Rebels end Bulls’ play-off hopes

Date published: June 6 2015

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The Rebels returned to the victory trail with a hard-fought 21-20 victory over the Bulls in Melbourne on Saturday.

The result has dire consequences for the men from Pretoria as it means they finish their overseas tour without registering a single win but more importantly it has ended their hopes of making the play-offs.

The Rebels' preparations suffered a blow shortly before kick off when their All Black centre Tamati Ellison was ruled out through injury.

As a result, Dom Shipperley shifted to outside centre from the wing, with Bryce Hegarty elevated off the bench to start in the number 14 jersey and Scott Fuglistaller took Hegarty's place the bench.

That change in their starting line-up didn't prove disruptive and the Rebels outscored their visitors by three tries to two with Sean McMahon, Jack Debreczeni and Lopeti Timani crossing the whitewash for the home side.

The Bulls secured a bonus point for losing by less than seven points but with just one more league match to play they are now out of contention for a place in this season's play-offs.

The visitors showed their intent from the outset when they kicked for touched when awarded a penalty early on. From the ensuing line-out Victor Matfield gathered from Jacques du Plessis at the tail of the set-piece before selling the defence a dummy and setting off towards the tryline.

The veteran Bok was stopped just short but Dean Greyling gathered before barging over for the game's opening try which Jacques-Louis Potgieter converted.

The Rebels didn't take that lying down and struck back with a Sean McMahon try in the 11th minute after Scott Higginbotham and Nic Stirzaker traded passes after making a blindside break from the back of a scrum. Stirzaker's return pass to his captain caught the cover defence by surprise and Higginbotham threw another inside pass to the on-rushing McMahon who dotted down.

Mike Harris drew the hosts level with the conversion but after that frantic start, there was a drop in intensity and the next 15 minutes was highlighted by plenty of unforced errors from both sides.

Jack Debreczeni had a chance to give the Rebels the lead in the 20th minute, after the Bulls were caught offside on defence, but although his effort from the halfway mark had the distance it drifted to the left of the uprights.

Five minutes later Toby Smith was penalised for illegal scrummaging and Potgieter restored the visitors' lead with via the kicking tee.

The Bulls extended that lead in typical fashion on the half-hour mark when Lappies Labuschagne scored their second try from the back of a driving maul at a line-out inside the Rebels' 22.

Potgieter converted to give the visitors a 10-point lead but a converted Debreczeni try –  after a show and go close to the Bulls' try-line – on the stroke of half-time kept the Rebels in the hunt as they went into the sheds for half-time.

The visitors added the first points of the second half when Potgieter kicked another penalty shortly after the restart when the Rebels infringed at a ruck but they were dealt a blow when Greyling recieved a yellow card for slowing the ball down at a ruck close to his tryline.

The Rebels made their numerical advantage pay and after an extended period close the visitors' tryline, Lopeti Timani smashed his way through three defenders before scoring his side's third try.

The Bulls fought back and although Burger Odendaal crossed the whitewash twice shortly within two minutes shortly after Timani's try both efforts were disallowed.

Odendaal thought he had restored his side's lead after twisting his way past a couple of defenders before dotting down but the TMO ruled that it was inconclusive whether the ball was grounded.

Shortly afterwards the midfielder was over in the right-hand corner but this time he had a foot in touch. The Bulls tried several more times to breach the hosts defence in the final quarter but a combination of errors and resilient defence kept them at bay.

The scorers:

For Rebels:
Tries: McMahon, Debreczeni, Timani
Cons: Harris 3

For Bulls:
Tries: Greyling, Labuschagne
Cons: Potgieter 2
Pens: Potgieter 2
Yellow Card: Greyling

Rebels: 15 Mike Harris, 14 Bryce Hegarty, 13 Dom Shipperley, 12 Mitch Inman, 11 Cam Crawford, 10 Jack Debreczeni, 9 Nic Stirzaker, 8 Scott Higginbotham (c), 7 Colby Fainga’a, 6 Sean McMahon, 5 Lopeti Timani, 4 Luke Jones, 3 Paul Alo-Emile, 2 Pat Leafa, 1 Toby Smith.
Replacements: 16 Tom Sexton, 17 Cruze Ah-Nau, 18 Tim Metcher, 19 Sam Jeffries, 20 Scott Fuglistaller, 21 Ben Meehan, 22 Jordy Reid, 23 Tom English.

Bulls: 15 Jesse Kriel, 14 Francois Hougaard, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Travis Ismaiel, 10 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Pierre Spies , 7 Jacques du Plessis, 6 Lappies Labuschagne, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Flip van de Merwe, 3 Marcel van der Merwe, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 Dean Greyling.
Replacements: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Werner Kruger, 19 Grant Hattingh, 20 Arno Botha, 21 Tian Schoeman, 22 Bjorn Basson, 23 Jurgen Visser.

Referee: Nick Briant

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