It may have taken more than 1000 days but it was worth the wait for the Melbourne Rebels as they stopped the Blues 20-10 in Auckland to keep their Super Rugby finals hopes on track.
No Australian Super Rugby side had won in New Zealand for more than three years – with 32 straight losses – but the Rebels’ breakthrough couldn’t have come at a better time.
They went into the match against the bottom-ranked Kiwi side one point behind the Waratahs, who lead the Australian conference, and with tough matches to follow after the break for internationals had targeted the match as must-win.
They missed the chance in the 77th minute to secure a bonus point for a fourth try when the Television Match Official ruled that Marika Koroibete’s foot had gone into touch just before grounding the ball.
In another blow, hooker Jordan Uelese was assisted from the field midway through the second half with a knee injury that makes him unlikely to play in the Wallabies opening Test against Ireland next Saturday.
The Rebels only led 12-10 at halftime despite dominating the opening 40 minutes, with two tries going begging.
Halfback Michael Ruru was held up over the line while Colby Fainga’a had a try disallowed due to an earlier knock-on.
The Blues’ only try was scored off a kick charge-down, with Terrence Hepetema, who replaced injured All Blacks centre Sonny Bill Williams, collecting the spoils.
Wallabies back Dane Haylett-Petty snatched the lead in the 39th minute when Melbourne sent quick ball through the hands for the fullback to finish.
In a bright sign for the Wallabies Haylett-Petty looked back to his best after a troubling period with concussion and neck problems, also setting up a try straight after halftime.
He kicked through with the ball sitting up for Marika Koroibete, who off-loaded for centre Billy Meakes to collect his second of the match.
That put the lead out to 17-10 and the Rebels played smart rugby and continued to control the match, while little went right for Blues who remain winless at home.