The Melbourne Rebels have defeated conference rivals the Queensland Reds 30-24 at AAMI Park.
A damaging rolling maul allowed the Melburnians to flex their muscle up front and ensure the Rebels would go 2-0 against Brad Thorn’s men this campaign.
The Rebels showed their hand early, swinging the ball from one side of the field to the other and making impressive inroads into Queensland territory.
However, it would be the Reds to score first, courtesy of a Bryce Hegarty 30 metre penalty after some over eager Rebels defenders were caught offside.
The predicted rain never eventuated during the match, but there was still enough dew on the surface to make grubber kicks difficult to defend. Dane Haylett-Petty’s effort in the tenth minute from a neatly placed Quade Cooper kick was denied only after intervention from the TMO, but the incident only highlighted the difficulty of handling the ball on the deck.
The Reds responded with an aerial raid but didn’t get the result they were after when a reckless attempt by Samu Kerevi in the air left Will Genia in a dangerous position.
The Reds captain was left seeing yellow and the Rebels leveraged the advantage to march 50 metres up field from back to back lineout mauls.
The forwards were unfairly denied the opportunity to convert the pressure into a try for one of their own, instead the backs were released from 2 metres out and Koroibete crashed over for just his second try of the year.
The Melburnians lead was cut to just a point in the 26th minute via a Hegarty penalty, but it would matter little after the Reds failed to exit their quarter effectively from the ensuing restart.
Under immense pressure from the weight of Rebels possession, the visitors would eventually crack when a Rebels maul steamed over the line with Anaru Rangi claiming the try.
The Rebels looked to be in control heading into the half, but they hadn’t counted on the wizardry of young Isaac Lucas. The replacement, only introduced after an early injury to Reds fullback Hamish Stewart, exploited his much bigger opponents with speed and footwork to score a brilliant try down the right edge.
The joy was short lived; a late yellow card to Queensland number 8 Scott Higginbotham for repeated Reds infringement made the task tougher for a team who had already seen one player in the sin bin.
The one-man advantage would hurt the visitors when Reece Hodge broke into the backfield from a deft Billy Meakes short ball.
Cut down short of the line, support was found in the unlikeliest of sources; prop Tetera Faulkner diving over from 5 metres out for a crowd pleasing try.
Hodge would turn provider again in the 51st minute, finding space on the right edge and linking with his captain Dane Haylett Petty on the inside to add a bit of breathing space to the score.
There was concern for Rebels flyhalf Quade Cooper in the 54th minute when his head got in the way of a rampaging Samu Kerevi; the playmaker taken from the field as a safety precaution.
The loss of Cooper was compounded moments later by a try from Reds replacement Harry Hoopert. The prop, who had only just entered the field of play, latched onto a rolling maul for a try that brought the Reds well and truly back into the contest.
An exchange of penalty goals kept the points difference to just six, but with legs tiring it was going to be up to the benches to decide the result.
A poorly executed cross field kick by Hegarty gifted the Rebels territory which soon turned into points when Reece Hodge punished the Reds for a breakdown infringement.
Hodge’s three points was mirrored by Hegarty on full time, critically allowing the visitors to pick up the losing bonus point in what is a congested conference.
Tries: Koroibete, Rangi, Faulkner, D. Haylett-Petty
Conversions: Cooper (2)
Penalties: Hodge (2)
Tries: I. Lucas, Hoopert
Penalties: Hegarty (4)