Heading into the AAMI Park showdown, the Rebels’ only losses of the season had come in their two matches in South Africa and the Stormers continued that hoodoo.
It was a game where little went right for the Australian conference leaders, although the men from Cape Town, who had lost their last three matches, deserved plenty of credit.
They rushed the Rebels’ flat attacking line and didn’t allow them to build any rhythm while out-muscling them at the breakdown.
Rebels coach Dave Wessels was bitterly disappointed by his team’s performance, describing it as “poor”.
He said he wasn’t happy with his team’s intensity right from the warm-up.
“We just didn’t bring the intensity that’s required to win a Super Rugby match,” Wessels said.
“We were beaten in the contact areas and in the effort areas – something that we’ve been very proud of all year so I’m disappointed about that.
“I think we’re a good team but we played badly and we’ve got to figure out why that’s happened.”
In a first half to forget Melbourne had 70 per cent of possession and 75 per cent territory and forced the visitors to make 83 tackles to their own 27 – yet trailed 10-3 at the break.
Late in the half they racked up 15 phases, hammering the tryline, until centre Bill Meakes was unable to reel in a loose pass with the Stormers’ steely defence standing up.
Teenage winger Semisi Tupuo, filling in for injured Wallaby Jack Maddocks, mostly had a night to forget.
The Australian under 20s representative was gifted a perfectly weighted Quade Cooper cross-field kick into the in-goal but spilt it.
But he wasn’t alone with the Rebels uncharacteristically sloppy against the bottom-placed South African side.
It looked like Wessels’ halftime blast had worked when two minutes into second half, Reece Hodge intercepted a long, looping pass by du Plessis to score.
Cooper added the extras to level at 10-10 but it was all downhill from there.
The Stormers piled on three tries in 11 minutes with Jaunro Agustus, Springboks centre Damian de Allende and then Nel all scoring.
Sign up to our mailing list here and we’ll keep you up to the minute with weekly updates from the world of rugby.