Young Wallaby hot shot Jordan Petaia scored an emotional try as the Reds repelled a second-half onslaught from the Melbourne Rebels in a bruising 19-3 Super Rugby AU win Saturday.
AS IT HAPPENED | Reds v Rebels
The Rebels upset the Brumbies last week and could have moved past the Canberra side to top the five-team ladder with victory, but the Reds are a tough nut to crack at home in Brisbane.
Winger Petaia bagged the opening try on his return to action after his father died suddenly this month and Brandon Paenga-Amosa got a second to send them to the turn with a 14-3 lead.
But the Rebels dominated the second-half, with the Reds' defence outstanding in soaking up intense pressure before Hamish Stewart sealed the win late in the game on a counter-attack.
"That was brilliant. Melbourne were very classy and held onto the ball and kept us in our half (in the second stanza)," said Reds skipper Liam Wright after his team snapped a two-game losing streak.
"But our boys held strong, we've got a lot of tough men on that team and I couldn't be prouder of them."
It was a vastly improved effort from the Reds, who were embarrassed last week by the Waratahs, leaking 38 points in the first half.
The bonus point win moved them to second on the table, two points behind the Brumbies who have a game in hand, with the Waratahs third and Rebels fourth with three rounds left.
"Credit to the Reds, they showed some really good defence," said Rebels lock Matt Philip, standing in for captain Matt Toomua who needed stitches in a head wound.
"We had some really good attacking opportunities, but we just couldn't convert them."
The Rebels made the early running, pinning the Reds in their own half, and got on the board first when Toomua slotted an easy penalty in front of the posts.
But the Reds quickly returned fire with Petaia darting through a gap to dot down for only his third Super Rugby try, a poignant moment for the highly-rated winger who pulled out of last weekend's game.
James O'Connor converted to move past 600 Super Rugby points, and the Reds pounced again when Jock Campbell sliced through the defence on a weaving run and hooker Paenga-Amosa finished off the move.
It sent them to the break 14-3 in front but the second half turned into a rearguard action that went pointless for 32 minutes.
Despite applying all the pressure, the Rebels failed to get over the try line and against the run of play, Stewart beat two tackles to dash 35 metres and ensure a deserved win with eight minutes left.
Tries: Brandon Paenga-Amos, Brandon Paenga-Amos, Hamish Stewart
Conversions: James O'Connor (2)
Penalty: Matt Toomua
15 Jock Campbell, 14 Jordan Petaia, 13 Hunter Paisami, 12 Hamish Stewart, 11 Filipo Dauguna, 10 James O’Connor, 9 Tate McDermott, 8 Harry Wilson, 7 Fraser McReight, 6 Liam Wright (captain), 5 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 4 Angus Blyth, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 1 Jack Straker
Substitutes: 16 Alex Mafi, 17 Jethro Felemi, 18 Zane Nonggorr, 19 Tuaina Taii Tualima, 20 Angus Scott-Young, 21 Scott Malolua, 22 Bryce Hegarty, 23 Josh Flook
15 Reece Hodge, 14 Andrew Kellaway, 13 Campbell Magnay, 12 Matt To’omua (captain), 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Andrew Deegan, 9 Frank Lomani, 8 Isi Naisarani, 7 Brad Wilkin, 6 Josh Kemeny, 5 Trevor Hosea, 4 Matt Philip, 3 Pone Fa’amausili, 2 Jordan Uelese, 1 Cameron Orr
Substitutes: 16 Efitusi Maafu, 17 Cabous Eloff, 18 Charles Abel, 19 Esei Ha’angana, 20 Michael Wells, 21 Richard Hardwick, 22 James Tuttle, 23 Billy Meakes