The Melbourne Rebels have ended the Super Rugby playoff hopes of the Bulls with a nailbiting 21-20 victory at AAMI Park.
Second-rower Lopeti Timani scored what turned out to be the match-winning try for the Rebels after barging over from close range midway through the second half.
Mike Harris’s third successful conversion of the day proved crucial as the Rebels edged ahead by one point – an advantage they held until the final siren.
But the visitors could consider themselves somewhat unlucky after the video referee disallowed a try by Burger Odendaal later in the second half, even though it appeared the inside centre had grounded the ball over the tryline.
The Rebels were already out of playoff contention heading into Saturday’s match, while the Bulls needed to win their last two games to keep their finals hopes alive.
The South Africans made a flying start to the encounter and had their first try on the board within four minutes from prop Dean Greyling.
Back-rower Sean McMahon put the Rebels back on level terms in the 11th minute with his first Super Rugby try.
Bulls flanker Lappies Labuschagne scored his third try in as many matches from a rolling maul to again put the visitors ahead.
But a crucial five-pointer from Melbourne flyhalf Jack Debreczeni ensured the Rebels would only trail by three points at the interval.
The Bulls’ only score of the second half was a penalty goal to Jacques Potgieter.
The Rebels finish their 2015 campaign against the Western Force back at AAMI Park on Friday evening.
The Bulls return home to host the Cheetahs in a dead rubber in Pretoria next weekend.