Reds squeeze past Rebels in thriller

Super Rugby
by Sam Phillips

A Samu Kerevi try with 90 seconds to play has kept the Reds' season alive in a 29-24 thriller at AAMI Park.

The stand-in skipper was inspirational all night and it proved to be the ultimate captain's knock when he wrestled his way over the line to secure a bonus point win for the Reds.

The Reds now sit second in the Australian conference on 16 points, three shy of the Brumbies on 19, though both the Brumbies and the Waratahs have a game in hand.

Where the first 40 minutes was far from an inspiring effort from either side outside a few moments of brilliance, the second 40 was a riveting contest from two teams fighting to stay in the hunt for finals football.

The Rebels ripped in with ball in hand and the Reds produced one of their best defensive efforts of 2017 - putting on some big hits and making several scrambling tackles which saved tries.

Nick Frisby was responsible for three of those, in what was a solid return to the starting halfback gig.

But the Reds paid the price of ill discipline and poor goal kicking, scoring five tries to two but never kicking clear.Tom English was in fine form again tonight. Photo: Getty ImagesFrisby, Quade Cooper, George Smith, Samu Kerevi and Scott Higginbotham were all in fine form tonight and there were nearly as many standouts for the Rebels.

Hugh Sinclair and Will Miller had enormous first halves, Amanaki Mafi attacks the breakdown with a maniacal thirst and Reece Hodge has the perfect combination of ball running, creativity and a cannon for a right boot.

Three Hodge penalties kept the scoreboard ticking over for the home side in a first half largely dominated by the Reds.

Their scrum set the foundation for attacks that consistently rolled over the gain line and put the Rebels under the pump.

Frisby added spark in his return to the starting halfback gig, Cooper was in vintage form with ball in hand and Smith was the best player on the park.Scott Higginbotham and Eto Nabuli celebrate the Fijian's try. Photo: Getty ImagesSmith's three first half pilfers released the pressure valve when the Rebels threatened and he carried the ball as well as he has all season.

Two of Queensland's three first half tries were created by some perfect Cooper passing.

The first, to Samu Kerevi, was a flowing double cut out over the Rebels line to Eto Nabuli, who popped back inside for his fellow Fijian to score.

The second was a superb move that started with Cooper putting Smith through a hole before the flyhalf wrapped around the back, received the ball back and passed to Scott Higginbotham, who put Nabuli away for Queensland's second try.

The Reds had their third one minute before the half-time siren sounded when Stephen Moore fell over the line for his third rolling maul try in as many weeks.Tony McGahan's Rebels trail at half time. Photo: Getty ImagesTony McGahan needs to put Marika Koroibete on a kicking ban because his woeful popgun up the middle set up the Reds' fourth of the night.

After defending for 10 plus phases, a Ben Volavola knock on turned the ball over for Frisby, who kicked the ball downfield.

Koroibete cleaned it up before kicking it straight down the throat of Duncan Paia'aua, who put Nabuli through a hole, before he offloaded to Higginbotham for a superb counterattack try.

The Rebels dominated possession for the next five minutes and though the Reds defended well, a Tom English line break quickly turned into a Will Miller try to draw the Rebels within five points with 25 to play.

Koroibete made up for the five pointer he gifted the Reds with a try of his own with 10 minutes to play to set the stage for a thrilling finish at 24-all.

The Reds then worked the ball upfield through clinical phase play but blew a golden opportunity when Frisby decided to kick cross field to Higginbotham rather than throwing a cut-out to a four on zero situation.

But with two minutes left on the clock, Kerevi got one-on-one with Miller five metres out from the line, brushed him and secured the bonus point win that keeps Quaeensland's season alive.


Rebels 24

Tries: Miller, Koroibete

Cons: Hodge

Pens: Hodge 4

Reds 29

Tries: Kerevi 2, Nabuli, Moore, Higginbotham

Cons: Cooper 2