The NSW Waratahs’ Super Rugby season still has a pulse after they stopped the Melbourne Rebels 20-15 in their AAMI Park match on Friday night.
The Waratahs needed the win to keep alive their slim hopes of a play-off berth and played accordingly to extend their winning record over the Rebels to six straight.
It meant NSW closed the gap in the Australian conference on the second-placed Rebels to four points with two rounds remaining.
The one bonus point meant the Rebels joined the ladder-leading Brumbies, although the Canberra-based side can extend their lead against the lowly Sunwolves in Tokyo on Saturday afternoon.
The result also harmed Australia’s chances of having two teams qualify for the finals with only the three conference winners plus the next five teams on overall points advancing.
The Rebels had plenty of chances in the final 10 minutes to take the match but let themselves down with sloppy handling, while the Waratahs deserved credit for their tireless defence.
Despite the soggy conditions in Melbourne and both team relying heavily on tactical kicking, it was the outside backs who were in the thick of the action for both teams.
Veteran centre Adam Ashley-Cooper opened the scoring for the Waratahs with a sensational try off a scrum in their own half.
Ashley-Cooper also had a hand in one of their second half tries when he managed to fend off Jack Maddocks long enough to fling a ball back inside that bounced up for Rona to score.
For the Rebels, Wallabies flyer Marika Koroibete continued his sizzling form, proving a handful with his hard-hitting runs.
He set up a try for halfback Will Genia in the second half and was unlucky not to score one himself when he charged downfield only to be stopped just short of the try line by Rona, who was penalised for a shoulder charge.
Melbourne managed to peg back a 13-3 halftime lead to get within three points early in the second stanza with a try by Quade Cooper but that was a close as they got.
In other news: Final too expensive for Rebels?
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