Vodacom Super Rugby
Rebels no match for Reds
Melbourne - The Reds extended their lead at the top of the Australian Conference with a bonus-point 33-18 Super Rugby win over the Melbourne Rebels in Melbourne on Friday.
The Reds capitalised on the Rebels' defensive weaknesses to score four tries to two, their fourth try clinching the bonus point with 17 minutes left.
The last time the two teams met earlier in the season the Reds thrashed the Rebels 53-3, but Melbourne were more competitive this time, with Julian Huxley's wayward goalkicking preventing them from getting much closer on the scoreboard.
Huxley missed 10 points worth of kicks when the home side were still in the hunt and they also lost flyhalf James Hilgendorf with a serious ankle injury as he scored their only first-half try in the 29th minute.
The Rebels were unable to call on their other regular playmaker Danny Cipriani because the English international was suspended from the game by the team for disciplinary reasons.
The Reds, Australia's leading team this season, bounced back from last weekend's two-point loss to the Hurricanes, which ended their seven-match winning streak.
It was the Reds' ninth win of the campaign, their most since 1996, as they gear up for next week's showdown with competition pacesetters Blues.
"There's always a lot of feeling playing against the other Australian provinces and tonight was no different," Reds' skipper James Horwill said.
"The boys dug deep and credit to the Rebels, they came out to play, especially in that second half, they didn't die wondering."
Wallabies' flyhalf Quade Cooper had an off game, but the Reds were beneficiaries of some soft tries and flank Scott Higginbotham broke through three tackles to score in the 18th minute, followed by another easy try by No 8 Radike Samo off a Will Genia break midway through the half.
Wallabies' scrumhalf Genia also provided a perfect kick across field for wing Dom Shipperley to score to give the Reds a commanding 26-8 lead at half-time.
But the Rebels made it a more even second half, outscoring the Reds 10-7.
Reds centre Scott Harris was yellow-carded for repeated infringements as the Rebels pressed their tryline and in his absence Rebels back Afusipa Taumoepeau crossed for his first Super Rugby try.
But the Reds sealed the win in the 63rd minute when wing Digby Ioane stepped past a flimsy attempt from Peter Betham to outpace the defence for the scoring bonus point.
Rebels wing Betham scored his side's third try with five minutes left.
"The Reds did get two or three easy tries, but apart from that we dug in really well and our effort was good," Rebels' skipper Stirling Mortlock said.Teams:
15 Julian Huxley, 14 Lachlan Mitchell, 13 Mark Gerrard, 12 Stirling Mortlock (captain), 11 Peter Betham, 10 James Hilgendorf, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Gareth Delve, 7 Michael Lipman, 6 Hoani Macdonald, 5 Hugh Pyle, 4 Alister Campbell, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 Ged Robinson, 1 Greg Somerville
Substitutes: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Nic Henderson, 18 Adam Byrnes, 19 Tim Davidson, 20 Sam Cordingley, 21 Cooper Vuna, 22 Afusipa TaumoepeauReds:
15 Ben Lucas, 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Anthony Faingaa, 12 Mike Harris, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Radike Samo, 7 Beau Robinson, 6 Scott Higginbotham, 5 James Horwill (captain), 4 Rob Simmons, 3 James Slipper, 2 Saia Faingaa, 1 Ben Daley
Substitutes: 16 James Hanson, 17 Greg Holmes, 18 Adam Wallace-Harrison, 19 Leroy Houston, 20 Jake Schatz, 21 Will Chambers, 22 Dom Shipperley