Rebels fall short against Bulls
Melbourne Rebels were unable to stop the Bulls’ charge toward the top of the Super Rugby table despite a brave effort in a 41-35 loss at AAMI Park on Friday.
Both teams collected bonus points before the halftime break for scoring four tries in a frenetic match with the Rebels, with only two wins for the season, matching the Bulls – with only two losses – only to fall just short on the scoreboard.
Rebels winger Cooper Vuna scored a try in each half but there were a number of stars in the home side including five-eighth Kurtley Beale, who put his hand up for selection at No.10 for the Wallabies’ June Tests with an impressive performance.
He set up one try and was a constant danger for the Bulls defence.
Nick Phipps also improved his chances of being the back-up Australian halfback with his best showing of the season.
Bulls five-eighth Morne Steyne finished with 16 points and a 100 per cent record with the boot and also set up a brilliant try for JJ Englebrecht in the 60th minute as he kicked over the top of the defence for his centre to run on to.
Melbourne trailed the Bulls 31-28 at halftime with their skipper Gareth Delve scoring after the final hooter instead of taking a penalty kick on offer.
The classy Beale set up his side’s best of that half when he stepped and swerved to catch the Bulls defence on the hop before finding Vuna, who crossed under the post.
While the Rebels will be disappointed to miss out on the victory, the win was particularly impressive after a difficult recent period.
They lost star James O’Connor for up to two months with liver damage from their last game against NSW, flanker Jarrod Saffy was ruled out for the season with a neck problem and then English import Danny Cipriani quit the club to return to the UK.
The Rebels could also lose hard-working young flanker Luke Jones who was given a yellow card for alleged dangerous tackle on Bulls winger Bjorn Basson with referee Andrew Lees also giving him a white card, which means it’s referred to the SANZAR judicial officer.
He joined Flip van der Merwe on the sidelined, who had already been yellow-carded for throwing a punch.
Vuna’s second effort in the 65th minute came after a break by Mitch Inman, who was brought down just short of the try-line, with the winger planting the ball over the line in the ensuing play.
Inman ran on to a ball from Stirling Mortlock, who came on in the second half in his first appearance of the season.
“I was really proud of the guys, they really stuck at that,” said Rebels skipper Delve.
“Kurtley did really well and Nick Phipps had his best game of the season and really drove the guys well around the park.”
Bulls coach Frans Ludeke said in his 12 years of coaching he hadn’t overseen a match where both teams had scored four tries before the halftime break.
“That was their best game of the season,” he said.
“Every week they are playing better and tonight it was close so we had to work hard for this one.”
Tireless flanker Jacques Potgieter could be in doubt for their clash with the Waratahs after he was assisted off the field with a knee injury.
Rebels coach Damien Hill agreed it was one of the best games in their short history but was disappointed not to get the win.
“Given the players we’ve got out at the moment, the intent and urgency they showed, it was the best effort we’ve put in to date as a group – but we still lost,” Hill said.
He gave praise to his entire forward pack, who managed to hold the physical Bulls at bay, and rated Beale’s performance at five-eighth as “outstanding”.
“He didn’t put a foot wrong and had good communication and directed the team well,” Hill said.© AAP 2013
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