Rebels rue missed chance to crack win
April 5, 2014
The Highlanders have held off a fast-finishing Melbourne Rebels in a high-scoring match in Dunedin (video available in Australia only).
The Melbourne Rebels are filthy at themselves after letting another golden opportunity to crack their first overseas Super Rugby victory slip by. For the third time in as many games in New Zealand they have lost by four points or less, this time falling 33-30 to the Highlanders in Dunedin.
Melbourne matched the home side in scoring three tries, with the boot of Highlanders fly-half Liam Sopoaga proving the difference.
"The players are really frustrated that they left a result out on the field," coach Tony McGahan said. "They felt they were in good control of the ball and they defended for good periods and once we were in the right area of the field we were able to look OK."
McGahan lamented his team's ineffective kicking game, particularly in their own half, which handed the Highlanders easy chances to attack. They weren't helped by losing five-eighth Bryce Hegarty in the second minute of the game to concussion. While Hegarty recovered well, he will undergo testing through the week but under the concussion protocol looks unlikely to face the Chiefs next round in Hamilton.
The Rebels may look to reinstate Luke Burgess to the scrum-half role. Starting No.9 Nic Stirzaker impressed with his running and passing game, setting up the first try, but offered his side little in terms of kicking. McGahan said it wasn't just against the Highlanders that kicking was an issue.
"It's really hurting us, against the Crusaders we came up six points short and again against the Highlanders," he said. "While there's some really good parts of play at Super 15 level you need to be able to relieve yourself of pressure and to be able to get out of your 22 is absolutely vital."
McGahan said it had been a big focus at training but they needed to transfer that into match-play.
"It's been able to continue to learn and add those parts to our game and that's an important part of it."