Normal Trans Tasman service resumes as Highlanders beat Rebels in Sydney
With the match relocated to Sydney due to the Rebels not being permitted to travel to Queenstown because of the COVID-19 outbreak in Victoria, the home team rebounded from a slow start and led 15-14 soon after halftime.
Star Wallabies winger Marika Koroibete touched down for his first try of the year in a good sign for the winless club, and he backed it up with a second late in the match.
But they were hurt by poor discipline, which has been a telling theme of their disappointing year.
Melbourne were lucky not to lose skipper Matt Toomua after 10 minutes for a clumsy high shot on Michael Collins, with Chiefs playmaker Damien McKenzie sent off for a similar tackle early in their loss to the Reds on Saturday night.
Hooker Jordan Uelese was yellow-carded for kicking the ball out of the ruck after he was already in the referee’s sights for being offside.
While the Test rake was off the field the Highlanders scored three times to open up a match-winning lead.
The first was a penalty try before lock Josh Dickson managed to barge across.
Melbourne flanker Michael Wells admitted the second-half yellow card was costly.
“Discipline and transitions hurt us – we can’t expect to win games against quality opposition if we can’t exit our own half through penalties,” Wells told Stan Sport.
“It’s just not good enough.”
They toiled hard, with burly blindside flanker Rob Leota a stand-out, and Koroibete added his second in the 77th minute.
Harmon made amends for his earlier lapse with a try two minutes later to cap the result, although the Highlanders were denied a crucial bonus point.
Melbourne are due to face the Chiefs in Waikato next round, although they are still waiting on whether they will be able to travel to New Zealand.
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