The Reds are still alive in Super Rugby after a late try to standout centre Samu Kerevi snuffed out a second half comeback by the home side, securing a 29-24 win.
In an entertaining, if at times scrappy game, the Reds were good value for their 17-9 halftime lead, after scoring three first-half tries against a Rebels side who couldn’t hold the ball for long enough periods to sustain pressure.
The Rebels stayed in the game courtesy of their willingness to scrap at the breakdown, and feeding off the Reds turnovers and poor kick off receipts, and then grew in confidence in the second half.
An important contributor was Sean McMahon, whose energy seemed to lift the side, who scored twice through Will Miller and Marika Koroibete, to eventually draw level at 24-24 with ten minutes to play.
But it was the Reds who dominated the final stanza, almost going ahead through Scott Higginbotham, who dropped a kick when over the line, before Kerevi finished things off with his second try. It was fitting that the skipper had the final say, he was in great form, running dangerously all night.
One of the reasons was some nice distribution from Quade Cooper, who had an excellent match, always looking to create.
Up front, George Smith was again busy although he did concede too many penalties for his Nick Stiles’ liking. Higginbotham ran strongly in the loose, and while the Reds are far from the finished product, this win will go a long way to shaping the rest of their season.
They now only sit three points behind the Brumbies, who they will meet again this year.
The Rebels showed plenty of heart in the second half, but will rue a flat patch in the first, when they failed to take advantage of the 10 minutes Karmichael Hunt spent in the bin.
Flyhalf Ben Volavola had some nice touches, and Reece Hodge always looked dangerous, but once again the Rebels didn’t quite find the cohesion in attack they wanted.
Marika Koroibete is an enigma, bringing the crowd to life with some strong carries, but then blotting his copybook with two truly awful kicks, when he had plenty of space to run the ball.
The second kick was costly, directly leading to Kerevi’s first try, and it will be no surprise if he is forbidden ever to kick again, no matter the situation.
Unsurprisingly, the coaches were quite a contrast after the match, the Reds’ Nick Stiles delighted at his side breaking their lean run away from home, and putting themselves in a position to challenge at the top of the conference ladder.
Meanwhile, Tony McGahan was left to rue his sides’ lack of execution and composure in the first half, and the realisation that a season that promised so much, has now been frittered away; on and off the field.