MELBOURNE: The Melbourne Rebels held off a dogged Queensland Reds side 30-24 in a scrappy Super Rugby contest on Friday to maintain top spot in the Australian Conference.
The Rebels lost flyhalf Quade Cooper to a head-knock early in the second half but tries to winger Marika Koroibete, hooker Anaru Rangi, prop Tetera Faulkner and fullback-captain Dane Haylett-Petty were enough to secure victory on a cold, blustery night at Melbourne Rectangular Stadium.
"It was a good win, obviously we had to grind it out there," said Wallabies outside back Haylett-Petty after his team snapped a run of three defeats.
"Some tough conditions, pretty windy and a much-improved Reds team so pretty happy with the win."
The Reds had tries from young replacements Isaac Lucas and Harry Hooper but were made to pay for indiscipline, with captain Samu Kerevi and number eight Scott Higginbotham both handed yellow cards in the first half.
The Rebels scored three of their four tries while the Reds were a man down and Reece Hodge sealed the win by slotting a penalty in the 79th minute after the visitors rallied to within a converted try with 10 minutes to play.
"We put pressure on them, especially when they had some cards and we came away with some points," said Haylett-Petty.
"They came back, so pretty happy with the resilience."
The Rebels are a step closer to their first playoffs but can be dislodged from the Australian lead if the ACT Brumbies claim a bonus-point win over the lowly Sunwolves on Sunday.
Wallabies centre Kerevi was sin-binned in the 16th minute after crashing into Rebels scrumhalf Will Genia in an aerial contest and the Rebels were quick to capitalise.
Winger Koroibete barged through a pair of defenders on the try-line for the Rebels' first try after a quick pass from Cooper in front of the posts.
The Reds conceded a second five-pointer when Rebels hooker Anaru Rangi rumbled over in the 32nd minute from the back of a line-out drive.
It took a flash of inspiration from 20-year-old Lucas to rally the visitors, the pint-sized centre dancing down the right wing, feigning a pass and retrieving an off-load from prop Taniela Tupou before burning away for a sumptuous try.
The Reds squandered the momentum, however, with Higginbotham sent off on the stroke of halftime for collapsing a maul.
The Rebels sprinted away to a 24-11 lead as Higginbotham stewed on the sideline, with tries to Faulkner and Haylett-Petty in a seven-minute burst.
The Reds battled back through Hooper, who scored his try from the back of a rolling maul before flyhalf Bryce Hegarty booted a penalty to give the visitors a sniff with 10 minutes left.
Wallabies utility back Hodge, however, stepped up to the tee in Cooper's absence and crushed the Reds' hopes by curling in a penalty from 25 metres out on a slight angle.
(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Alison Williams)