The Melbourne Rebels chalked up a slice of history by posting their first win outside Australia with a 20-10 victory over the Crusaders in Christchurch on Friday evening.
The Rebels opened the Super Rugby season with a gritty performance, scoring two tries to one despite being reduced twice to 14 men.
Lopeti Timani and Nic Stirzaker scored tries for the visitors, while new recruit Mike Harris showed the value of his move south from the Reds with two conversions and as many penalty goals.
Stirzaker was both hero and villain in the hard-fought battle, having been yellow carded inside the opening five minutes for allegedly stomping on All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw.
In his absence, the home side went out to a 3-0 lead through a penalty kick by All Blacks fly half Dan Carter.
But Stirzaker made amends in the 65th minute when he scooped up a rebounding Carter kick and raced down field to give his team a match-winning 10-point lead.
Stirzaker was not the only player in trouble, with referee Nick Briant handing out three yellow cards.
Crusaders half-back Mitchell Drummond spent 10 minutes on the sidelines for slowing down the ball, while Rebels flanker Sean McMahon was carded in the second half for an alleged lifting tackle.
McMahon, skipper Scott Higginbotham and lock Lopeti Timani were some of the Rebels’ stand-outs with the forwards getting the better of their highly rated opponents.
Timani joined Melbourne last season but only managed two matches through injury. He showed his value when he scored the opening try, barrelling over after 20 lead-up phases by his side.
The Crusaders hit straight back through hooker Ben Funnell as they drove the ball over the line from a five-metre line-out.
The teams looked like they would go to half-time at 10-10 until Rebels recruit Mike Harris slotted a penalty after the hooter thanks to Drummond’s indiscretion for a 13-10 advantage.
The Crusaders let themselves down with some poor finishing, making double the handling errors of Melbourne.
The only blight on the Rebels’ night was the early loss of boom five-eighth Jack Debreczeni with a head knock.