SIMON BORCHARDT reports on the Rebels’ 28-19 upset win against the Crusaders in Melbourne.
These teams did not meet in 2011, because of the conference format, and the general consensus was that the Crusaders missed out on five easy log points.
Richie McCaw’s side must have arrived in Melbourne for this 2012 fixture expecting a comfortable bonus-point win but they left with nothing after conceding two quick tries, in the 67th and 70th minutes, which turned the game on its head.
First, replacement lock Al Campbell passed in the tackle to winger Mark Gerrard, who cut back inside and sent scrumhalf Nick Phipps away for the try. Then 34-year-old substitute centre Stirling Mortlock intercepted a poor pass from Crusaders prop Owen Franks and found Cooper Vuna. The winger attracted the only covering defender and gave the ball back to Mortlock, who dived over.
The Rebels then defended that nine-point lead for the next 10 minutes to pull off one of the biggest upsets in Super Rugby history.
And it was a well deserved win, too. They dominated the breakdown, used the width of the field on attack, and Gerrard’s tactical kicking was superb from the back.
The hosts had all the ball early on and were rewarded with a try to Phipps, who threw a dummy, burst through a gap between two wrong-footed defenders and planted the ball on the line.
Phipps, though, effectively gave those seven points away on the half-hour mark when he knocked on 35m out. The Crusaders booted the ball ahead, regained possession, and second rower Sam Whitelock scored the simplest of tries after a burst down the left touchline by fullback Tom Marshall.
Flyhalf Tom Taylor kicked the conversion and then slotted his third and fourth penalties to give the visitors a 19-10 half-time lead.
But it was all the Rebels in the second half and while they weren’t able to breach the opposition defence in the third quarter, two penalties from flyhalf Kurtley Beale cut the deficit to three.
Then came the two tries that stunned the seven-time Super Rugby champions, and gave the small crowd a reason to celebrate long into the night.