Stormers succumb to the pressure and lose thanks to late penalty try.
The Melbourne Rebels celebrated their first victory over South African opposition with a rousing 30-21 Super 15 win over the Western Stormers in Melbourne on Friday.
The Rebels stormed home from 21-20 down with six minutes left to down the Cape Town-based Stormers with a contentious penalty try ruling to finish victors.
Scrum-half Nick Phipps was ruled to have been held back by Martin Bezuidenhout chasing after a kick ahead and the TMO recommended a penalty try as Phipps dived for the ball with Springbok winger Bryan Habana.
Bezuidenhout, who could be clearly seen in replays tugging at Phipps’s jersey, was sent to the sin bin leaving the Stormers a man down for the final minutes.
It was the Rebels’ first win over a South African team in their third season of Super Rugby and the players were jubilant after the full-time whistle.
And they did it without their big names — injured Wallaby playmaker James O’Connor and suspended Kurtley Beale.
Both teams scored three tries with Jason Woodward proving the difference with three conversions and three penalties.
The Stormers, who lost to a late try against the New South Wales Waratahs in Sydney last weekend, paid the price for their uncustomary loose defence.
Number eight Scott Higginbotham was again outstanding for the Rebels and scored his sixth try of the season in the 13th minute, before converted tries from scrum-half Louis Schreuder and Springbok winger Bryan Habana’s first touchdown of the season put them ahead 14-10.
Phipps came off the bench for the second half and provided the spark for the Rebels, playing a key role in the 54th-minute try by lock Hugh Pyle and then the central figure in the controversial penalty try ruling.
“That’s fantastic. Credit to the Stormers, they pushed us but we hung in and we played a great brand of rugby tonight,” skipper Higginbotham said.
“This is great positive thinking for the boys and we’ll take it into next week.”
Stormers skipper Jean de Villiers said it was an embarrassing defeat for his side.
“That was embarrassing tonight. From a team point of view that’s just not good enough and hard decisions need to be made now,” de Villiers said.
“We can’t fault our preparation. Defensively, we were very poor. There was no commitment on defence giving them momentum every time they carried the ball and that’s not what we stand for as a team.”
The upset defeat has virtually finished the Stormers’ chances of reaching this season’s Super Rugby playoffs.
It was deflating finish to their Australasian tour and the Stormers now return home to prepare for next week’s match against the Queensland Reds in Cape Town, while the Rebels shape up for an Australian derby at home against the NSW Waratahs next Friday.