Super Rugby

Rebels secure massive upset with Highlanders win

Michael Collins of the Highlanders (Getty)
Michael Collins of the Highlanders (Getty)

Cape Town - The Melbourne Rebels survived a Highlanders fightback to record their first-ever win in Dunedin with a hard-fought 28-22 victory on Friday.

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The Rebels scored four tries to three, including two intercepts for wing Andrew Kellaway, to post their second win of the season.

After a three-try burst to go 21-0 up, the Rebels were forced to dig deep in defence as the Highlanders roared back in front of a vocal home crowd.

"It went back and forth, we had all the momentum in the first half and they had everything in the second half," Rebels skipper Dane Haylett-Petty said.

"It was just a great clash."

The loss was the Highlanders' first defeat at home against Australian opposition since 2014.

Even worse for the hosts, captain James Lentjes was stretchered off in the first half with an apparent broken leg.

Lentjes, 28, who only became captain this year after the departure of All Blacks Ben Smith and Luke Whitelock, suffered what seems certain to be a season-ending injury.

The Rebels raced to a 14-0 lead in the first 15 minutes with tries to Bill Meakes and Anaru Rangi, overwhelming the Highlanders with dazzling speed and daring offloads.

The home team then mounted a sustained attack, only for Kellaway to intercept close to his own tryline and race the length of the field for his team's third try.

Kellaway's opposite number, Josh McKay, finally got the Highlanders on the board but their woes deepened with Lentjes' departure.

Aaron Smith scored the Highlanders' second try against the run of play to make it 21-14 at half-time.

The hosts attempted to up the tempo after the break but Kellaway again pounced on a loose pass and took off from deep within his own half for his second intercept try.

The Highlanders ground out a try from Scott Gregory but the debutant was sin-binned moments later for dangerous play, stalling their comeback hopes.

There were also yellow cards for Meakes and the Highlanders' Jona Nareki in the late stages, with the game ending when the home team lost a lineout after the siren.

It is the second time the Highlanders have lost at home this season following their defeat to the Sharks, and they stay bottom of the Kiwi Conference. 

The Rebels, meanwhile, move up to second in the Australian Conference.

Scorers:

Highlanders (14)

Tries: Josh McKay, Aaron Smith, Scott Gregory

Conversions: Josh Ioane (2)

Penalty: Ioane

Rebels (21)

Tries: Bill Meakes, Anaru Rangi, Andrew Kellaway (2)

Conversions: Matt Toomua (4)