Melbourne hold off Moana Pasifika despite nervy finish

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The Melbourne Rebels have made it a Super Saturday for Australian teams, backing up the NSW Waratahs’ shock win with a 26-22 victory over Moana Pasifika.

The Waratahs upset the Crusaders 24-21 in Sydney in the early game before the Rebels held on for their own Super Rugby Pacific win over the competition newcomers at AAMI Park.

A try in the 77th minute by winger Timoci Tavatavanawai set up a thrilling finish although the conversion by Christian Lealiifano was off target.

The Rebels then had centre Ray Nu’u sent off in the final minute for a high shot on Lealiifano, but Lincoln McClutchie failed to find touch, robbing his team of a final attempt to score a match-winning try.

The lead changed four times through the match with Melbourne managing to stay in front from the 53rd minute, when fullback Reece Hodge glided through a gap in the defence.

With six minutes remaining five-eighth Carter Gordon stalled a fightback when he stopped a certain try by knocking the ball from the hands of McClutchie as he dived over the line.

Moana Pasifika’s first match on Australian soil was postponed last round with Western Force unable to field a side due to COVID-19.

Their first points came through flanker Alamanda Motuga after they used an attacking line-out to drive the ball across the line in the 10th minute.

Rebels hooker James Hanson countered, scoring twice off the same play, with a late penalty strike by Lealiifano closing to trail 14-10 at halftime.

Moana Pasifika’s pressure on Melbourne reaped a reward in the 49th minute through prop Abraham Pole to regain the lead until Hodge’s five-pointer. 

Wallabies winger Andrew Kellaway then broke a seven-game drought with a try against the run of play to give the hosts more breathing room.

Rebels coach Kevin Foote will be disappointed with Nu’a’s red card, with the centre only returning this match from a two-match ban.

© AAP

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