The Melbourne Rebels fell to their second successive loss as the Crusaders flexed their Super Rugby muscle with a 25-19 win at AAMI Park on Friday night.
The Rebels were hopeful of rebounding from a heavy defeat to the Western Force and while they delivered a much-improved performance, couldn’t get the better of the Crusaders.
Centre Tom Taylor proved his value with the boot, slotting a faultless six penalties and one conversion to give the Crusaders two wins from four games heading into the bye.
In an arm wrestle of a first half, neither side was able to cross the try-line, with Taylor kicking his team to a 12-9 lead, while fullback Jason Woodward collected the Rebels’ points.
They had plenty of possession but too often the Rebels released the pressure valve on the Crusaders with an error or poor kick while a rocketing penalty count did them no favours.
The visitors’ defence was also rock solid, with prop Laurie Weeks coming off second best as he knocked himself out taking the ball up late in the first half and didn’t return.
The first try of the match came in the 56th minute with the Rebels trying desperately to hold out the waves of attack before they were caught short, Crusaders hooker Ben Funnell going over out wide.
The conversion and then another penalty from Taylor pushed the lead out to 13 points and while there was still time to make amends, Melbourne never really looked comfortable.
They managed to get across the line with two minutes remaining with hard-working flanker Scott Fuglistaller coming up with the points after the forwards mauled the ball.
Bryce Hegarty added the extras to ensure an important bonus point for finishing within seven points.
Compounding the disappointment, the Rebels lost exciting fullback Woodward eight minutes into the second half when he limped off with a leg injury.