The Western Force came within centimetres of ending their losing run, but in the end it was to no avail as the Stormers secured a 13-6 win in Saturday night’s Super Rugby clash at nib Stadium.
The Force appeared destined to crash to their eighth straight loss when the Stormers opened up a seven-point lead in the 76th minute and Kyle Godwin was sent to the sin bin.
But the Perth-based franchise unleashed a series of frenetic attacks at the death, with fullback Dane Haylett-Petty held up over the line in the 82nd minute to deny the Force the chance to draw the game.
The defeat was a cruel blow to the Force, who dominated for most of the match and deserved to come away with the win – or a draw at the very least.
Should the Force lose to the Chiefs in New Zealand next Friday, it will equal the franchise’s longest ever losing run of nine set back in their debut season of 2006.
The expected return of Force captain Matt Hodgson from hamstring surgery comes at a crucial time after stand-in skipper Sam Wykes injured his ankle early against the Stormers.
The Stormers were awarded a penalty try in the 10th minute courtesy of their powerful scrum, helping the visitors open up a 10-6 lead by half-time.
Wykes limped off in the 21st minute with an ankle injury, forcing coach Michael Foley to thrust flanker Steve Mafi into the second row.
The Stormers were also left with an injury worry when winger Jacobus Van Wyk was carried off with a leg injury.
The Force unleashed wave after wave of attack in the second half, but they couldn’t find their way to the tryline.
Sometimes it was the Stormers’ steely defence standing in their way.
On other occasions, the Force were their own worst enemy – either failing to offload when they should, or offloading when the pass wasn’t on.
The Stormers were holding on for dear life on numerous occasions.
But when they nailed a penalty against the run of play in the 76th minute and Godwin was sent to the bin, it looked as though another game would slip through the Force’s fingers.
That would prove to be the case, but not before the home side unleashed a series of frenetic attacking thrusts in the dying minutes.
Haylett-Petty did his best to ground the ball when he barged over the line, but a host of Stormers’ bodies meant it was impossible for the TMO to award the try despite the celebrations of Force hooker Heath Tessmann.