Melbourne, Australia – Scrumhalf Nick Phipps' second try helped clinch the Melbourne Rebels' 28-19 win over Canterbury in Super 15 rugby on Saturday, spoiling Crusaders captain Richie McCaw's return to the starting line-up for the first time since last October's World Cup.
Phipps' try gave the Rebels a 23-19 lead in the 67th minute, and Stirling Mortlock added Melbourne's third try – his 50th in Super rugby – three minutes later to put the game out of reach for the Crusaders, who led 19-10 at halftime.
McCaw had played off the bench in the Crusaders' past two games after recovering from the foot injury that affected him in the second half of New Zealand's winning World Cup campaign.
It was the first time that the Crusaders have been held scoreless in the second half of a match since 2009.
The Rebels won for only the third time in 10 matches while the Crusaders lost for the fourth time in 11 matches to remain seven points behind first-placed Chiefs in the New Zealand conference. The Chiefs play defending champions the Reds on Sunday with a chance to extend their lead.
“We started well. We had a grip on the game but we made some crucial mistakes, and you can't do that in Super rugby,” McCaw said. “This is going to make things a lot more difficult.”
Rebels captain Gareth Delve said it's evident his side is improving.
“We've worked hard, our confidence is building,” Delve said. “At times we were struggling, but we made a massive impact in the second half.”
Melbourne 28 (Tries: Nick Phipps 2, Stirling Mortlock; Coversions: Kurtley Beale 2, Penalties: 3), Canterbury 19 (Try: Sam Whitelock; Conversion: Tom Taylor, Penalties: 4). HT: 10-19. – Sapa-AP