Resilient Rebels repel lowly Highlanders
29 February, 2020, 2:02 pm
The Melbourne Rebels registered a famous 22-28 victory over the Highlanders at Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin.
The hard-fought victory was the Australian franchise’s first in five attempts in Otago, and only their third against the Highlanders in nine Super Rugby clashes, going back to 2011.
The surprise loss is the first back-to-back home defeat for the ‘Landers since 2017. Aaron Mauger’s side lost to the Sharks in round 2 of the tournament.
Andrew Kellaway grabbed a brace as the Rebels ended a long-standing hoodoo in Dunedin.
Matt Toomua added four conversions to his outstanding display at first receiver.
Defeat is the first for the Highlanders to Australian opposition since losing to the Force in 2014.
Two yellow cards for Scott Gregory and Jona Nareki, both on Melbourne skipper Dane Haylett-Petty late in the game, effectively killed any chance of some last-ditch heroics.
The win was only the second of the 2020 Super rugby season for the Rebels, while defeat leaves the Highlanders bottom of the New Zealand conference with a solitary win.
The Rebels raced into a 21-point lead scoring three tries inside the opening quarter of the game through Billy Meakes, Anaru Rangi and Kellaway.
Meakes combined with Toomua after a well-disguised fake driving maul by the forwards.
There was nothing fake about the second try.
This time the visitors collected the throw and drove their opponents back at a rate of knots from 10 metres out.
Things went from bad to worse for the New Zealanders when 14-nil became 19-nil.
Kellaway goes runaway as Highlanders are architects of their downfall
A wayward pass dropped by Josh Ioane but scooped up by Kelleway, who put on the afterburners and raced 75 metres to score against the run of play.
The flyer had a monumental match; he ran for 158 metres while making an offload, three line-breaks and beating four defenders.
Such low yields for offloads is not through lack of skill by the 24-year-old winger. It’s that he doesn’t need to make any; once he beats the first defender, he coasts clear.
The next best running metres by any player was 81, and only two players from either team ran for 50 or more run-metres.
Final Score: Highlanders 22 (14) Rebels 28 (21)
Tries – McKay. A. Smith, Gregory
Pen – J. Ioane
Con – J. Ioane (2)
Cards – Gregory (Yellow, 65′)
Tries – Meakes, Rangi, Kellaway (2)
Con – Toomua (4)
Cards – Meakes (Yellow, 68′), Nareki (Yellow, 79′)
Source: SUPER RUGBY