BIDEFORD saw their first point in Tribute South West One West literally slip out of their hands.
Trailing Chard 13-5 in time added on, Bideford needed some kind of score to get the losing bonus point that their battling performance deserved.
It looked as though it would surely come from a try when Sam Olde hacked away a loose ball in his own 22 and twice more kicked ahead as he outpaced the Chard chasers with the home fans screaming him on.
But with the try line in sight he tried to grab the ball and slide over in one movement – and knocked on.
"Sam decided to try to slide over, that was his decision," said Mark Priest, the Bideford head coach, who felt a try might even have led to an unlikely win. "At 13-12, the dynamics of the game might have changed."
The chance of a bonus point was not completely gone. Bideford won the ball from the resulting scrum and it found its way to Stefan James but his attempt at a dropped goal barely got off the ground.
So Bideford remain without a point after four games, with only Coney Hill, who have had five points deducted, below them in the table.
Just to have got so close to a bonus point seemed more than unlikely in the early stages when it looked as though they were heading for an even heavier defeat than the 38-12 loss in their first home game against St Austell.
Bideford barely saw the ball for the first 20 minutes and fell 13-0 behind to a Chard side who were dominating in the forwards and had Chris Doak pulling the strings with an impressive display at fly half.
Doak kicked a sixth-minute penalty and, after a series of rucks virtually on the Bideford try line, centre Neil Douglas overlapped to score in the left corner.
Doak then made a fine break after a scrum and fed Ben Harding who sprinted down the right wing and knocked James Buckland flying to score Chard's second try.
"The writing was on the wall," said Priest. But, helped by yellow cards for Chard's Joe Massey and Matt Lovesy, Bideford's players worked hard to get back into contention.
Among them was debutant teenage scrum half Jacob Nash. The former Barnstaple and Okehampton junior's confidence seemed to grow in line with the team's.
Doak dropped the ball when a try seemed certain on 22 minutes and the home side lifted their fans by running it out of defence – with a chip and chase from Olde nearly coming off.
By the half-hour they were finally enjoying some possession, although they found the wet ball hard to handle all afternoon.
Neil Giddy missed a penalty and Bideford were unable to get the ball over the line from close range in the final minutes of the first half, with one attempt leaving flanker Matt Dennis with a twisted knee.
By that stage Chard wing Massey had been yellow-carded for blocking Olde after the Bideford player had kicked ahead. He only returned after the hosts had scored a try four minutes into the second half.
From a scrum, Buckland, coming off his wing into the centre, picked a superb path through the first line of defence and had the strength to force himself over despite the attention of three tacklers.
When Lovesy was sin-binned for trampling on Jono Mock at a ruck, Bideford must have sensed another chance to close the gap, but they were unable to score while the prop was off the field as Chard's defence and their own errors kept them out.
"Our error count needs to be a lot lower," said Priest. "We lost a couple of crucial rucks with sloppy play and we were gaining ground but lost crucial lineouts.
"These mistakes cost you and give a chance to the opposition to regroup.
"You can do all the fancy moves and drills but if you can't get the basics right you aren't going to get out of first gear."