The Melbourne Rebels have made it two wins from as many starts in the Super Rugby pre-season with a narrow victory over the Hurricanes.
The Melbourne Rebels held the Hurricanes scoreless for the last 34 minutes to register a tight 24-22 victory in their Super Rugby trial match at Simonds Stadium in Geelong on Saturday night.
Winger Lachlan Mitchell helped ensure the Rebels claimed victory with a bone-rattling tackle on Hurricanes centre Tim Bateman in the 79th minute, which forced a turnover.
The home side had gone ahead for the final time in the 72nd minute when Bryce Hegarty landed a long-range penalty goal.
The Rebels also got their first look at star New Zealand recruit Tamati Ellison, who did a couple of impressive things after entering the fray midway through the second half.
The former All Blacks centre had only arrived in Victoria a few days ago after completing his club commitments in Japan.
The Rebels opened the scoring with a second-minute penalty goal to impressive fullback Jason Woodward on a hot, still night.
But it was the visitors who had the best of the next 20 minutes, getting out to a 12-3 lead on the back of tries to fullback Nehe Milner-Skudder and flanker Ardie Savea.
Second-rower Hugh Pyle got the Rebels back into the contest in the 23rd minute, barging over from close range for their first try of the night.
Seven minutes later, Colby Fainga’a also scored after Pyle had been heavily involved in the build-up.
The home side were able to take a narrow 18-15 lead into the interval after Woodward potted a long-range penalty goal after the halftime siren.
The Hurricanes snatched the lead back early in the second half with a converted try to centre Matt Proctor in the 46th minute, but that was to be their last score of the game.
The Rebels are now two-from-two in the pre-season, having beaten the Waratahs 33-28 last weekend in Albury.
After having his 2013 campaign ended prematurely by a dislocated shoulder just when he seemed on the verge of a Wallabies call-up, Pyle was happy to play the vast majority of Saturday night’s match as both coaches made mass substitutions.
“We’re a bit light on for second-rowers at the moment,” he said.
“Cadeyrn Neville is injured and so is Chris Thomson.
“But hopefully, those guys will get back in.
“It’s a trial and I want to play as many minutes as I can.”
Despite the victory, Pyle said the Rebels still had plenty to work on for next weekend’s final trial match against the Queensland Reds.
“We’re still not quite where we want to be, but we’ll take a lot of things out of this game,” he said, noting that Queensland will be more of a benchmark.
“They’ve got a lot of Wallabies and have been the frontrunner of the Australian teams over the last two or three years.
“It will be good to gauge how we’re going before we have the bye to start the season.”