An injury to potential Wallabies starter Jordan Uelese has cast a shadow over a drought-breaking win in New Zealand for the Melbourne Rebels, who beat the Blues 20-10.
Uelese lasted just 10 minutes before being involved in a tackle on Akira Ioane, grabbing his left knee as he fell to the ground.
The 21-year-old looked to be in serious pain after the incident and had to be helped off the ground by trainers.
Post-match, a Rebels official said Uelese was going for scans to determine whether he had suffered a strain or a tear to his knee ligament, though he will still link up with the Wallabies on Sunday.
Uelese is most likely to be the Wallabies’ first-choice hooker for the upcoming June Series, and was in fact the only hooker in the squad with any capped hookers.
His Rebels teammate Anaru Rangi could be in the mix to replace him in the Wallabies squad, should he ultimately be ruled out, but that would leave the Wallabies with three debutants in the rake spot going up against the Grand Slam champions.
It was a rare sour note in the first win by an Australian team in New Zealand since 2015, showing elements that would have silenced many of the Rebels’ critics.
Melbourne has not won across the ditch since 2015, when they shocked the Crusaders at home, but they showed a well-formed grit to hold out the Blues and convert their opportunities.
An impressive defensive effort from Angus Cottrell kept the Blues out early, but the hosts had the first score after a Stephen Perofeta penalty.
A misjudged restart from Reece Hodge gave the ball back to the Blues easily immediately after, as the Rebels started to let the momentum slip away.
Melbourne had a pick and go opportunity and Billy Meakes finally broke through the Blues’ defensive wall, after 10 phases, to snatch the lead.
Rebels fullback Dane Haylett-Petty saved a near-certain try, pulling Blues winger into touch Tumua Manu after the latter snapped up a Stephen Perofeta cross-field kick.
Some sloppiness with ball in hand put the Rebels under pressure, though their speedy ball movement put them in dangerous areas.
Michael Ruru and Colby Faingaa had tries disallowed leading into half-time, Ruru held up by Augustine Pulu and Faingaa’s score denied after a knock-on in the lead-up.
The Rebels couldn’t create a third chance and a charge down on a Ruru box kick, followed by some scrambling, ultimately led to the Blues first try, through Terrence Hepetema.
Haylett-Petty finished off a hot potato run of passes for the Rebels to put his side back in front at the break.
Meakes had his second just three minutes into the second half, but this time he only had to wait for a perfectly-time pass for Koroibete, running straight into a gap to score.
The Rebels’ defence caused the Blues grief all night and though their scrum was initially under threat, they managed to steady that part of their game as well, also bucking a trend of poor second half efforts.
Reece Hodge had a patchy night with the boot but a 48m penalty hit the mark and gave them a 10-point buffer with 20 minutes to go.
Flanker Colby Faingaa proved pivotal in the breakdown, snatching two crucial turnovers in the back end of the match, as the Rebels grew in confidence.
A 76th-minute Marika Koroibete try was disallowed when the TMO deemed him to have gone into touch, denying the Rebels a bonus point.
The decision to give the injured Will Genia an extra Super Rugby week off ahead of the June Tests proved the right one, with Michael Ruru playing one of his best games of the season.
Tries: Meakes 2, D Haylett-Petty