There was little Christmas cheer for Luton RFC on Saturday after a 36-24 defeat to fellow strugglers Chelmsford.
The result left Luton a massive 21 points from safety already as Paul Alston’s men know they face a mammoth tasked to save their London One North status in the New Year.
Luton controlled most of the first half at Coronation Park, as they piled pressure on the home side’s line.
But a combination of good defence and Luton handling errors meant the game remained scoreless until the 22nd minute, when Chelmsford took the lead with a converted try.
Luton renewed their efforts and enjoyed their best spell of the game as they moved 10-7 ahead.
First, Robert Povey found his range with a penalty from under the posts.
Then Chris Davies filling in for Tom Mahendran at scrum half made an excellent break, off-loaded in the tackle to Povey who had just enough strength to make it to the line for a converted score.
Chelmsford came straight back with the perfect riposte by kicking a penalty to tie the scores at 10-10 at half time.
This was the last time Luton would have parity with their hosts as within five minutes of the restart, prop Tom Garner saw yellow and the game changed.
Chelmsford took full advantage with their pack doing the damage.
Scrums near to the Luton line saw the scrum collapse twice and the referee had no hesitation in awarding consecutive penalty tries.
When Garner returned Chelmsford were almost out of sight as they made it 27-10 after 55 minutes with another try in the corner.
Luton found the drive to drag themselves back in to game though as Allen, having another good game at eight, broke from a maul to reach the line and Povey added the conversion.
The slight ray of hope was truly snuffed out when the Blueboys added a penalty and a try with 10 minutes to go.
Leading 36-17, Chelmsford hung on to the final whistle even though a later Adam Harris try and Povey conversion saw the margin reduced to 12 points.
First team manager Dicky Jones said: “We started well and controlled most of the game but we couldn’t take our chances with the wind behind us in the first half.
“In the second half we were second best and we gave away too many penalties.
“It’s a 21 point gap so it’s a long way back from here, but it’s doable.
“It’s going to be tough, but In January we welcome Australian centre Tyler Chant to the club and we are also looking at a couple of other prospects.”
Luton next host Amersham & Chiltern on January 9.