The Highlanders have ended their 2013 Super Rugby campaign with 1-point loss to the Melbourne Rebels at AAMI Park in Melbourne. Leading 31-7 at halftime, the Highlanders failed to shut out the game as the Rebels came back in the second spell to win the match 38-37.
Highlanders fullback Ben Smith opened up the scoring for the visitors with a try in the 6th minute, finishing off a strong team build up to grab an early lead. Colin Slade added the conversion to make it 7-0.
The Rebels hit back quickly with centre Tom English scoring a try of his own just minutes later, Jason Woodward adding the extras to bring the scores back level inside the opening 10 minutes.
Hosea Gear got himself into the action early, crossing for a try nearing the end of the first quarter to put the Highlanders back infront. Slade again had no trouble with the kick, adding the two points for a 14-7 lead.
Slade extended the lead to 17-7 with a penalty in the 26th minute, the Rebels guilty of collapsing the scrum.
The Highlanders then made it three tries when Tamati Ellison dotted down nearing halftime, Slade converting to give the visitors a 24-7 advantage.
Tony Woodcock capped off a strong first half performance for the Highlanders with a bonus point try on the stroke of halftime, Slade kicking the sideline extras for a 31-7 lead heading into the break.
The Rebels hit the board first in the second spell, closing the gap with a lucky try to Winger Cooper Vuna. Woodward kicked the conversion to make the score 31-14, before another Colin Slade penalty in the 51st minute extended the Highlanders lead to 34-14.
The Rebels further closed the gap with a nicely worked set-play move from a scrum, resulting in a try to Cooper Vuna, his second of the match. Woodward kicked the conversion to bring the scores to 34-21 with 20 minutes remaining.
Tom English added his double for the night, finishing off a long build up to bring the home side right back into the match. Woodward again adding the extras for a 34-28 scoreline.
The Rebels closed the gap to just one point when first five-eighth Bryce Hegarty scored a try in the corner, Woodward missing the conversion that would of put them into the lead.
Hayden Parker then restored the advantage moments later when he kicked a penalty with 3 just minutes left to go, bringing the score to 34-28.
As the Highlanders prepared to close out the match, the Rebels stepped it up another notch as they took control of the game. Regaining the kickoff after Parkers penalty, the Rebels then set up camp inside the Highlanders 22m area.
Rebels first five, Hegarty sealed the win in the 79th minute as he scored his double for the game, the third player to do so in the match. Departing Captain lined up the conversion for his final play for the Rebels before heading back overseas, the kick may have missed but the match had already been decided, the Rebels taking the game 38-37.
Highlanders 37 (Ben Smith, Hosea Gear, Tamati Ellison, Tony Woodcock tries; Colin Slade 4 conversions, 2 penalties; Hayden Parker penalty)
Rebels 38 (Tom English 2, Cooper Vuna 2, Bryce Hegarty 2 tries; Jason Woodward 4 conversions) HT: 31-7

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