Rebels add to Blues' woes
Melbourne - Wallaby star James O'Connor inspired the improving Rebels to a spirited 34-23 Super Rugby home win over the Blues here on Thursday.
O'Connor, a high-profile recruitment from the Force in the off-season, repaid a chunk of his transfer with a 24-point haul in a dominant display with a try, two conversions and five penalties.
The Rebels led 11-9 at half-time but fell behind 11-16 shortly after the interval, before finishing strongly in a three-tries-to-two win over the New Zealand heavyweights.
It was back-to-back home wins for the Rebels, who finished at the bottom in last year's inaugural season, and they now have two wins from their six games this campaign.
O'Connor's Wallaby team-mate Kurtley Beale gave the Rebels a flying start with an 80-metre intercept try in the 11th minute, while O'Connor scored a try off a break from hooker Ged Robinson midway through the second half.
"I'm excited. We finally played the full 80 minutes and credit to our forwards, they played a gutsy game and it was the last 20 minutes from them that won it for us," O'Connor said.
"We know our game plan, we play a certain style of footy and we stuck to that tonight."
O'Connor put in a rousing display at inside centre, outside England flyhalf Danny Cipriani.
Cipriani, who missed last week with a hamstring injury, played for 70 minutes before he was brought off by coach Damien Hill.
The Blues, whose two tries came from fullback Rudi Wulf and blindside flanker Chris Lowrey, were once again their own worst enemies with their handling errors.
"We did well, especially at the start of the second half, but I thought we just left our foot off their throat," Blues hooker and captain Keven Mealamu said.
"We tried to play tonight, but we needed to keep our errors down and keep building the pressure, but full credit to the Rebels, they played well in the second half."
Flyhalf Gareth Anscombe kicked 13 points for the visitors from two conversions and three penalties.
But it was the Rebels' Welsh skipper and No 8 Gareth Delve who capped a fine match with the clinching try in the final minute near the posts.
"It was another real nail-biter and it gave the crowd a bit of entertainment and it was a bit closer than we would have liked. We're happy to come away with the points," Delve said.
"We're still a young team and we're looking to develop and that was another big step forward on our performances and we needed to bounce back after that second half (against the Highlanders) last week."
The Rebels go to Canberra next week to take on the Brumbies, while the Blues are at home to the Sharks.
15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Lachlan Mitchell, 13 Mitch Inman, 12 James O’Connor, 11 Mark Gerrard, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Gareth Delve (captain), 7 Michael Lipman, 6 Jarrod Saffy, 5 Hugh Pyle, 4 Luke Jones, 3 Rodney Blake, 2 Adam Freier, 1 Nic Henderson
Substitutes: 16 Ged Robinson, 17 Laurie Weeks, 18 Alister Campbell, 19 Tim Davidson, 20 Richard Kingi, 21 Julian Huxley, 22 Lloyd Johansson
15 Rudi Wulf, 14 Lachie Munro, 13 Benson Stanley, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Rene Ranger, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Brad Mika, 7 Daniel Braid, 6 Chris Lowrey, 5 Ali Williams, 4 Filo Paulo, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Keven Mealamu (captain), 1 Tony Woodcock
Substitues: 16 Tom McCartney, 17 Tevita Mailau, 18 Liaki Moli, 19 Dan Pryor, 20 Piri Weepu, 21 Michael Hobbs, 22 Hadleigh Parkes