VIDEO: Highlanders too good for Rebels
SUPER RUGBY TRANS-TASMAN REPORT: The Melbourne Rebels have been unable to back up Queensland’s breakthrough Australian Super Rugby Trans-Tasman victory, losing to the Highlanders 27-42 in their Sunday clash at Leichhardt Oval.
With the match relocated to Sydney due to the Rebels not being permitted to travel to Queenstown because of the COVID-19 outbreak in Victoria, the home team rebounded from a slow start and led 15-14 soon after half-time.
Star Wallabies wing Marika Koroibete touched down for his first try of the year in a good sign for the winless franchise, and he backed it up with a second late in the match.
But they were hurt by poor discipline, which has been a telling theme of their disappointing year.
Melbourne were lucky not to lose skipper Matt Toomua after 10 minutes for a clumsy high shot on Michael Collins, with Chiefs playmaker Damien McKenzie sent off for a similar tackle early in their loss to the Reds on Saturday.
Hooker Jordan Uelese was yellow-carded for kicking the ball out of the ruck after he was already in the referee’s sights for being offside.
While the Test rake was off the field the Highlanders scored three times to open up a match-winning lead.
The first was a penalty try before lock Josh Dickson managed to barge across.
The third was scored by speedster Jona Nareki, with the wing chipping ahead and wrong-footing Rebels No.9 Joe Powell en route to the tryline for a 35-15 scoreline.
Melbourne flank Michael Wells admitted the second half yellow card was costly.
“Discipline and transitions hurt us – we can’t expect to win games against quality opposition if we can’t exit our own half through penalties,” Wells told Stan Sport.
“It’s just not good enough.”
Melbourne then took advantage of the Highlanders losing Billy Harmon to a yellow card three minutes after coming from the bench, as Rebels reserve prop Matt Gibbon planted the ball down.
They toiled hard, with burly blindside flanr Rob Leota a stand-out, and Koroibete added his second in the 77th minute.
Harmon made amends for his earlier lapse with a try two minutes later to cap the result, although the Highlanders were denied a crucial bonus point.
Melbourne are due to face the Chiefs in Waikato next round, although they are still waiting on whether they will be able to travel to New Zealand.
Tries: Collins, Tomkinson, Penalty Try, Dickson, Nareki, Harmon
Cons: Hunt 5
For Melbourne Rebels:
Tries: Koroibete 2, Eloff, Gibbon
Cons: Toomua 2
Highlanders: 15 Josh Ioane, 14 Patelesio Tomkinson, 13 Michael Collins, 12 Scott Gregory, 11 Jona Nareki, 10 Mitch Hunt, 9 Aaron Smith (co-captain), 8 Hugh Renton, 7 James Lentjes, 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Josh Dickson, 4 Pari Pari Parkinson, 3 Siate Tokolahi, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Ethan De Groot.
Replacements: 16 Ash Dixon (co-captain), 17 Ayden Johnstone, 18 Jeff Thwaites, 19 Manaaki Selby-Rickit, 20 Kazuki Himeno, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Ngatungane Punivai, 23 Billy Harmon
Melbourne Rebels: 15 George Worth, 14 Lachie Anderson, 13 Campbell Magnay, 12 Matt Toomua, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Carter Gordon, 9 Joe Powell, 8 Isi Naisarani, 7 Michael Wells, 6 Robert Leota, 5 Trevor Hosea, 4 Ross Haylett-Petty, 3 Cabous Eloff, 2 Jordan Uelese, 1 Cameron Orr.
Replacements: 16 James Hanson, 17 Matt Gibbon, 18 Lucio Sordoni, 19 Steven Cummins, 20 Richard Hardwick, 21 Frank Lomani, 22 Stacey Ili, 23 Andrew Kellaway.
Referee: Paul Williams
Assistant referees: Brendon Pickerill, James Doleman
TMO: Mike Fraser