The Melbourne Rebels have secured their first win over the Highlanders since 2013 after securing a 24-19 win over the New Zealand side at AAMI Park on Friday night.
With the Highlanders retaining 81% of possession in the 2nd half, the Rebels gallantly defended their 7-point half time lead to the delight of the 11,029 strong crowd.
The Rebels were well-serviced by Tom English, who scored two tries for the match, while Jack Maddocks and Billy Meakes contributed with a try each.
The Rebels were found out early on the right edge, as Shannon Frizell ran onto a cross-field kick to open the scoring inside three minutes.
The Rebels response was swift.
A slick pass from Dane Haylett-Petty to Tom English off a centre field scrum was immediately converted into a try in the ninth minute.
The Highlanders responded to the Rebels high paced offence and were able to break through Melbourne’s defensive-line, as they continued to apply pressure inside the Rebels 22.
Siate Tokolahi was the beneficiary, forcing his way over from a lineout maul that was converted by Bryn Gatland.
The Melburnians struck next though, with slick hands by Quade Cooper finding an unmarked Jack Maddocks, who ran in for the Rebels’ second try of the night.
The Melbourne side refused to relinquish their hold on the game, as neat passing allowed Tom English to find the line for his second try in the 29th minute, giving Melbourne back the lead.
An 11-minute stalemate finished off the first half, with the Rebels continuing to find dangerous positions but unable to take their opportunities.
They entered the rooms with a 19-12 lead. Melbourne continued where they left off coming out of the break, as Billy Meakes cleaned up a Quade Cooper grubber kick to further their lead inside the first three minutes of the second half.
For the next 20-minutes neither team could gain the ascendency as the game became a back and forth affair, with both sides keen to gain territorial advantage through their kicking game.
The Highlanders were the first to break the mould, when Jackson Hemopo crossed the chalk, bringing the margin back to five following the conversion.
In a tense final 10 minutes, the Highlanders looked likely to steal the match with some enormous forward pressure on the Rebels’ defence.
However, the Melbourne side demonstrated desperate defence in front of a vocal home crowd to remain unbeaten in 2019.
Rebels 24 defeated Highlanders 19
Melbourne Rebels Tries: 2; Tom English. 1; Jack Maddocks and Billy Meakes. Conversions: 2, Cooper
Highlanders Tries: 1; Siate Tokolahi, Jackson Hemopo, Shannon Frizell Conversions: 1; Bryn Gatland, Marty Banks