Melbourne Rebels snuff out Bulls finals aspirations
The Melbourne Rebels have got back on the winners list with a hard-fought 21-20 win over the Bulls at AAMI Park on Saturday afternoon.
The Bulls led for much of the match but they were overrun by a determined home side playing in front of a vocal 10,143 strong crowd.
The Bulls opened the scoring on four minutes after veteran Victor Matfield took the ball forward from a lineout and a quick play the ball saw prop Dean Greyling dive over.
The Rebels replied six minutes later through flanker Sean McMahon who crossed for his first ever Super Rugby try. Good interplay between Scott Higginbotham and Nick Stirzaker off the back of a Rebels’ scrum put McMahon over. Mike Harris converted to make it seven-all.
The Rebels threatened to go the length of the field just moments later when the Bulls mishandled the ball, giving centre Mitch Inman a good chance to attack, only to be thwarted by defence after charging into opposition territory.
The Bulls retook the lead in the 25th minute when a scrum penalty gifted them three points right in front of the posts.
The South Africans extended their lead after the Rebels failed to defend a maul close to their line, with Pieter Labuschagne crossing the try line for the five points and Jacques-Louis Potgieter converting for 17-7 lead.
The home side threatened in the closing moments of the first half and made their field position count with a try to fly-half Jack Debreczeni who took the ball to the line, spun out of a tackle and scored.
Mike Harris converted after the siren to make it 14-17 at half time.
Potgieter kicked truly straight after the interval as the Bulls benefited from a Rebels’ infringement at the breakdown. The penalty gave the visitors a 14-20 lead. The visitors were then reduced to 14 men in the 54th minute when try scorer Dean Greyline was yellow carded for a professional foul.
Melbourne took the lead for the first time in the match on the hour mark. Taking advantage of the extra man, lock Lopeti Timani scored after prolonged pressure on the Bulls’ line.
The TV-match official denied the Bulls what appeared to be an obvious try, ruling centre Burger Odendaal was held up over the line. The home side maintained possession and field position in the dying minutes to snuff out any potential comeback from the Bulls.
The loss ends any chance the Bulls had of participating in this year’s finals. They return to South Africa after going winless on their four week trans-Tasman tour.
The Rebels final match of the season is against the Force in Melbourne next Friday night.