Rebels fight back to pip the Highlanders
BRYCE HEGARTY’S two late tries overcame the Melbourne Rebels 31-7 half-time deficit to edge the Highlanders 38-37 in Super Rugby yesterday.
Tom English and Cooper Vuna also scored a brace in the last-gasp win for 12 000 roaring fans as a host of departing players signed off in style.
Captain Gareth Delve, the heart and soul of the struggling Melbourne club, was given the honour of kicking the last conversion in his final game for the Rebels.
The Welsh No 8, set to play club rugby in Japan, missed to the left of the posts but it did little to subdue celebrations among the players. Many held back tears.
Along with Delve, Wallabies backs James O’Connor, Vuna and Nick Phipps were among a raft of players taking their last bows for the Rebels, who were also bidding farewell to sacked coach Damien Hill.
The gutsy win in the final round of the southern hemisphere competition’s regular season capped a difficult year for the Rebels, who were eliminated from playoffs contention early and blighted by off-field problems over Kurtley Beale.
Wallabies back Beale, who punched Delve and Vuna in an alcohol-fuelled incident on a team bus in South Africa early in the season, was excused from playing to continue his rehabilitation in Sydney.
The Rebels were more than compensated by an outstanding half hour’s play by Australia back O’Connor.
O’Connor was sensationally dumped by the provincial team early in the week after a disappointing series against the British and Irish Lions.
The decision may have felt a pang of regret as the talented 23 year old carved up the Highlanders defence and set up three tries after coming off the bench shortly after the break. – Reuters