Rebels kick clear at top but may lose concussed Cooper
GETTING separation from their Australian conference rivals took some doing for the Melbourne Rebels in their local derby win and it could also have come at a cost.
The 30-24 victory over the Queensland Reds was achieved without star fly-half Quade Cooper in the second half. He missed the final 30 minutes of a frenetic, fumbly but ultimately tenacious effort from the home team after taking a blow to the head.
Cooper, who had played all but one minute for the Rebels so far this season, was laid out by Reds skipper Samu Kerevi as the Rebel went low to make a tackle and took a blow to the head.
He walked from the field after spending several minutes with the trainers, but looked dazed.
He could need a concussion clearance to take on the Bulls back at AAMI Park next Friday night as the quest for a maiden finals berth kicks up a gear.
The Rebels scored four tries to the Reds' two on a cold night in Melbourne, but required two late penalty goals to finally clear out on the visitors, who achieved a losing bonus point, having blown a few scoring attempts.
In a stop-start affair, with 24 penalties awarded, and two yellow cards handed to the Reds, the Rebels showed their hand early and decided they would pass their way to a win.
But they came up with eight handling errors in the pursuit of a fast game, and missed 18 tackles, allowing the Reds to profit.
A standout showing from Rebels captain Dane Haylett-Petty, in his second match back from a toe injury, contained enough polish for Melbourne to show elements of their best.
"We got back to playing the type of rugby we like to play in patches, and we just have to do more of that," Haylett Petty said.
The windy, wintry conditions that hit Melbourne on Friday made for some aerial unknowns with several high kicks sent towards the Yarra River end of AAMI Park actually ending up going backwards.
Trying to judge their landing spot, and jumping to meet them, was a risky business, and plenty of the balls found grass as players left them alone.
The Reds kickers reverted to torpedo punts for penetration purposes.
Rebels scrum-half Will Genia was nailed after launching at one aerial ball, which he caught, but was smashed by Reds captain Samu Kerevi, who was given a yellow card for his effort.
The Reds' front-row wrecking ball, Taniela Tupou, known as the "Tongan Thor" proved his team's most potent force and was a thorn in the Rebels left side particularly.
The 22-year-old set up his team's opening try, nearly scored one too, and continually forced the Rebels' left-edge into missed tackles (they missed 18 for the game) with a bustling running style they found hard to handle, making easy work of rock-hard Melbourne winger Marika Koroibete on more than one occasion.
MELBOURNE REBELS 30 (Tetera Faulkner, Dane Haylett-Petty, Marika Koroibete, Anaru Rangi tries Quade Cooper 2 cons Reece Hodge 2 pens) QUEENSLAND REDS 24 (Harry Hoopert, Isaac Lucas tries Bryce Hegarty con 4 pens) at AAMI Park. Referee: Angus Gardner