Coach Marc Yeates admitted “the better team won” after Towcestrians’ winning run of 11 straight league victories came to a shuddering halt away at Maidenhead on Saturday.
Tows had been seemingly cruising to both to promotion and the title in South West One Ease but this 33-19 defeat opens the door to those chasing them, with second-placed Salisbury now nine points behind.
Yeates said: “We’ve set high standards for ourselves all season and today we fell well short of those levels.
“Being a side sitting at the top of the table we have to understand that opposition are going to raise their game and Maidenhead did that, they really competed at the breakdown and made life very difficult for us and the better team won.
There is no game this coming week so we will regroup and work hard and prepare for a tough league and cup run in.
“Myself and the rest of the coaching staff expect a response and I’m sure the boys are looking forward to putting things right against Newbury.”
Tows started well with a try through Craig Holton within the first five minutes, converted by James Falvey, but then started to cause their own problems by conceding penalties, two of which were converted to get the home side back in the game.
Good play followed from the Maidenhead full-back who dummied a kick and ran, spreading the ball wide, with Tows scrambling in defence a penalty was conceded which was rifled into the corner and from the resulting line-out, the hosts drove over to lead 13-7.
With Tows seemingly indecisive and disorganised, Maidenhead scored again and converted to stretch their lead and poor discipline from Towcester, giving away needless penalties by back chatting to the referee, allowed Maidenhead to pop over another penalty.
Putting a concerted passage of play together, Tows finally showed some class with Holton going over for his second try of the half.
Falvey’s conversion brought them to within nine at half-time but he then missed a very kickable penalty and Tows were up against it, handling errors and a failure to get to grips with the referee saw Tows game fall to pieces.
A yellow card for Eugene Baxter led to a second line-out drive try for the home side followed by a penalty.
The last 10 minutes belonged to Tows but with the game well gone a consolation try from Matt Yuill concluded a disappointing performance
Elsewhere, Tows IIs beat Ampthill IIs 19-12, the IIIs won 43-19 at Bletchley and the Colts were beaten by a strong Bedford outfit in the East Midlands Cup.