Reds pip Rebels at the death

Samu Kerevi scored a 79th-minute try to guide the Reds to a 29-24 bonus-point win against the Rebels in Melbourne on Saturday, writes MARIETTE ADAMS.

The scores were locked up a 24-24 after the Rebels had overturned a 12-point deficit. But the Reds dominated possession and applied all the pressure in the closing stages, resulting in Kerevi stepping off his left foot before dotting down for the match-defining try. The win ends the Reds’ 14-game losing streak on the road.

With a combined three wins and 18 log points between the sides from 19 matches played before this clash, both sides miraculously still had a shot at qualifying for the playoffs. As it turned out, it was the Reds who collected maximum log points to improve their chances of overthrowing the Brumbies at the top of the Australian conference.

As expected, it was a messy affair on all fronts. The breakdown was a lottery, the handling skills were atrocious at times and both teams’ discipline let them down. Fortunately for the visitors, they had a better conversion rate from opportunities created.

Rebels captain Reece Hodge kicked three penalties in the first half, but three tries lifted the Reds to a 17-9 lead at the break, despite the Queenslanders conceding 14 turnovers.

Hulking backs Kerevi and Eto Nabuli scored the opening tries for the Reds, before Stephen Moore barged over from the back of an authoritative lineout maul. They could have led by a bigger margin, but Quade Cooper only succeeded with one conversion.

Hodge continued to keep his side in the contest with a fourth penalty. The teams then exchanged tries through Will Miller and Scott Higginbotham, which saw the Reds retain their slender five-point buffer.

The Reds fell apart in the last quarter just as the Rebels’ execution at the set pieces started to improve. With 10 minutes remaining, the Reds conceded a penalty and Hodge opted to set a lineout. After a six-phase attack, the ball went wide and Marika Koroibete ran into space to score and draw level.

It set up a frenetic finish. With the tryline at his mercy, Higginbotham squandered a golden opportunity to seal the win for the Reds when he failed to control possession from a pin-point kick-pass.

The Rebels cleared their lines, but the Reds moved into the 22 again before Kerevi scored the match-winning try.

Rebels – Tries: Will Miller, Marika Koroibete. Conversion: Reece Hodge. Penalties: Hodge (4).
Reds – Tries: Samu Kerevi (2), Eto Nabuli, Stephen Moore, Scott Higginbotham. Conversions: Quade Cooper (2).

Rebels – 15 Reece Hodge, 14 Sefa Naivalu, 13 Tom English, 12 Mitch Inman, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Ben Volavola, 9 Ben Meehan, 8 Amanaki Mafi, 7 Colby Fainga'a, 6 Hugh Sinclain, 5 Dominic Day, 4 Steve Cummins, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 James Hanson, 1 Toby Smith.
Subs: 16 Siliva Siliva, 17 Fereti Sa'aga, 18 Tyrel Lomax, 19 Culum Retallick, 20 Sean McMahon, 21 Harrison Goddard, 22 Will Miller, 23 Jack Maddocks.

Reds – 15 Karmichael Hunt, 14 Campbell Magnay, 13 Samu Kerevi (c), 12 Duncan Paia'aua, 11 Eto Nabuli, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Nick Frisby, 8 Scott Higginbotham, 7 George Smith, 6 Hendrik Tui, 5 Lukhan Tui, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Sam Talakai, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Sef Fa'agase.
Subs: 16 Alex Mafi, 17 Kirwan Sanday, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Izack Rodda, 20 Adam Korczyk, 21 Moses Sorovi, 22 Hamish Stewart, 23 Izaia Perese.

Photo: Scott Barbour/Getty Images

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Mariette Adams