The Hurricanes edged the Rebels 47-45 in an entertaining pre-season clash which saw each side score seven tries in Geelong on Saturday.
In an open and exciting first half, the Rebels scored five tries to the Hurricanes' four and went in 33-28 ahead at the break.
It didn't take long for the hosts to get on the scoreboard, with new signing Rory Sidey intercepting a wayward pass in the Hurricanes half after just four minutes and sprinting 30 metres through to score under the posts, with James O'Connor adding the regulation two points.
After eight minutes, the Rebels were over for a second time. Captain Gareth Delve forced his way across following great work from Hugh Pyle, and although James O'Connor pushed the conversion left from out wide, the Rebels nearly added to the score again in the 12th minute.
A clever break from Wallabies scrumhalf Nick Phipps saw him shrug off a high tackle and release Caderyn Neville into space. Neville threw a great pass to Alex Rokobaro on the right wing, but the young Fijian was bundled into touch just five metres short of the line.
However the Rebels' fierce attacking pressure couldn't be denied, with ex-Wellingtonian Ged Robinson crossing the line directly in front in the 14th minute following good work from Phipps, with O'Connor comfortably adding the extras.
Kurtley Beale dispelled any doubts that this was a 'friendly' game as he was crunched underneath a high ball taking a mark within his own 22, before a short quarter-time break was taken with the Rebels leading 20-0.
The break seemed to galvanise the Hurricanes, who got themselves into the game immediately upon resumption. James Broadhurst and Ray Leelo both scored for the visitors, and Andre Taylor had no trouble adding the points on both occasions.
But the Rebels hit back instantly, with fullback O'Connor over under the posts. Beale, who was really pulling the strings and dictating the pace of the game in the No.10 jersey, threw a sensational ball to release Sidey who in turn set up Mitch Inman as the Rebels looked to restore a double figure advantage. Just two phases later and they were over, with Inman and Sidey demonstrating a great partnership in the midfield.
O'Connor added the points from in front, and the teams then traded five pointers as first Ardie Savea for the Hurricanes and then Gareth Delve scored, with both kicks being on target. There was still time for one more try in an action-packed first half, with Wellington winger Matt Proctor scoring in the corner and sharpshooter Taylor adding the points.
O'Connor left the field shortly before half time after an accidental collision with an opponent's boot, and he didn't return.
Richard Kingi replaced O'Connor at fullback as the sides came out for the second half, with James King joining first-half substitute Paul Alo-Emile and entering the fray in place of Cadeyrn Neville.
As play resumed, the Hurricanes scored twice in the first seven minutes, with Proctor and Savea each adding to their first half tries and replacement Blade Thomson successful with both kicks.
But it was time for the Rebels to get in on the double action, with Robinson crossing for his second in the 54th minute following a clever set piece. His short lineout throw was given straight back to him, and he crossed over largely untouched out wide.
Although Beale missed the conversion attempt, Kingi added another try just five minutes later and Beale was able to add the kick there, bringing the score back to 45-42 in favour of the Rebels as they again took a short break at three quarter time.
A raft of changes took place ahead of the final quarter, with a host of young Rebels joining Wellington's All Black wing Julian Savea as replacements on the field. And Savea was straight into the action, with Kingi having to pull out a top-drawer tackle to drag him down mere metres short of the line. Unfortunately it was in vain, with the Hurricanes taking the lead on the next phase as scrumhalf Chris Smylie got over from close range.
And that was how the score stayed, 47-45 in favour of the Hurricanes, at fulltime. Tim Davidson prevented Julian Savea from getting his name on the scoresheet with a desperate lunge to touch down ahead of the man mountain in his own in goal, and the Rebels did have one last chance to snatch it as Kingi was felled by a high tackle as the hooter went, 40 metres out.
Electing to take a scrum as they strove for a victory ahead of a penalty kick to tie the scores, Nic Stirzaker's industrious run got the Rebels to within 20 metres, but a knock on and turnover allowed the Hurricanes to put it into touch and emerge victorious by a slender margin.
For the Rebels:
Tries: Sidey, Delve 2, Robinson 2, O'Connor, Kingi
Cons: O'Connor 4, Beale
For the Hurricanes:
Tries: Broadhurst, Leelo, Savea 2, Proctor 2, Smylie
Cons: Taylor 4, Thomson 2
Melbourne Rebels: 15 James O'Connor, 14 Alex Rokobaro, 13 Mitch Inman, 12 Rory Sidey, 11 Lachlan Mitchell, 10 Kurtley Beale, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Gareth Delve, 7 Scott Fuglistaller, 6 Luke Jones, 5 Cadeyrn Neville, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 Ged Robinson, 1 Nic Henderson.
Replacements: 16 Shota Horie, 17 Eddie Aholelei, 18 James King, 19 Tim Davidson, 20 Richard Kingi, 21 Angus Roberts, 22 Kemu Valetini.
Hurricanes: 15 Andre Taylor, 14 Richard Buckman, 13 Reynold LeeLo, 12 Tim Bateman, 11 Matt Proctor, 10 James Marshall, 9 Chris Smylie, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Faifili Levave, 5 James Broadhurst, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Eric Sione, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Ben Franks.
Replacements: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Ben May, 18 Reggie Goodes, 19 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 20 Blade Thomson, 21 Jason Eaton, 22 Mark Reddish, 23 Karl Lowe, 24 TJ Perenara, 25 Julian Savea, 26 Ope Peleseuma, 27 Beauden Barrett.
Referees: Rohan Hoffmann
Assistant referees: Steve Walsh, Beau Dean Gosper
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