Kurtley Beale continued to give Australia coach Robbie Deans a selection headache with another controlled performance at flyhalf, kicking the game-winning penalty from the sideline as the Melbourne Rebels beat the Western Force 32-31 in their Super Rugby clash in Perth yesterday.
Beale, who has principally played at fullback for the Wallabies, slotted into the pivotal role at flyhalf after Danny Cipriani was released from his contract last month.
The Rebels backline responded, operating with more direction and purpose since the 23-year-old Beale took the No. 10 jersey with his deft passing, linebreaking ability and tactical kicking keeping them going forward.
With Queensland’s Quade Cooper only returning on Saturday from a serious knee injury and Rebels utility James O’Connor recovering from a lacerated liver, Beale’s form is putting pressure on Deans to pick him in the position for their tests against Scotland and Wales next month.
Yesterday, Beale again proved to be the fulcrum of the Rebels’ attack as they scored four tries in the first half, two to lock Cadeyrn Neville, and continued their momentum from their 28-19 upset win over the Canterbury Crusaders last week.
The Force, who had lost their previous five games, also played their part in providing a spectacle of high-tempo running rugby in extremely warm conditions, with first-half tries to Fijian winger Napolioni Nalaga and No. 8 Ben McCalman.
The visitors went in at halftime with a 26-15 lead that was reduced shortly after the break when Force replacement winger Alfie Maafi jinked his way through porous defense.
Force scrumhalf Brett Sheehan then slotted a penalty from about halfway to bring the score to 26-25, though Beale extended the gap again with his first penalty as the standard of the match degenerated through poor handling and decisionmaking.
Force flyhalf Ben Seymour then added two further penalties to give the Force a 31-29 lead with six minutes remaining before Beale struck his second penalty with three minutes left to seal the win.
“It was a really good performance in that first half,” Rebels captain Gareth Delve said in a pitchside interview. “We looked really good in attack, but the second half, we are really disappointed. They came back at us and it was pretty tense in the end.”