Reds grind out win over unfancied Rebels
REDS 11 REBELS 6
Brought down ... James O'Connor of the Rebels. Photo: Getty Images
The Melbourne Rebels produced the best defensive performance of their short history but still couldn't topple the Queensland Reds in a torrid Super Rugby dogfight on Saturday night.
The competition's 2011 wooden-spooners delivered a major fright to the defending champions before the Reds wriggled free with an 11-6 victory.
Reds hold out against Rebels
Van Humphries of the Reds hits the Rebels defensive line. Photo: Getty Images
Kurtley Beale's Rebels debut never hit any great heights for either side but the gutsy effort and tenacious defence of the visitors will please coach Damien Hill and defensive guru John Muggleton.
It was a sole 55th-minute try by winger Dom Shipperley which decided the match as Queensland overcame their first-half woes to control play after the break and take a 3-0 record into their two-match trip to South Africa.
Widely expected to make light work of the Victorians, the Reds frustrated their home crowd of 34,126 in one of their worst first halves under Ewen McKenzie.
Queensland lacked cohesion, vision and rhythm with the ball as Melbourne's much-maligned defence improved vastly on their opening round loss to the Waratahs to be well organised and menacing.
The Rebels dominated in both the possession (50-29 rucks and mauls) and field-position stakes and the ill-disciplined home side allowed James O'Connor to kick his side to a deserving 6-0 lead after 32 minutes.
They also lowered the colours of the Queensland scrum with a tight-head and constant pressure at the set-piece in the first half.
It was only just before halftime when radar-boot Mike Harris, who earlier missed with a 45m attempt to end his record streak at 24, put the Reds on the board following their own scrum penalty.
The injection of reserve Ben Lucas into five-eighth, moving Harris to inside centre, with half an hour to go did plenty to spark the home side's attack and it wasn't long after when Shipperley crossed for his try.
Reds skipper and stand-out forward James Horwill stole a lineout on the line before the Rebels stout defence finally broke when Will Genia looped a wide pass to the unmarked winger in the right corner.
Harris missed the conversion but did slot a penalty eight minutes later - after Genia twice unsuccessfully took quick taps near the line instead of shooting for goal - for an 11-6 lead.
Beale, who was kept relatively quiet, looked on course to produce a heroic match-winning debut when he chased down a late dangerous kick into the Reds' 22 but replacement flanker Beau Robinson somehow saved the day.
Like Lucas, Robinson was a key contributor in the dying stages as he worked in tandem with teenage ball scavenger Liam Gill.
QUEENSLAND REDS 11 (Dom Shipperley try Michael Harris 2 pens) bt MELBOURNE REBELS 6 (James O'Connor 2 pens) at Suncorp Stadium. Referee: Angus Gardner. Crowd: 34,126.