The Melbourne Rebels hung on for a historic win, beating the Highlanders 28 – 22.
The Melbourne Rebels travelled to Dunedin for a must-win clash for both sides who only had one win each for the season.
For the first time this season ,the Rebels hit the ground running and jumped out of the box with rapid speed. Dominating from the first whistle it only took till the 8th minute before the Rebels were able to convert pressure into points when Billy Meakes bullied his way over the Highlanders line. A few minutes later Rangi added to the scoreboard with a nice try from a lineout drive.
The Highlander were trying hard to work there way into the game, in there first real extended period with the ball they were starting to look dangerous until Kellaway pounced on a loose ball and took off down the field for his first try of the night. twenty-one minutes down and the Rebels had scored a point a minute.
It did not take long before the Highlanders struck back with McKay scoring from a well-worked move.
Billy Meakes in for a try
In the 29th minute with the Rebels hot on attack the referee bought play to a stop as the Highlanders captain James Lentjes had a serious leg injury after being cleaned out of a ruck. While I for one think the ref was completely right to stop the game, I was worried that this extended stoppage was going to be just what the Highlanders needed to get back into the game. Just before half time, the Highlanders crossed again as Aaron Smith finished off some slick passing and closed the gap to 7 points going into the break.
The lead Referee, known as Aaron Smith, scored just before half time.
The Highlanders came out firing in the second half and were applying a lot of pressure on the Rebels defence, trying to find a way to break the very impressive Rebels defence line. Try as they might, they weren’t having much luck.
In the 52nd minute, the Highlanders were looking to attack off a scrum in the Rebels half when Andrew Kellaway intercepted the ball and ran away for a try at the other end of the pitch. His second two-try haul of the year for the Rebels coming at the right time, extending the Rebels lead to 14 points, giving them a little bit of breathing space.
In the 63rd minute, the Highlanders hit back with debut winger Scott Gregory scoring out wide to narrow the Rebels lead to 9 points. His debut went a little downhill 2 minutes later when he miss-timed an attempted take of a high ball and took DHP out in the air dangerously and received a yellow card for his troubles.
The Rebels could not take advantage of the extra man and were under extreme pressure close to there goal line when Billy Meakes received a yellow for offside. It was more a card for repeated infringements in the red zone by the Rebels, so Billy can feel a little hard done by. Both teams battled away at each other and the Highlanders applied immense pressure on the Rebels defence for the remainder on the game.
Two Men who had a top game; Rangi, and Phillip
THrough some real defensive grit, the Rebels managed to hold strong and not leak the try we are accustomed to seeing in this type of tight game. Next time, please take the easy 3 points instead of going to the corner though.
I honestly thought that call was going to cost us the game. But it didn’t. The REbels yet again tick off another milestone; their first win in Dunedin and the first by an Aussie team at this ground since the Force won in 2014.
The Game Changer
Hard to decide what really changed this game. I think it was swinging backwards and forwards and the Highlanders looked like they were going to come back and win right up until the final whistle. I guess I will pick Kellaways second try, was against the run of play as the Highlanders had been in control in the second half and were applying a lot of pressure in the Rebels half.
The G&GR MOTM Could give it to anyone from 1-15 this week, but my pick has to be Matt Toomua in the number 10 jersey. He controlled the game and made some really important tackles in defence. Forming a good partnership with Louwrens and was the missing link last week in the loss to the Sharks. Louwrens and Toomua have started together 2 times for 2 wins. Lets hope they can make it three in a row next week against a wounded Lions team.
Well, where do I start? Matt Phillip was the best forward of the night, made 10 tackles with no missed tackles, was a menace at the line out, a couple of small errors during the game but really is doing a lot of work out there and leading the forward pack for the Rebels. Isi Naisarani was good with 10 runs for 37 meters and 9 tackles. Probably most important for the Rebels/Wallabies is Richard ‘Dickie’ Hardwick managing to string some games together, making a real nuisance of himself around the park and starting to find the form that saw capped back in 2017.
Is Ryan Louwrens wallaby eligible? Well, I hope so. the Rebels scrumhalf has really made the jersey his own in the last few weeks and has to be the form 9 in the conference at the moment. His partnership with Toomua looks to be building nicely and the 9/10 Combo might be the deciding factor in Wallabies selections this year.
Marika Koroibete was quiet on one wing, while Andrew Kellaway stole the show on the other, 7 runs for a whopping 157 meters, 2 clean breaks and 4 defenders beaten all topped off by 2 meat pies. The wing who managed to be in the right place at the right time and showed he would not be caught.
Score & Scorers
Highlanders: 22 (14)
Tries: McKay, Smith, Gregory
Conversions: Ioane 2
Rebels: 28 (21)
Tries: Meakes, Rangi, Kellaway 2
Conversions: Toomua 4
Gregory (Yellow) 65th Minute
Meakes (Yellow)68th Minute
Nareki (Yellow) 78th Minute