Melbourne have cracked a confidence-boosting win over Queensland to reaffirm their position at the top of the Australian Super Rugby conference.
The Rebels ran in four tries to two for a 30-24 victory at AAMI Park on Friday for a welcome victory after three successive losses.
It was far from their best performance but it allowed Melbourne to move four points clear of their nearest rivals, the Brumbies, at least until their game in Canberra against the Sunwolves on Sunday afternoon to complete the round.
Rebels coach Dave Wessels said it was a game that in the past they may have lost so he felt his team had taken a “big step forward”.
“There’s a big growth in our team in our ability to control our emotions and get on to the next job,” Wessels said.
“We were leading tonight and then the game could have gone either way and maybe in the past we would have let some soft moments go, but we hung in there, played tough and strangled them.”
Despite dominating possession, territory and having the benefit of two Reds’ yellow cards, the Rebels only held a three point lead at halftime.
Queensland lost skipper Samu Kerevi for tackling Will Genia in the air while Scott Higginbottom faced the same fate after illegally collapsing a maul with their discipline telling throughout the match.
The Australian under-20s representative showed some individual brilliance to turn Koroibete inside out before touching down.
Melbourne scored twice early in the second half to push the margin out to 24-11 but they were unable to shake the visitors.
The Rebels lost five-eighth Quade Cooper to a head-knock while he tried to tackle Kerevi.
Wessels said Cooper had concussion, putting him doubt for next Friday’s clash with the Bulls.
But the Rebels defence stood up to repel the visitors’ hopes of an upset and they were forced to settle for a bonus point.
Reds coach Brad Thorn said there was a lot to like about his team despite falling short.
“There was a lot of good stuff out there around the set piece – some real dominance there – and when we had the ball we were using it well and defensively there were some big shots,” Thorn said.
“The yellow cards didn’t help and there were a few other moments that put a bit of pressure on.”
Stewart’s shoulder will be further assessed back in Brisbane, with the coach fearful it could be serious.
The Short Ball:
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