GARETH DUNCAN reports on the Reds’ 11-6 win over the Melbourne Rebels in Brisbane.
While there are continuous arguments about whether the South African conference or the New Zealand group is the toughest in Super Rugby, this game was a clear indication that the Australian field is the weakest. This match will be rated as one of the worst of the competition, just like the Brumbies-Force clash in round one.
Both teams tried to execute an expansive game plan, but their limited attacks were easily restricted by the opposing defences. The match had its moments of big tackles and physicality, but nothing superior compared to what we we see in the Kiwi or Saffa derbies.
When there was a try was on the cards, poor handling or errant interplay would see the chance missed – a regular feature in the Reds and Rebels’ first-half showings. This turned the match into a penalty shoot-out, with James O’Connor and Mike Harris trading shots at goal for a 6-3 half-time scoreline in the visitors’ favour.
The Rebels did well to frustrate the Reds in the opening 40, but their guard was eventually breached late in the third quarter when Dom Shipperley found space out wide to beat the stretched Melbourne defence. Harris’s second penalty moments later made it a five-point game.
The Rebels had a late opportunity to pursue a try, but poor lineout work in the Reds’ 22m area allowed the defending champions to clear the danger and they hung on for an unconvincing victory.