try under the posts just before the half-time break to leave Bracknell 14-10 up after 40 minutes.

Barnstaple cut the deficit to just one point with a further Murphy penalty, but although reduced in numbers, Bracknell battled bravely and their endeavour was rewarded with a Hardwicke penalty.

With 20 minutes to go the playing numbers were equalled when Murphy was shown a yellow card, but the gutsy Bracknell defence was finally breached in controversial fashion in the final quarter – Barnstaple prop Kevin Angel deemed to have crossed the try-line despite appearing to be held up short.

Further late tries from second row Adam Lloyd and replacement Martinas Deonantas in the dying moments secured Barnstaple’s victory and denied Bracknell a deserved bonus point, and ap Dafydd said: “I think we physically dominated the game and deserved more.

"Had we had 15 on the pitch for the whole game the result may well have been different.”

The result means Bracknell stay 10th in the league, but their lead over the relegation spots is reduced to just one point as a result of Drybrook's shock win against Ivybridge.

Bracknell face a huge test this Saturday when they travel to runaway leaders Bournemouth.