Lions flank Stephen Ferris was not impressed with referee Wayne Barnes’s performance in Bloemfontein.
Ferris was named Man of the Match but was yellow carded in the first half for his cynical infringement, costing his team 14 points in 10 minutes. By contrast, Brüssow gave yet another masterclass in his work at the breakdown, but the Irishman felt he was aided by Barnes’s officiating.
Virtually every ruck saw Brüssow the first man present, effecting crucial turnovers at will. When he was the tackler he got straight to his feet and played the ball, but Ferris was not convinced.
‘The ref was pretty hard on us,’ Ferris told keo.co.za. ‘Every time they went into a ruck, they seemed to come up with the ball, but every time we contested we seemed to get penalised.’
Captain Paul O’Connell acknowledged the Lions didn’t commit sufficient numbers to the contact points. Ferris however, saw fault with Barnes.
‘I don’t think that was the case [not committing enough individuals to the rucks]. The breakdown was very poorly refereed. There seemed to be different standards for them compared to us in the way it was handled.
‘Brüssow got away with murder and they all got away with a few things. But credit to them, they played the ref better than us,’ he said.
Ferris’s sin-binning was the result of him not making an effort to roll away at the tackle in the red zone. He didn’t see it that way.
‘There were a few bodies on top of me and guys were flying in from everywhere. It was also one of the first few penalties we had given away.’
The Ulster flank did give credit to the Cheetahs’ defence, which only conceded two soft tries in the opening quarter.
‘I’m not saying the refereeing was the reason it was so tight. Fair play to the Cheetahs, they just kept going. They were definitely the most physical of the three sides we’ve played.
‘You could see there were no holes out there and we couldn’t get those offloads away – which was the case in the opening couple of fixtures. Their defence was really tight and it was good to have a hit-out like that. We expect similar stuff in the upcoming weeks.’
Ferris admitted Louis Strydom’s attempted drop-goal, which would have put the hosts into a one-point lead with less than five minutes remaining, looked like it was heading over.
‘It was very close,’ he said. ‘At one stage it was swinging towards the poles and it missed by two feet max. If it had gone over, however, I was confident we could come back from that.’
By Grant Ball, in Bloemfontein