Featherstone Lions were left frustrated by refereeing decisions as they had two men sent-off and three sent to the sin-bin on the way to a 34-20 defeat at home to Ince Rose Bridge.
The Lions felt they were hammered by the Barrow-based official with one onlooker describing it as “the worst ever display by a referee at the Mill Pond Stadium.”
But, controversies aside, Ince were the better team on the day and they took the National Conference Division One points away with them after they outfought the Lions with their aggressive game working out well for them.
The hosts were poor and a shadow of the side that beat fellow play-off contenders Underbank the previous week. But the display of the man in the middle was the main talking point of the game.
Only Brendon Gibbins, Josh Hardcastle and Dean Gamble worthy of a mention for Lions as their hopes of a top four finish were severely dented.
It started well enough for the Lions as they took the lead when Josh Hardcastle’s fine run was backed up by Anthony Yates, who went over for the first try.
Ian Jackson’s conversion made it 6-0, but Ince hit back with a try and a goal then took the lead with a penalty after the hosts went down a man for 10 minutes with a player in the sin-bin.
More pressure led to another converted Bridge try and it was 14-6. Although Hardcastle and Gamble were working hard the Lions could not get a grip on the game due to countless penalties given against them.
They had their second man sent to the bin as Jake Perkins saved what looked a certain try wide out. Joe Fox and Hardcastle had a couple of tilts, but the visitors’ scrambling defence was good.
Both sides then had a man yellow carded, leaving the Lions with 10 men for a spell during which Ince were awarded a try, getting away with what appeared to be a knock-on.
The visitors followed up with a penalty and were 22-6 up at half-time.
The first score after the turn round was going to be crucial and it went to Bridge almost from the restart as their winger scored a fine individual try, which was converted.
Featherstone did not give up with Gibbins twice held on the visitors’ line, but they could not complete one set of six while the visitors just did the hard graft.
Lions’ woes continued as they had a man sent-off, but they did grab a lifeline when Scott Glassell went over for a try and Jackson goaled to make it 28-12.
Scott Glassell and Jack Ratcliffe were held close as the hosts attacked again and they were rewarded as Fox went over after a good George Nuttall run.
But Ince landed a penalty from half-way and sealed the win with a try wide out.
Danny Glassell’s late solo try proved to be just a consolation and Lions’ misery was complete when they had a second man sent-off in the final seconds.
Lions will want to bounce back this Saturday in their final home league game when they host fellow promotion chasers Skirlaugh Bulls, 1.30pm.