It was another horror night in New Zealand for the Rebels, going down to the Highlanders, 51-12.
The Rebels that looked a far cry from the side that dominated the opening half in Melbourne last week, sluggish from the first whistle, as they continued the worst start to a season in their history.
Highlanders centre Malakai Fekitoa inflicted most of the damage for his side, with a double and a try-saving tackle to his name.
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It took just two minutes for the Rebels to need one of their replacements, with Steve Cummins going off with concussion, replaced by Welsh international Dom Day.
Highlanders flyhalf Marty Banks slotted the first points four minutes later, after a scrum penalty, the first in a perfect eight-from-eight night in front of the goals.
The scrum delivered more celebration for the Highlanders, with the home side winning one against the feed, ending in Fekitoa’s first and putting the Rebels in a 10-point hole.
A timely offload from lock Tom Franklin put Highlanders number eight Luke Whitelock over the line just five minutes later, giving them as many points as minutes had ticked over in the clash.
The Rebels managed to stem the bleeding from then on, though gifted their opponents plenty of territory with a kick-heavy strategy.
Three minutes into the second half, the Highlanders had joy from a breakdown penalty, with Banks continuing his perfect night with a penalty.
A more concerted attacking effort in the second half gave Tom English the Rebels’ first try, blitzing fullback Matt Faddes along the way to the line, giving them a sniff.
Richard Buckman slipped through the Rebels defenders after an advantage call, snuffing out the Rebels’ momentum, before flanker Gareth Evans added another off the hands of Banks and Fekitoa notched a second to seal the match.
The result consigned the Rebels to their fifth consecutive loss, their equal second-longest run of losses, behind the 12 defeats from the middle of their inaugural season.
Reece Hodge stole a consolation try with two minutes to go, but Highlanders reserve hooker Greg Pleasants-Tate sealed the win with a last-gasp try.
The Rebels have their second bye next week, before a match against current Australian conference leaders, the Brumbies, in round eight.
Tries: Fekitoa 2, Whitelock, Buckman, Evans, Pleasants-Tate
Pens: Banks 3
Tries: English, Hodge