Rebels 34 Blues 23
Looking to offload ... Gareth Delve of the Rebels. Photo: Getty Images
Melbourne duo Kurtley Beale and James O'Connor lived up to their star billing as they steered the Rebels to a 34-23 win over Auckland Blues in their Super Rugby clash.
Both teams went into the AAMI Park match searching for their second win of the season but it was the Rebels who showed the most desperation to shut down their star-studded but under-performing opponents.
Stretching the lead ... James O'Connor scores after sustained pressure in the second half. Photo: Getty Images
The Blues had the most attacking opportunities, particularly early on, but were unable to capitalise due to some staunch Melbourne defence and costly errors from the visitors.
They scored through flanker Chris Lowrey with three minutes remaining to trail 27-23 and set up a thrilling finish but the Rebels put an exclamation mark on the victory with a last-minute try to their skipper Gareth Delve.
Melbourne's Wallabies duo Beale and O'Connor scored in either half and looked dangerous whenever they got their hands on the ball.
Dangerous ... Kurtley Beale. Photo: Getty Images
Fullback Beale's try came against the run of play when it appeared certain the Blues would score after they strung together 15 phases and hammered the Rebels tryline.
But Melbourne's defence held firm and when Blues No.8 Brad Mika tried to push a pass with teammates lined up outside him, Beale pounced and ran 80 metres to the tryline.
Successful penalty kicks from O'Connor and promising young Blues five-eighth Gareth Anscombe pushed the scoreline to 11-9 in favour of the home side at halftime.
However, Auckland hit the front just two minutes into the second half when their winger Rene Ranger tiptoed down the sideline and got a ball away to fullback Rudi Wolf to score, with Anscombe's conversion pushing the advantage out to 16-11.
Just when it looked like the Blues would run away with the match, the Rebels dug deep.
Two penalties by O'Connor gave his side a one-point lead and then the man of the match got a try of his own, running on to a ball from hard-working hooker Ged Robinson.
Momentum stayed with the Rebels until Lowrey's late effort but it was too little too late to the delight of the 15,246-strong crowd.
The only downside for the home side was a shoulder injury to prop Laurie Weeks, while hooker Adam Freier was forced off after just 10 minutes with a calf problem.
MELBOURNE REBELS 34 (Kurtley Beale, Gareth Delve, James O'Connor tries O'Connor 2 cons 5 pens) bt BLUES 23 (Chris Lowrey, Rudi Wulf tries Gareth Anscombe 2 cons 3 pens) at AAMI Park. Referee: Bryce Lawrence. Crowd: 15,246.