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Dublin: 7 °C Saturday 19 October, 2019

Tony McGahan's Rebels stunned the Crusaders earlier as Carter and McCaw had a bad day at the office

The All Blacks out half sustained a calf injury in the Super Rugby opener.

Rebels' Mike Harris at the final whistle.
Rebels' Mike Harris at the final whistle.
Image: Photosport/John Davidson/INPHO

THE MELBOURNE REBELS stunned the Canterbury Crusaders 20-10 in the opening match of the Super 15 season this, notching the club’s first ever win outside Australia.

The Rebels — coached by former scored two tries to one and outmuscled a Crusaders side that struggled to shake the off-season rust, even with All Blacks legends Richie McCaw and Dan Carter in its ranks.

“I’m absolutely rapt with the boys, they went hard and credit to them,” said Rebels captain Scott Higginbotham, whose committed effort was at the heart of his side’s win.

The Crusaders are notoriously poor starters, usually clicking into gear at the sharp end of the season, but skipper Matt Todd left no doubt the loss in front of his home crowd stung.

“We just weren’t good enough tonight, we’ll have to have a look at that game and make some improvements, that’s for sure,” he said.

The Rebels who have been wooden spooners in two of the four seasons they have competed, were given little chance against Super Rugby’s most successful club with seven titles.

A dejected Richie McCaw Richie McCaw of the Crusaders after the game. Source: Photosport/Andrew Cornaga/INPHO

The Australians were on the back foot after just two minutes against last year’s finalists when scrum-half Nic Stirzaker was sin-binned for stamping on McCaw at the bottom of a ruck.

Carter, playing his last Super rugby season before a move to France after the World Cup, notched the first points of the season with a penalty.

But the unfancied Rebels then took on the Crusaders through the middle of the park, setting up lock Lopeti Timani to surge over the line for a try.

Fullback Mike Harris, an off-season recruit from the Queensland Reds, slotted the conversion to make it 7-3.

But Harris fumbled when he kicked the ball out on the full from the restart, leading to a Crusaders’ rolling maul that shredded the Rebels defence to give hooker Ben Funnell a try.

Scott Higginbotham after the game All smiles: Rebels' Scott Higginbotham. Source: Photosport/John Davidson/INPHO

The hosts still went into the half-time down 10-13 after conceding two penalties. The second half began as an arm wrestle but the momentum swung the Rebels way when Stirzaker pounced on a loose Carter kick and took off for a runaway try.

Harris again added the extras to make it 20-10 with 14 minutes to go.

The Crusaders laid seige to the Rebels tryline but the defence held firm to seal the biggest win of the Rebels’ short history.

- © AFP 2015

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