The Western Force were left frustrated following their 17-13 Super Rugby defeat to the Cheetahs in South Africa on Sunday morning.
The Force couldn’t take a trick from referee Stuart Berry, with the penalty count at one point reading 15-5 in favour of the Cheetahs in a stop-start match in Bloemfontein.
Force skipper David Pocock was left confused and angry over a number of decisions from Berry, with the Cheetahs capitalising on the favourable rub of the green to post their fourth win of the year.
The Force’s fourth defeat on the trot left them last in the Australian conference with just two wins from 10 outings.
Cheetahs five-eighth Sias Ebersohn, whose wayward boot cost him team victory against the Highlanders last week, nailed two first-half penalties and scrumhalf Tewis de Bruyn added another to give the home side a 9-6 edge at the break.
Force playmaker David Harvey nailed both of his penalties to keep the visitors in touch, but good attacking opportunities were few and far between for the Perth-based franchise.
The Force were controversially denied a try to winger Samu Wara on the stroke of half-time after the assistant referee deemed prop Salesi Ma’afu had illegally affected play in the lead-up.
Ma’afu wrapped his arm around the neck of his opponent at the breakdown, but in reality the incident had little effect on Wara’s ability to break through the Cheetahs’ defence just moments later.
The Force were celebrating shortly after half-time when inside centre Winston Stanley charged down Willie le Roux’s kick and scrambled over for the opening try of the match.
Harvey’s conversion made it 13-9 in the 46th minute, but just eight minutes later the Cheetahs regained the lead when hooker Adriaan Strauss sneaked over in the corner.
Ebersohn failed to nail the tough conversion, but his long-range penalty in the 60th minute proved to be the final points of the match as the Cheetahs held on for victory.