The Melbourne Rebels were their own worst enemy as they blew a chance to topple the Super Rugby finals-bound Stormers in a 57-31 loss at AAMI Park on Saturday night.
The Stormers scored seven tries, claiming an all-important bonus point after the full-time siren through a try to reserve hooker Scarra Ntubeni while five-eighth Jean Luc du Plessis finished with 27 points.
The Rebels held the fancied Stormers to 31-31 until the 61st minute when the South African team’s halfback Nic Groom scrambled across the tryline from a scrum.
Two minutes later it was effectively game over when Stormers centre Damian De Allende crossed, his side taking advantage of an overlap with the Rebels down a man after flanker Scott Fuglistaller was yellow-carded for collapsing a maul.
Melbourne, in 12th place heading into the round, did well to be in the hunt for so long after gifting the Stormers five line-out turnovers and four scrum tight-heads with the South Africans asserting their authority at the set piece.
The Rebels weren’t helped losing both their locks to concussion with Luke Jones, playing his last home game after signing to play in France, and Lopeti Timani, both departing in the first half.
The home side’s attacking plans were also upset when fullback Mike Harris was a late casualty after failing to recover from an ankle injury suffered late in the week.
They were also without regular halfback and captain Nic Stirzaker, who suffered a similar injury on Tuesday although his replacement Ben Meehan performed well, scoring a first-half try.
The Stormers held a 23-17 half-time lead but the Rebels drew first blood in the second half with a well-worked try to winger Jonah Placid.
As was the story of their night however, they were penalised just a minute later to hand the lead back to the Stormers.