The Western Force’s losing run stretched to seven games after they suffered a 24-15 defeat to the lowly Cheetahs in Perth on Saturday night.
The Force led 15-8 after Chris Alcock made the most of a rolling maul to barge over in the 43rd minute.
But the hot boot of Cheetahs flyhalf Joe Pietersen and a try to Springboks flanker Heinrich Brussow sealed the win for the visitors.
The Force were left to rue a series of missed opportunities in the second half – much like what happened on their recent tour of South Africa where they controlled possession but still lost to the Bulls and Sharks.
The latest result left the Force with a 1-7 record and facing a fight just to avoid the wooden spoon.
The Cheetahs’ third win of the season keeps them in 12th spot.
Saturday’s match was meant to be a celebration of the Force’s 10th year in the competition.
But the Cheetahs rained on the parade in front of a crowd of 9710.
Both sides showed a willingness to swing it wide during the opening half, and it was the Cheetahs who were rewarded after just six minutes when winger Raymond Rhule touched down in the corner.
Force fullback Dane Haylett-Petty was busy early, and his clever flick pass out the back allowed Luke Morahan to score in the 15th minute.
Flanker Kane Koteke was left seeing stars in the first half after bravely copping the full brunt of Cheetahs prop Coenie Oosthuizen while making an important tackle.
Both sides traded penalties after that, and tempers threatened to boil over on the stroke of half-time when a push-and-shove developed.
The Force appeared to be on their way to victory when a well executed rolling maul pushed Alcock across the line early in the second half.
But the Force couldn’t land the killer blow, despite going close on numerous occasions.
Instead, Pietersen nailed two penalties, a drop goal, and a conversion in the second half to get his side over the line and deny the Force a losing bonus point.