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Rebels put up a fight

Date

Stathi Paxinos

Rebel yell: Melbourne's Gareth Delve scores a try against the Bulls at AAMI Park last night.

Rebel yell: Melbourne's Gareth Delve scores a try against the Bulls at AAMI Park last night. Photo: Getty Images

IF BY chance, sometime in the future people look for a turning point in the Melbourne Rebels' history, last night's performance against one of the powerhouses of the Super Rugby competition, the Bulls, would likely be one of the strongest contenders.

For the Rebels showed with the 41-35 loss that they would no longer be known as the easybeats of the competition.

The teams, which could not be at more different ends of the spectrum both in their histories and results this season, put on a remarkable battle, scoring eight tries — four each — in the first half alone.

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The second half had fewer tries — only one apiece — but there was certainly no let-off in the excitement, with the Rebels just refusing to give up.

And not only did they hang in, they at times really pressured a powerhouse team that has so far this season defied all predictions of decline after years of dominance.

Both teams did not fear throwing the ball around and the action flowed end to end with both teams putting together impressive, attractive rugby. Every time the Bulls, which came into the game in fourth place, looked as though they would break the Rebels, the Melbourne franchise responded — and in usually impressive fashion.

The Rebels went into the game in 12th place and depleted with long-term injuries to Laurie Weeks (shoulder, season), Jarrod Saffy (neck, season) and James O'Connor (lacerated liver, six weeks) and the departure this week of Danny Cipriani.

And encouragingly for the Rebels, their forwards provided the foundation, with the scrum holding its own against one of the biggest packs in the competition and their impressive work around the ground setting up several of the tries.

Then Kurtley Beale, Nick Phipps and Richard Kingi provided the spark. The only obvious problem appeared to be the lineout, the Rebels losing several on their throws.

However, as good as the Rebels were, the Bulls were also impressive and had all the answers, closing down the play in the final minutes to ensure the Rebels could not snatch a late win.

Beale produced an ideal audition for the Wallabies No. 10 jersey with an eye-catching performance, the 23- year-old, who started the season at full-back for the Rebels, set up a try, making a number of breaks and defending solidly.

The performance was a good way to celebrate Mark Gerrard's 100th Super Rugby game and Rodney Blake's 50th — the big prop looking to be again finding the general play form that made him a cult hero in Queensland.

It also marked Stirling Mortlock's first game of the season, after finally recovering from calf injury, and the club captain made an immediate impact, a perfectly timed pass that sent Mitch Inman on a 40-metre run led to Cooper Vuna's second try which narrowed the Bulls lead to 38-35 with 15 minutes remaining.

However, despite some desperate play in the final stages by the Rebels, the Bulls managed to have the answers.

In the end the difference was two penalties nailed by sharpshooter Morne Steyn, who also did not miss a conversion attempt. Steyn was also brilliant in directing the attack — setting up two tries, the first with a magnificent long pass that led to Bjorn Basson's try and then a perfect chip kick that gave JJ Engelbrecht the Bulls' only try of the second half.

The Bulls looked to have taken early control of the game when right winger Akona Ndungane got outside Vuna and then outpaced full-back Kingi to score in the corner. Steyn converted from the right-hand side line to take a 7-0 lead after six minutes.

But the expected runaway victory did not eventuate.

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Round 1
Sat, 19 SepTimes shown AEST
ENG 0vs FJI 0 05:00Twic
TGA 0vs GEO 0 21:00Kholm
IRE 0vs CAN 0 23:30MilS
Sun, 20 SepTimes shown AEST
SAF 0vs JPN 0 01:45Brig
FRA 0vs ITA 0 05:00Twic
SAM 0vs USA 0 21:00Brig
WAL 0vs URU 0 23:30MilS
Mon, 21 SepTimes shown AEST
NZL 0vs ARG 0 01:45Wemb
Wed, 23 SepTimes shown AEST
SCO 0vs JPN 0 23:30Kholm
Thu, 24 SepTimes shown AEST
AUS 0vs FJI 0 01:45MilS
FRA 0vs ROM 0 05:00Olym
Fri, 25 SepTimes shown AEST
NZL 0vs NAM 0 05:00Olym
Sat, 26 SepTimes shown AEST
ARG 0vs GEO 0 01:45Kholm
ITA 0vs CAN 0 23:30Ella
Sun, 27 SepTimes shown AEST
SAF 0vs SAM 0 01:45Villa
ENG 0vs WAL 0 05:00Twic
AUS 0vs URU 0 21:00Villa
SCO 0vs USA 0 23:30Ella
Mon, 28 SepTimes shown AEST
IRE 0vs ROM 0 01:45Wemb
Wed, 30 SepTimes shown AEST
TGA 0vs NAM 0 01:45Sand
Fri, 02 OctTimes shown AEST
WAL 0vs FJI 0 01:45MilS
FRA 0vs CAN 0 05:00stadium:mk
Sat, 03 OctTimes shown AEST
NZL 0vs GEO 0 05:00MilS
SAM 0vs JPN 0 23:30stadium:mk
Sun, 04 OctTimes shown AEST
SAF 0vs SCO 0 01:45St James' Park
ENG 0vs AUS 0 06:00Twic
Mon, 05 OctTimes shown AEDT
ARG 0vs TGA 0 00:30KPS
IRE 0vs ITA 0 02:45Olym
Wed, 07 OctTimes shown AEDT
CAN 0vs ROM 0 02:45KPS
FJI 0vs URU 0 06:00stadium:mk
Thu, 08 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAF 0vs USA 0 02:45Olym
NAM 0vs GEO 0 06:00Sand
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NZL 0vs TGA 0 06:00St James' Park
Sun, 11 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAM 0vs SCO 0 00:30St James' Park
AUS 0vs WAL 0 02:45Twic
ENG 0vs URU 0 06:00Manch
ARG 0vs NAM 0 22:00KPS
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ITA 0vs ROM 0 00:30Sand
FRA 0vs IRE 0 02:45MilS
USA 0vs JPN 0 06:00Kholm
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Sun, 18 OctTimes shown AEDT
WinB 0vs RUpA 0 02:00Twic
WinC 0vs RUpD 0 06:00MilS
WinD 0vs RUpC 0 23:00MilS
Mon, 19 OctTimes shown AEDT
WinA 0vs RUpB 0 02:00Twic
Sun, 25 OctTimes shown AEDT
WQF1 0vs WQF2 0 02:00Twic
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WQF3 0vs WQF4 0 03:00Twic
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LSF1 0vs LSF2 0 07:00Olym
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WSF1 0vs WSF2 0 03:00Twic
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Canada 0 0 0 0 0 0
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Japan 0 0 0 0 0 0
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England 0 0 0 0 0 0
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Rugby World Cup 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Australia 0 0 0 0 0 0
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Rugby World Cup 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
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