Super Rugby round nine
Kings claim historic win over Rebels
April 13, 2013
Demetri Catrakilis celebrates his match-winning drop goal
© Getty Images
Southern Kings made history in Melbourne, claiming their first Super Rugby win outside South Africa after Demetri Catrakilis capped a wonderful fightback with a drop goal in time added on.
Melbourne Rebels seemed set to claim their first win against South African oppositions when they led 27-20 with less than five minutes remaining, but the Kings, who defeated Western Force in recording their only previous win, levelled through a converted try, scored by flanker Wimpie van der Walt just a minute after the Rebels had lost flanker Jordy Reid to a yellow card, then Catrakilis stepped up to nail the hosts after Jason Woodward had kicked the ensuing kick-off into touch.
Kings captain Andries Strauss hailed the "strength and character" of his team in fighting back, saying "we knew if we got our hands on the ball we could score some points", but Rebels captain Scott Higginbotham and coach Damien Hill were nonplussed by the home side's inability to close out the win.
Higginbotham said the Rebels "went away from the game plan ourselves" in the final 10 minutes. "That just comes down to lack of experience," he said. "We've just got to wok on that. Settle the nerves and play to our strengths ... when the scores get close." Hill was less conciliatory, saying: "They need to learn execution under pressure. A few simple errors preventing us getting out of our own 40 put pressure back on the team. Hands up to the forward pack: they did an amazing job withstanding the pressure put on them. Eventually it's going to crack, and that's what happened."
The Southern Kings fought back to beat the Rebels (video available only in Australia)%]
Hill paid tribute to the defence of both sides, saying "both teams defended reasonably well" but "we've got to take more opportunities when they come our way".
Melbourne's season appeared to be back on track after their trip to South Africa, where they suffered two heavy losses and off-field drama. The stunned Western Force in round eight, in their first match back in Australia, and they fought back strongly after trailing the Kings 14-0 early to hit the lead in the 44th minute.
The Rebels dominated territory and possession throughout but a high error rate cruelled countless attacking chances, and the Kings' two first-half tries both came against the run of play and exposed flimsy Rebels defence as winger Ronnie Cooke and scrum-half Shaun Venter scored with ease.
But momentum started to shift the home side's way, and a telling moment came late in the first half when Higginbotham declined a penalty goal three times to go for a try. The Rebels received the reward they were after with playmaker James O'Connor sending the ball to Woodward with replacement fullback Angus Roberts diving across in the corner. O'Connor's conversion locked up the scores at 17-17.
O'Connor landed a penalty early in the second half to give the home side the lead for the first time, which they extended when centre Mitch Inman scored his first try in 39 Super Rugby matches. But the 10-point lead wasn't enough, and Catrakilis closed the gap with a penalty before van der Walt's late effort and the winning drop goal.
Hill said his team had lost the match rather than the Kings winning it. He said his team played well for the middle 40 minutes of the match but simple errors proved costly. "The message to a lot of our players is that near enough is nowhere near good enough," Hill said. "I can't fault the guys' effort but there's a level of execution required at this level if you're going to be competitive and that was definitely a game we should have won."