The Melbourne Rebels posted their biggest win in Super Rugby with a 35-14 victory over South Africa’s Central Cheetahs in Melbourne yesterday.
The Rebels, with skipper Scott Higginbotham in outstanding form, scored five tries to two for a bonus-point win over the Cheetahs.
It was Melbourne’s first win in four meetings with the Cheetahs and an encouraging opening game to their Super 15 campaign.
The Rebels dominated the South Africans in the first half to lead 17-0 at halftime and withstood the Cheetahs’ comeback to 24-14 before pulling away in the final 10 minutes.
Quick thinking by Higginbotham created his team’s second try, with a high kick to the right corner for fullback Jason Woodward to score, and the big No. 8 finished it off with a try in stoppage-time after a rousing counterattack.
“It’s a great way to start the season, it’s nice to get a bonus point and they really came back at us in the second half, credit to the boys, they really held on,” Higginbotham said. “We got them on the back foot and it really started to open up for us.”
Melbourne began strongly and scored two tries in the opening 20 minutes before former Wallaby scrumhalf Luke Burgess darted over from a ruck close to the Cheetahs’ tryline to stretch the lead to 17-0.
The Cheetahs hit back early in the second half with replacement Jean Cook scoring off a maul.
However, despite losing openside flanker Scott Fuglistaller to a yellow card in the 51st minute, they clinched a four-try bonus point through Bryce Hegarty.
The Cheetahs scored their second try through replacement Ryno Barnes to get within 10 points, but the home side finished strongly with their fifth try coming deep into stoppage-time through Higginbotham.
“We were very lethargic, especially in the first half, and we weren’t there in attack, we didn’t ask any questions of them,” Cheetahs skipper Adriaan Strauss said.
“Credit to the Rebels, they got a lot of yards on us in attack and they made us pay. We were shocking at ruck time, we lost possession three or four times from the set phase in the first ruck and we couldn’t get any plays going. They definitely upset [us] today, especially at the breakdown,” he added.
The Cheetahs stay in Australia where they will take on the Queensland Reds in Brisbane next Friday, while the Rebels travel to Perth to take on the Western Force.
BLUES 35, CRUSADERS 24
AFP, AUCKLAND, New Zealand
The Auckland Blues staged a stunning comeback in a 35-24 win over the Canterbury Crusaders yesterday, leaving the seven-time champions at the foot of the Super 15 ladder.
The Blues looked down and out as they trailed 17-3 after 30 minutes, but rattled the Crusaders with two tries either side of halftime to run away with the game and claim a bonus point.
Both sides were desperate to make amends for disappointing losses in their opening games, but Crusaders captain Kieran Read said his players failed to maintain their intensity after a good start.
“You’ve got to keep your foot on the throat when you’re up 17-3,” Read said. “[The Blues] are a quality side and if you give them opportunities they’ll take them.”
Read said while the Crusaders would look to improve their execution against the Western Stormers next week, they were not hitting the panic button after failing in their first two games.
“We were in the same position last year, it’s important that we rebuild and look toward next week,” he said.