A late try by Vodacom Stormers flanker Luke Watson denied Western Force their first Super 14 rugby win by the narrowest of margins in Perth on Friday.
The South Africans were trailing 25-21 with just four minutes left when Watson crashed over to give them a 26-25 win over the luckless newcomers.
The relief for the visitors was as palpable as the disappointment for the Force after they had held the initiative for large parts of a game.
The Vodacom Stormers, who had just one victory to their credit and had lost their last five home matches, also earned a bonus point for scoring four tries.
“I take my hat off to the boys, they played very well, but also to the Force, they put up a good game,” Vodacom Stormers captain De Wet Barry said.
“They played with a lot of heart … it was always going to be a tough one here.”
Force captain Nathan Sharpe said his team was devastated to lose after looking set for victory.
“The boys are shattered. We certainly put ourselves in a position to win tonight,” he said.
“At crucial times we were making mistakes and just letting the pressure off. I couldn’t remember the amount of times we had pressure in their 22m and they’ve gone 80m.
“That’s a disappointing thing for us. When we’ve got pressure on, we’ve got to keep it on.”
The Force started with the attacking flair that has been missing from their matches so far this season, applying pressure to the Vodacom Stormers from the kick-off.
The rewards followed swiftly when full-back Cameron Shepherd crossed for a hotly-disputed try in the third minute, with Barry claiming in vain that his players had been obstructed.
Shepherd converted the try and a penalty in the 17th minute to give the home side a 10-0 lead.
They continued to hold their own, showing some excellent defence until the Vodacom Stormers hit back with a converted try to fly-half Naas Olivier.
The visitors then took the lead in the 29th minute when Watson crossed for his first try of the night, simply running through at least three Force defenders.
Both sides had good scoring opportunities in the dying stages of the half but neither could finish — apart from another penalty to Shepherd — and the home side trailed 13-14 at the break.
Three minutes into the second half scrum-half Bolla Conradie crossed after a pass from Barry but the Force replied in the 54th minute when Scott Staniforth made the most of an overlap out wide to bring the hosts back in touch.
In the 66th minute, the Force looked like they might have snatched their first win when replacement winger Gavin De Bartolo kicked ahead and re-gathered a bouncing ball to open up a 25-21 lead.
The home team held on to the lead until Watson’s second try dashed their hopes.