14-man Rebels fall short against Sharks

The Melbourne Rebels were left ruing a missed opportunity against the Sharks when they played more than half the Super Rugby match down a man and fell just short 25-21.

Prop Laurie Weeks was sent from the Durban field in the 29th minute and while skipper Scott Higginbotham scored a double, they were unable to land their first ever win in South Africa.

The usually genial Weeks got involved in a scuffle with Jannie du Plessis after the Sharks prop struck him across the back of the head as the pair jogged back towards play.

Weeks retaliated with a flurry of punches, resulting in his red card while du Plessis was yellow-carded.

Weeks was cited by the SANZAR for the alleged foul play, which will be considered at a hearing by the Duty Judicial Officer on Monday.

Rebels coach Tony McGahan said he was proud of the way the team responded the adversity of being short for the bulk of the match.

“I thought our effort, particularly being down to 14 men away from home, was fantastic,” McGahan said.

“The forwards were tremendous, and the set piece was great; both the lineout and scrum.”

In both the Sharks match and the Stormers the previous round, the home sides scored intercept tries which cruelled the Rebels’ chances.

Against the Sharks, halfback Nic Stirzaker threw a ball in the Sharks’ 22 that was intercepted by electric fullback Lwazi Mvovo, who raced 60m to touch down.

“I wish we had more composure at times, as I feel we left a win out there, but that will come in time,” McGahan said.

“Intercept tries broke us in back to back games; we were unable to get that quite right, and it put us under undue pressure, but we will learn from that.

“We have shown we are more than able to compete two weeks in a row against quality opposition in South Africa.”

Higginbotham scored in the final minute of the first half and then in the 58th, increasing his Super Rugby record for the most tries scored by a forward.

Replacement back Bryce Hegarty also crossed with five minutes left to set up a grand-stand finish.

But they couldn’t get a necessary fourth try to pip the Sharks and leave South Africa with just a losing bonus point from two games.

They next host the Bulls at AAMI Park on Saturday afternoon and could be without barn-storming back Sefanaia Naivalu, who left the field with an apparent neck injury.

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