The Melbourne Rebels were left to rue basic errors in a 27-3 loss to the Highlanders in Melbourne.
Coming into the match with a 3-1 record, the Rebels were outclassed by the defending champions, who grasped the slightest of chances when they presented themselves.
The Rebels showed some grit early on, holding out the Highlanders’ attacking barrage through the opening 10 minutes.
Once the points came for the Highlanders, they didn’t stop quickly, with a Lima Sopoaga penalty goal followed up by a Rob Thompson try just a minute later.
The Highlanders pounced on any of the Rebels’ mistakes, just as they had against the Waratahs a week earlier.
The Rebels couldn’t return the favour with their first serious sniff at a try, as Dom Shipperley blazed away down the right edge before a no-look Jonah Placid pass went into touch.
Debreczeni had the only points for the Rebels in the 47th minute, slotting a penalty to narrow the margin to 10 points and give Melbourne some optimism.
Stand-in captain Sean McMahon continued his bruising form against the Highlanders, again the main threat when it came to breaking the line.
Jack Wilson stretched the lead in the 56th minute finishing off a Sopoaga kick, pouncing on the ball in-goal
His opposite wing Patrick Osborne collected a simple intercept to streak away for the match sealer in the 64th minute.
The Rebels searched for a consolation try as the minutes ticked on but the Highlanders’ defence proved near impenetrable, on their way to 117 tackles.
Fullback Jonah Placid looms as the major injury concern from the game, with the fullback pulled in the 48th minute, coming on to the bench with what looked like an arm injury.
The Rebels travel to Sydney to take on the Waratahs in eight days’ time, in what looms as a critical Australian conference clash.