The Rebels ran in five tries to beat the Blues 42-22 in Melbourne on Friday. BRENTON CHELIN reports.
The win – the Rebels' fourth in five matches – sees the Melbourne-based franchise move above the Lions in the Vodacom Super Rugby log, although they still find themselves two points off in their quest for a play-off berth.
The Rebels were thoroughly deserving of their victory, having never trailed in the match. Their defensive work, especially at the breakdown, caused the Blues problems all evening, forcing mistakes from the visitors which were seized upon to great effect.
It was the Rebels' defensive pressure that would lead to their first try. Jack Debreczeni intercepted a wide pass from the Blues before the ball was worked to Colby Fainga'a, who went in for the opening try of the match.
The Blues hit back with a try of their own after Francis Saili punched a hole in midfield before floating a lovely pass out wide for Melani Nanai to go over in the corner.
The Rebels restored their advantage in controversial circumstances. Pat Leafa appeared to use the incorrect ball when taking a quick throw, and Toby Smith took full advantage to shrug off two Blues' defenders to race down the touchline and score.
However, a penalty from the boot of Ihaia West and a converted try from replacement scrumhalf Jamison Gibson-Park saw the Rebels' lead whittled down to just one point 10 minutes into the second half, before Scott Higginbotham spotted a hole in the Blues' fringe defence to restore the buffer.
George Moala looked to have given the Blues hope of a comeback, but a mix-up from the kick-off allowed Dom Shipperley through to wrap up the bonus point for the hosts. Debreczeni added some gloss to the scoreline with a try in the final minute following more good work from Shipperley to wrap up a good all-round performance from the Australians.
Rebels – Tries: Colby Fainga'a, Toby Smith, Scott Higginbotham, Dom Shipperley, Jack Debreczeni. Conversions: Mike Harris (4). Penalties: Harris (3).
Blues – Tries: Melani Nanai, Jamison Gibson-Park, George Moala. Conversions: Ihaia West (2). Penalty: West.
Rebels – 15 Mike Harris, 14 Tom English, 13 Dom Shipperley, 12 Mitch Inman, 11 Sefanaia Naivalu, 10 Jack Debreczeni, 9 Nic Stirzaker, 8 Scott Higginbotham (c), 7 Jordy Reid, 6 Colby Fainga'a, 5 Lopeti Timani, 4 Luke Jones, 3 Paul Alo-Emile, 2 Pat Leafa, 1 Toby Smith.
Subs: 16 Tom Sexton, 17 Cruze Ah-Nau, 18 Tim Metcher, 19 Cadeyrn Neville, 20 Scott Fuglistaller, 21 Luke Burgess, 22 Bryce Hegarty, 23 Telusa Veainu.
Blues – 15 Lolagi Visinia. 14 Melani Nanai, 13 Francis Saili, 12 George Moala, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Ihaia West, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Steven Luatua (c), 7 Brendon O'Connor, 6 Akira Ioane, 5 Hayden Triggs, 4 Culum Retallick, 3 Angus Ta'avao, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Subs: 16 Greg Pleasants-Tate, 17 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 18 Sam Prattley, 19 Josh Bekhuis, 20 Joe Edwards, 21 Jamison Gibson-Park, 22 Simon Hickey, 23 Hamish Northcott.
Photo: Darrion Traynor/Getty Images