Rebels finish on a high
The Rebels finished their disappointing Super Rugby season on a high with a 38-37 victory over the Highlanders at AAMI Park on Friday.
After trailing 31-7 at the interval, the hosts came storming back in the second period, scoring five unanswered tries to seal a thrilling come-from-behind win in the final minute.
In total ten tries were scored between the sides - including doubles for Rebels backs Cooper Vuna, Tom English and Bryce Hegarty - in an entertaining game that served as the farewell fixture for a number of players on both teams.
The Kiwi side continued their strong finish to the season as they wrapped up the four-try bonus point before half-time.
But the second half was an entirely different affair as the Rebels cut loose to fight back and move ahead for the first time on the stroke of full-time.
The scores were level on the ten-minute mark after English's first try cancelled out Ben Smith's opening score for the Highlanders.
The visitors would rule until the break, running rampant as Hosea Gear, Tamati Ellison and Tony Woodcock all touched down.
There was a distinct lack of urgency from the Highlanders after the break though and two tries from Vuna saw the Rebels move back into contention by the hour mark.
James O'Connor came off the bench to turn the Rebels' attack up a notch and a second try from English plus one from fly-half Hegarty - from a pass from O'Connor - narrowed the gap to single point with six minutes left.
The Highlanders seemed to have gotten out of jail when Colin Slade slotted a late penalty but the Rebels would have the last laugh as Hegarty found his way into the corner after Vuna's offload inside with the last play of the game to snatch victory.
Tries: English 2, Vuna 2, Hegarty 2
Cons: Woodward 4
Tries: B. Smith, Gear, Ellison, Woodcock
Cons: Slade 4
Pens: Slade 2
Rebels 15 Angus Roberts, 14 Jason Woodward, 13 Tom English, 12 Rory Sidey, 11 Cooper Vuna, 10 Bryce Hegarty, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Gareth Delve, 7 Scott Fuglistaller, 6 Jarrod Saffy, 5 Cadeyrn Neville, 4 Hugh Pyle, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 Ged Robinson, 1 Nic Henderson.
Replacements: 16 Shota Horie, 17 Paul Alo-Emile, 18 Luke Jones, 19 Jordy Reid, 20 Nic Stirzake,r 21 James O'Connor, 22 Kimami Sitauti.
Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Kade Poki, 13 Jason Emery, 12 Tamati Ellison, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Mose Tuiali'i, 7 Elliot Dixon, 6 TJ Ioane, 5 Josh Bekhuis, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Ma'afu Fia, 2 Andrew Hore (c), 1 Tony Woodcock
Replacements: 16 Liam Coltman, 17 Bronson Murray, 18 Jake Paringatai, 19 Joe Wheeler, 20 Fumiaki Tanaka, 21 Hayden Parker, 22 Shaun Treeby
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne
Referee: Andrew Lees (Australia)
Assistant referees: Ian Smith (Australia), Damien Mitchelmore (Australia)
Television match official: Matt Goddard (Australia)