The Kempsey Cannonballs were hit with a double blow in their 29-10 loss against the Grafton Redmen on the road on Saturday.
The loss sees their finals aspirations close to being dashed while key forward Braden Farrawell was given a red card early in the second half and he will be suspended for the contest with the Hastings Valley Vikings.
The match was played in torrential rain and the home side went into the break with a 10-5 advantage.
However, the Cannonballs weren’t consistently playing to the conditions and errors led to Grafton extending their lead to 15-5.
Kempsey answered to reduce the deficit but an incident that saw a Grafton player receive a yellow card and Farrawell seeing red had the momentum swing towards the Redmen.
The remaining 20-minutes of the match was dominated by the Redmen as they pulled away for the bonus point victory.
The loss for the Cannonballs means they fall six points behind the fourth-placed Redmen on the competition table while the Port Macquarie Pirates earned a victory over Wauchope to leapfrog Kempsey.
The Cannonballs will have to win all three of their remaining matches and have other results go their way to reach the finals.
They face Hastings Valley, SCU Marlins and the Pirates to end the season.