The Reds bemoaned a number of calls made by South African referee Lourens van der Merwe in their 20-35 loss to the Sharks at the weekend.
Despite an impressive second-half fight back at Kings Park, the reds left Durban empty handed.
Down 6-25 at half time, the Reds scored second half tries through Mike Harris and Will Genia – to open up the chance of a comeback victory, before a late Sharks try killed off the match.
Second half replacement Beau Robinson was carded for infringing at the breakdown in the 67th minute, which coach Richard Graham said was a crucial point in the game.
“At that point, we still had an opportunity,” the Reds coach said.
“We finished strongly, so it would probably have come down to how we managed the last 13 minutes,” Graham added.
“I don’t think the breakdown was refereed very well, so I’m frustrated in that sense.”
Reds captain James Horwill spent several instances speaking to Van der Merwe.
“There were certain things that we didn’t get the rub of the green, but that’s rugby sometimes,” Horwill said.
The add injury to insult replacement prop Ben Daley went off the field in second half with a knee problem and headed back to Brisbane on Sunday to have scans.
The teams scored two tries each, but the Sharks kicked seven penalties to make the difference.
Both Graham and Horwill lamented the number of clear chances that the Reds let slip, in particular Mike Harris dropping the ball on the tryline, shortly before half-time.
“There were plenty of opportunities either side of half-time to get closer, and we just didn’t take them,” Horwill said.
“Those guys know themselves they missed opportunities, so I don’t need to say anything to them,” Graham added, looking ahead to their next clash against the Lions at Ellis Park this coming Saturday.
“Our character, when we were down 6-25, was displayed when we came back to 20-28. But our accuracy has got to be better.
“Their spirit has really impressed me, and they continue to fight. We know that we will face something similar to what Frans Steyn did, punishing us from anywhere inside 55 metres.”
Graham added that apart from the missed opportunities, the high penalty count contributed to the result.
“We started the game very well and managed position and possession,” the coach said.
“We then had a 20-minute period where we lost control of the game and decisions at the breakdown compounded the scoreboard pressure,” Graham added.
“The score at half time was challenging, but we composed ourselves and got back to 20-28. At that point the game was where we should have gone on with it.
“We had a couple of opportunities that we didn’t capitalise on and we are disappointed.”
The Reds now move on to Johannesburg where they play the Lions at Ellis Park on Saturday.
“We wake up tomorrow [Monday] and shift our focus to next weekend’s match against the Lions,” Graham said.
“They have started the season strongly and will be buoyed by their win over the Blues.
“We need to prepare well and continue to improve if we are to get the result we are chasing.”