Rebels see off disappointing Blues

Date published: May 8 2015

The Rebels kept in touch with the Super Rugby play-off positions as they recorded a 42-22 bonus-point victory over the Blues in Melbourne on Friday.

Five tries were scored by the home side, who feasted on the Blues' mistakes at times as the men from Auckland had their slim hopes of knockout rugby firmly extinguished by a much more clinical Australian outfit.

The Rebels are now provisionally just two points off the top six places and will hope the Force and Brumbies do them a favour this weekend.

Tony McGahan's men were handed a gift three points via Mike Harris after four minutes when Blues lock Hayden Triggs was offside at ruck time.

3-0 was soon 8-0 for the hosts too as seven minutes later, blindside flanker Colby Fainga'a combined with wing Sefanaia Naivalu and number eight Scott Higginbotham to go over for a slick score, which came following turnover ball as Blues wing Tevita Li couldn't hold on to an offload. Unfortunately for the Rebels, the usually reliable Harris could not add the extras.

The Blues meanwhile were wondering how they were not on the scoreboard in Melbourne after powerful inside centre George Moala and hooker Keven Mealamu had gone close either side of Fainga'a's try.

Their drought ended on 27 minutes though when Moala's midfield partner, Francis Saili, broke clear on halfway before firing out a pass to his left wing Melani Nanai, who finished strongly down the touchline. Ihaia West was on target off the tee to reduce the margin to just one point.

However, it was soon 11-7 thanks to Harris' boot when flank Akira Ioane was pinged at ruck time before a moment to forget for the officials.

Referee Angus Gardner and his team incorrectly awarded Rebels prop Toby Smith a try on 36 minutes from a quick line-out that was taken after a ball boy had touched it. That however wasn't discussed in the television match official referral as the Blues were hard done by. That made it 18-7.

The Blues did strike back before the half-time hooter thanks to West's penalty that reduced the arrears to eight points and then came out of their dressing room firing after the turnaround, with replacement scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park starting and finishing an attack with a try.

His score with West's conversion meant it was now 18-17 but credit to the Rebels who struck back with purpose thanks to Higginbotham's score on 51 minutes. That try moved the Wallaby number eight to the top of the chart for the most tries by a forward in Super Rugby history, edging out Owen Finegan.

The Blues weren't done there though and continued to fight with plenty of time remaining in the game, Gibson-Park again sparking things which led to Moala powering over from two metres out. This time West couldn't land the extra two points so it was now 28-22 with thirteen minutes left.

But then came a disastrous moment for the Blues from Jack Debreczeni's resulting restart as the visitors under jumped and then fell off a tackle, with Dom Shipperley cruising over to undo all of their good work. Harris' conversion meant the Rebels were 13 points to the good. 

Just to add the icing on the Rebels' cake, Shipperley then bumped off West on the right wing before he found Debreczeni for a simple run-in to rubber stamp the result at 42-22.

The scorers:

For Rebels:
Tries: Fainga'a, Smith, Higginbotham, Shipperley, Debreczeni
Cons: Harris 4
Pens: Harris 3

For Blues:
Tries: Nanai, Gibson-Park, Moala
Cons: West 2
Pen: 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, 7 Jordy Reid, 6 Colby Fainga’a, 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 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.
Replacements: 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.

Referee: Angus Gardner
Assistant Referees: James Leckie, Graham Cooper
TMO: Ian Smith