The teams were levelled at 24-all but a last minute try by Reds captain Samu Kerevi sealed a 29-24 Super Rugby victory over Rebels in Melbourne.
There was no lack of willing intensity in this helter-skelter match, even though the skill level may not have been the greatest. In fact a but more calmness may well have helped.
That said, there were times when it would have been better to be quicker, especially behind the Rebels' forwards where Ben Meehan seemed often to be doing the Reds' work in changing quick ball into slow ball.
The uncertainties made the game attractively unpredictable, for the Rebels more than the Reds enjoyed many turnovers though they could not turn the benison into points.
The Rebels kicked off, a ruck formed and, not for the only time in the match, George Smith was penalised. Reece Hodge gave the Rebels a 3-0 lead within a minute.
Smith was penalised so many times that it may well outweigh the good things the brave veteran does.
At the start of the match the Reds lost young Campbell Magnay to a head knock suffered when he tackled Mitch Inman, his place taken by Izaia Perese.
When the Reds won a turnover on their own 22, Samu Kerevi burst through three defenders on a long run. He eventually gave to left wind Eto Nabuli who was stopped five metres from the Rebels' line. The Reds attacked and Quade Cooper sent a perfect long, looping pass to Nabuli who immediately popped the ball inside to Kerevi for his first try of the match. 5-3 to the Reds after 7 minutes.
But a minute later a second Hodge penalty restored the home side's lead.
There was an emotional outburst in touch, the only one of the match, when Cooper refused to hand over the ball to the Rebels who wanted to throw in quickly.
The Rebels attacked and bashed at the line. Karmichael Hunt was [penalised and yellowcarded. The Rebels opted for the scrum but wasted their advantage when they were penalised for scrumming illegally.
Smith won a turnover and with smart interpassing the Reds attacked down the left - Cooper gave to Smith who gave back to Cooper who gave to Scott Higginbotham who gave a perfect pass to Nabuli who scored in the left corner. Cooper kicked an excellent conversion. 12-6 to the Reds after 27 minutes.
Kerevi burst away on another solo run. Then Cooper tapped a penalty and headed for the line but the Rebels won a turnover.
A penalty gave the Reds a five-metre line-out. They mauled and were over for a try credited to Stephen Moore. 17-6 after 39 minutes, which was the half-time score.
In the second half Sean McMahon was on the field, back from injury with a heavily strapped left arm.
Smith was again penalised and Hodge goaled again,. 17-12 after 42 minutes.
Then came folly. Cooper kicked a meaningless kick down onto Marika Koroibete, deep in his own territory. He then kicked a meaningless kick into the middle of the field. Reds inside centre Paia'aua caught the ball near the half-way line and set off on a counterattack. He gave to Nabuli who gave to Kerevi who gave inside to Higginbotham who raced over for a try in the left corner. Cooper converted from touch. 24-12 after 49 minutes. The next time the Reds scored it was half an hour later, and it was the winner.
In that half an hour the Rebels caught up.
First Tom English, blood running from his nose, burst away on a long run. As English was tackled Will Miller was on hand to take a pass and sweep over behind the posts. 24-19 after 55 minutes.
The Reds attacked but Ben Volavola saved. Meehan kicked downfield and the Reds countered down the left when the ball went astray but Hunt was on hand and seemed to score, but the TMO had compelling evidence that Smith's pass to Nabuli had been forward.
A penalty got the Rebels out of trouble and from the ensuing line-out on their right they bashed and then went wide left where Koroibete scored in the left corner. 24-all after 70 minutes.
Those last minutes belonged to the Reds after another Kerevi burst, this time down the left.
Paia'aua gave to cooper who gave to Moore who gave to Cooper who crosskicked to his right. Higginbotham went to catch the kick diving for it as the ball came down over the line, but the No.8 lost the ball.
From the scrum Meehan cleared into touch. The Reds won the line-out and mauled. The Reds bashed and the went wide where powerful Kerevi burst past Miller to score the winning try with less than a minute to play.
It was a match with moments of great excitement.
Man of the Match: Samu Kerevi. He was the many best able and most likely to change the game for the better. And he did it.
Tries: Miller, Koroibete
Pens: Hodge 4
Tries: Kerevi 2, Nabuli, Moore, Higginbotham
Cons: Cooper 2
Yellow card: Karmichael Hunt (Reds, 18 - cynical foul)
Melbourne Rebels: 15 Reece Hodge (captain), 14 Sefa Naivalu, 13 Tom English, 12 Mitch Inman, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Ben Volavola, 9 Ben Meehan, 8 Amanaki Mafi, 7 Will Miller, 6 Hugh Sinclair, 5 Dominic Day, 4 Steve Cummins, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 James Hanson, 1 Toby Smith.
Replacements: 16 Siliva Siliva, 17 Fereti Sa'aga, 18 Tyrel Lomax, 19 Culum Retallick, 20 Esei Haangana, 21 Sean McMahon, 212 Harrison Goddard, 23 Jack Maddocks.
Reds: 15 Karmichael Hunt, 14 Campbell Magnay, 13 Samu Kerevi (captain), 12 Duncan Paia'aua, 11 Eto Nabuli, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Nick Frisby, 8 Scott Higginbotham, 7 George Smith, 6 Hendrik Tui, 5 Lukhan Tui, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Sam Talakai, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Sef Fa'agase.
Replacements: 16 Alex Mafi, 17 Kirwan Sanday, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Izack Rodda, 20 Adam Korczyk, 21 Moses Sorovi, 22 Hamish Stewart, 23 Izaia Perese.
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Shuhei Kubo (Japan), Ed Martin (Australia)
TMO: Damien Mitchelmore (Australia)
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