Reds comeback thwarts Rebels
March 9, 2012
The Brumbies' Scott Fardy stretches for the line during his side's victory over the Cheetahs © Getty Images
The Reds continued their winning start to the Super Rugby season with an 11-6 victory over the Melbourne Rebels in Brisbane on Saturday.
The defending champions came from behind to claim their third victory, despite failing to fire against the winless, but much-improved, Rebels. The Rebels led 6-3 at half time having dominated much of the opening 40 minutes. James O'Connor kicked two penalties for the Rebels while Mike Harris bounced back from missing a kick at goal for the first time this season by pulling one penalty back for the Reds.
Despite the Rebels' surprising superiority up front and a stellar backline that included Kurtley Beale for the first time this season, they could not breach the Reds' line. And they were left to regret their failure to build a bigger lead as the Reds roared back in the second half. Winger Dominic Shipperley's try in the 54th minute proved the decisive moment of the match and Harris nailed another three-pointer ten minutes later to open a five-point lead that the Rebels never really troubled.
A wasteful Highlanders side were forced to come from behind before eventually overhauling the Waratahs 18-17 in Dunedin. The home side scored two tries to one and just held on to maintain their unbeaten start before a crowd of 17,400. They made it hard for themselves by missing 11 points from the kicking tee but they showed plenty of character to make it three wins in a row. Wallabies playmaker Berrick Barnes made his first appearance of the season for the Waratahs.
A Christian Lealiifano penalty after the siren handed the Brumbies a thrilling 24-23 win over the Cheetahs in their clash at Canberra Stadium. The Cheetahs were unlucky to go home without the victory, after leading for most of the match and by as much as 13 points in the second half. But the Brumbies held their nerve, including opting for an easy penalty with less than five minutes left to narrow the gap to two rather than running the ball in search of the lead.
It paid dividends in the end, after a frantic final three minutes when Brumbies captain Ben Mowen dropped the ball which was called backwards and the Cheetahs then knocked forward. Cheetahs inside centre Philip Snyman then intercepted a ball and made a break, but he opted for a speculative pass which ended in the arms of Pat McCabe who kept the Brumbies' chances alive. The Brumbies then drew the penalty they needed to win the game, and Lealiifano held his nerve when it counted.
The Blues opened their account with a shock 29-23 victory over the Bulls in Pretoria with fly-half Gareth Anscombe scoring all of the visitors' points. The Kiwi playmaker got the ball rolling with a try in the first minute and added another before the break with two conversions and two penalties helping his side into a 20-8 half-time lead. Bulls No.8 Pierre Spies crossed midway through the opening period but his side were chasing the game for much of the contest with two late tries for winger Bjorn Basson only adding a little gloss to the scoreboard.
The Sharks also notched their first win of the season with a 32-20 victory over the Lions in Durban. First half tries from fullback Riaan Viljoen and winger Lwazi Mvovo put the home side in control in the first half and while the Lions rallied with scores of their own after the break from fullback Jaco Taute and replacement Ruan Dreyer, the Sharks kept them at arm's length thanks to further scores from Meyer Bosman and Jacques Botes.
The Chiefs made it back-to-back wins with a 24-19 victory over the Crusaders in Napier on Friday night. Tries from flanker Liam Messam and prop Sona Taumalolo and 10 points from fly-half Aaron Cruden propelled the Chiefs to the top of the New Zealand Conference and condemned last year's beaten finalists to their second successive defeat. Trailing 16-6 at the break, the Crusaders staged a second half comeback with centre Robbie Fruean crossing for a try before playmaker Tyler Bleyendaal brought the hosts to within striking range but in the end they had to settle for a losing bonus point.
In Friday's other game, the Hurricanes hit the Force for six in a 46-19 romp in Perth. In his first Super Rugby start, 20-year-old scrum-half TJ Perenara stole the show with a hat-trick of tries to propel the 'Canes to their second win of the campaign with both coming on the road. Fullback Andre Taylor, lock Jason Eaton and replacement centre Charlie Ngatai also got in on the act with playmakers Beauden Barrett and Daniel Kirkpatrick sharing 16 points from the kicking tee. A try from No.8 Matt Hodgson and the kicking exploits of James Stannard just about kept the Force in the contest at the break but they had little answer to the Hurricanes' onslaught who hammered home their dominance with two tries in the last six minutes.
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