Taniela Tupou has limped off with a calf injury and the Queensland Reds' horror record against New Zealand Super Rugby rivals worsened in a frustrating loss to the Chiefs.
The Chiefs won 27-25 - and the penalty count 15-8 - at Suncorp Stadium on Friday, the visitors constantly rewarded at scrum-time and around the ruck.
The loss was the 22nd in their last 24 games against New Zealand opposition for the Reds, who are reigning Australian domestic champions.
It saw the Reds (7-3) drop out of Super Rugby Pacific's top four, the Chiefs (7-3) jumping them in a crucial race for a home final.
Chiefs coach Clayton McMillan described the win as "ugly but important", denying claims his team were purposely wheeling the scrum.
"We feel we've got the best scrum in the competition," he said.
"I know the man in the middle with the whistle will get a lot of flack for raising his arm.
"(But) we're the most disciplined team in the competition (in terms of penalties conceded); there's no need to wheel or play silly buggers.
"We scrum square over the ball ... the Reds have a good scrum but we wanted to see if they're prepared to scrum for longer. Turns out sometimes they weren't."
Reds coach Brad Thorn bit his lip when asked his thoughts on the scrum battle.
"I thought there was some walking around there but it is what it is, it's fish and chip paper," he said.
"I want to show credit and respect to them ... there were some little moments we didn't capitalise."
One came when All Black Quinn Tupaea ran from his opposite wing to somehow stop Fraser McReight scoring a go-ahead try.
Instead, they raced down the other end, Jock Campbell was yellow-carded for a deliberate knock down - his hand's reflex movement unluckily glancing the ball - and then No.8 Pita Gus Sowakula scored to put the visitors ahead 27-18.
A red card for Chiefs substitute Samipeni Finau for a marginal high shot on McReight opened the door for the Reds with five minutes to play.
Hunter Paisami scored almost immediately but from the restart was penalised for obstruction, bumping into five-eighth Lawson Creighton in a seemingly innocuous incident.
A Chiefs knock-on from the scrum offered them one last opportunity after the siren, only for the Reds to be penalised for another ruck infringement.
It capped a dour game that featured excessive kicking in a first half that finished 13-13 and with Wallabies scrum cornerstone Tupou hobbling to the sideline. The Reds are hopeful it's a corked calf and not a muscle tear.
Livewire halfback Tate McDermott set up Josh Flook for an opportunistic try but the captain again lamented one that got away.
"A lot of those decision are 50-50 ... but it's over and we're bigger than blaming that loss on the ref," a gutted McDermott said.
"We had opportunities to ice that game and didn't take it.
"Next week (against the Highlanders) is a massive game for our season ... we've lost two on the trot and that one really hurt."