Rebels deny Crusaders, despite bonus-point win
MATCH REPORT: Crusaders cruised to a comfortable 52-26 win over the Melbourne Rebels on Saturday.
However, despite the victory, the Crusaders were denied the top spot as they fell short of the 33-point bonus-point win they needed to surpass the Highlanders on points differential.
*As it happened: Rebels v Crusaders
The Super Rugby Aotearoa champions are currently second on the table and are now reliant on a Blues loss to the Force.
The Crusaders’ Test wing Sevu Reece scored a hat-trick to snare the bonus point but the margin wasn’t enough to see his team cement a finals berth.
Wing Leicester Fainga’anuku almost got the job done with a try in the 74th minute but it was ruled a double movement.
They got off to the best possible start, running in two tries in the opening five minutes through scrumhalf Mitchell Drummond and then fullback Will Jordan.
But the Rebels climbed off the canvas with lock Trevor Hosea crashing over the line in the 14th minute.
Another two Crusaders tries between the 19th and 21st minutes again put a big dent in Melbourne’s hopes of an upset but they refused to go away.
With the Crusaders losing Jordan to a yellow card for a deliberate knockdown, Rebels scrumhalf Joe Powell backed himself and dashed through the defence to dot down for a 26-12 scoreline.
It looked like the Crusaders would add another try right on halftime but centre Braydon Ennor bizarrely spilt the ball with the wide line open.
Rebels wing Andrew Kellaway then served up another blow early in the second half when he tackled a flying Jordan into touch as the Test ace dived across the tryline.
Both teams continued to play with an attacking mindset, with Reece adding two more tries while young centre Glen Vaihu was among the scorers for the Rebels in his first start.
It was a frantic finish with the Crusaders needing a converted try with seven minutes remaining, but the Rebels showed fighting spirit to hold them out.
Man of the match: Richie Mo’unga dictated proceedings very well for the Crusaders, while Sevu Reece also deserves a mention for his hat-trick. However, our nod goes to Crusaders lock Scott Barrett, who not put in some couple of big hits which proved to be vital and his work rate overall was just very impressive
For Melbourne Rebels
Tries: Hosea, Powell. Vaihu, Lomani
Cons: Gordon 3
Tries: Drummond, Jordon, Fainga’anuku, Reece 3, Jager, Ennor
Cons: Mo’unga 6
Yellow cards: Will Jordan (Crusaders, 26 – Deliberate knock on), Steve Cummins (Melbourne Rebels, 68 – Deliberate knockdown), Bryn Hall (Crusaders, 78 – Repeat infringements)
Rebels: 15 George Worth, 14 Frank Lomani, 13 Andrew Kellaway, 12 Glen Vaihu, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Carter Gordon, 9 Joe Powell, 8 Isi Naisarani, 7 Richard Hardwick, 6 Michael Wells (captain), 5 Trevor Hosea, 4 Rob Leota, 3 Cabous Eloff, 2 Jordan Uelese, 1 Cameron Orr
Replacements: 16 James Hanson, 17 Matt Gibbon, 18 Rhys Van Neck, 19 Steve Cummins, 20 Ross Haylett-Petty, 21 James Tuttle, 22 Young Tonumaipea, 23 Ilikena Vudogo.
Crusaders: 15 Will Jordan, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Braydon Ennor, 12 David Havili, 11 Leicester Fainga’anuku, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Mitchell Drummond, 8 Whetukamokamo Douglas, 7 Sione Havili Talitui, 6 Ethan Blackadder, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Scott Barrett (captain), 3 Michael Alaalatoa, 2 Brodie McAlister, 1 George Bower.
Replacements: 16 Nathan Vella, 17 Tamaiti Williams, 18 Oliver Jager, 19 Mitchell Dunshea, 20 Tom Sanders, 21 Bryn Hall, 22 Dallas McLeod, 23 Manasa Mataele.
Referee: Nic Berry
Assistant referees: Graham Cooper, Matt Kellahan
TMO: James Leckie