Reds limp over line
The Reds made hard work of a 23-13 victory over the Rebels in Melbourne.
The defending champions looked capable of a massacre in the first 25 minutes, but butchered numerous chances, including one where Saia Faingaa knocked the ball on over the tryline. That score would have built on the ascendency they'd gained through an earlier Ben Tapuai converted try, and surely would have been a decisive blow to the Rebels' spirit.
Instead the Reds gradually lost the upper hand in a match they had completely dominated, one in which they had utterly controlled the flow and tempo of play. The Rebels' confidence grew and they subsequently dragged themselves back into contention through a couple of James O'Connor penalties and then, crucially, a try through Lachlan Mitchell after the half-time siren had sounded.
Reds coach Ewen McKenzie would undoubtedly have been livid that his side trailed 13-10 at the break, but they responded immediately after the restart, Nick Frisby rounding off a move that featured some excellent passing interchanges. Quade Cooper converted from the touchline and the Reds looked poised to regain the momentum.
They were seldom seriously tested on defence, but despite bossing possession and territory could not put the Rebels away. The hosts came close to cutting the deficit a couple of times, but the Reds finally sealed the result with a late Cooper penalty.
Rebels – Try: Lachlan Mitchell. Conversion: James O'Connor. Penalties: James O'Connor (2).
Reds – Tries: Ben Tapuai, Nick Frisby. Conversions: Quade Cooper (2). Penalties: Cooper (3).
Rebels – 15 Angus Roberts, 14 Richard Kingi, 13 Mitch Inman, 12 Lachlan Mitchell, 11 Alex Rokobaro, 10 James O'Connor (c), 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Scott Higginbotham, 7 Scott Fuglistaller, 6 Luke Jones, 5 Cadeyrn Neville, 4 Hugh Pyle, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 Ged Robinson, 1 Nic Henderson.
Subs: 16 Shota Horie, 17 Paul Alo-Emile, 18 Jordy Reid, 19 Jarrod Saffy, 20 Nic Stirzaker, 21 Rory Sidey, 22 Tom English.
Reds – 15 Jono Lance, 14 Dom Shipperley, 13 Anthony Faingaa, 12 Ben Tapuai, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Nick Frisby, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Ed Quirk, 5 Ed O'Donoghue, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 James Slipper (c), 2 Saia Faingaa, 1 Greg Holmes.
Subs: 16 James Hanson, 17 Albert Anae, 18 Adam Wallace-Harrison, 19 Radike Samo, 20 Ben Lucas, 21 Mike Harris, 22 Chris Feauai-Sautia.
Photo: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images