Invaluable four-try bonus point
The Reds came from behind to score 20 unanswered points and record an invaluable 33-20 win over the Rebels in Brisbane on Saturday.
The bonus-point win kept the Reds in the hunt in the Australian conference and also cemented their place in the top six in the play-off race.
It was a spiteful affair in which the emotions boiled over frequently, with the Reds on the wrong end most often - loose forward Beau Robinson yellow carded for punching and Saia Faingaa penalised for fisticuffs.
In a match of strange twists and turns - which included that yellow card that should have been a red card for deliberate punching - Quade Cooper's Wallaby prospects were dealt another bitter blow when he had two of his clearance kicks charged down, with both turned into tries for the Rebels.
He did show glimpses of his talent by sparking a late revival, but overall it was not game that would have forced the Australian selectors to scramble for a change to the Wallaby team sheet.
However, the stand-out feature was the Reds' determination to keep fighting to the bitter end, taking the lead only inside the final 10 minutes after trailing 13-20.
James O'Connor (fourth minute) and Quade Cooper (15th) exchanged early penalties, before Reds flank Beau Robinson was sin-binned for foul play. He was lucky have only seen yellow, as at least one of his several punches landed flush on Scott Fuglistaller's jaw. It should have been a red card.
Despite being a man up in the scrums, the Rebels failed to properly impose themselves - one set of scrums taking more than five minute to complete, including three new penalties and several resets. Eventually the Rebels turned the ball over.
And in their desperation to get some reward for the numerical advantage, Rory Sidey through a sloppy pass which Luke Morahan intercepted and sprinted about 40 metres for the opening try. Cooper's conversion gave the Reds a 10-3 lead.
However, Cooper's slow clearance attempt was charged down by Scott Fuglistaller, who followed up to get a try back for his team. O'Connor levelled it up at 10-all with the conversion.
That was followed by a sweetly-struck drop-goal from Cooper (13-10), before Rory Sidey made up for his intercept pass earlier by charging down another Cooper clearance, collected and raced over for the Rebels' second try. O'Connor's conversion made it 17-13 to the Rebels at the break.
O'Connor got the second-half scoring underway with a penalty in the 44th minute, while Cooper pushed one well wide a few minutes later as the Reds flyhalf's game continued on a downward spiral.
However, 10 minutes into the half the Rebels were dealt a brutal blow when captain Scott Higginbotham went off with a painful-looking shoulder injury.
The Reds eventually managed to get their game back on track and Jake Schatz was awarded a try just short of the end of the third quarter - despite a huge flair-up as the emotions boiled over again.
Cooper missed the conversion, the referee awarded a penalty on halfway against Saia Faingaa for punching, but O'Connor was also wide. Cooper eventually put the Reds in the lead with a penalty in the 65th minute, as the Rebels seemed to loose their composure.
The mercurial flyhalf continued his late revival, when he produced a try out of nothing - stretching out in a double tackle to plant the ball on the line - the TMO awarding the five-pointer after several reruns of the play. Mike Harris took over the kicking duties and landed the conversion - making it 28-20 with 10 minutes on the clock and the home team looked a good bet for the win.
There was just enough time for the reds to score a late bonus-point fourth try - Ben Lucas going over on the right, after some great creative play by Will Genia. The conversion attempt was wide, but the Reds won 33-20 and took five valuable points away.
Man of the match: James O'Connor not only outplayed Quade Cooper, but he directed the show like a classic conductor. Will Genia, Jake Schatz and James Horwill were all influential figures. However, our award goes to a player on the losing side - Rebels flank Scott Fuglistaller - who took some lusty blows from Beau Robinson, one flush on the jaw - and came back to score a great charge-down try. He epitomised the guts the helped hold out the Reds for 70 minutes.
For the Reds:
Tries: Morahan, Schatz, Cooper, Lucas
Cons: Cooper, Harris
Pens: Cooper 2
For the Rebels:
Tries: Fuglistaller, Sidey
Cons: O'Connor 2
Pens: O'Connor 2
Yellow card: Beau Robinson (Reds, 22 - foul play, punching)
Reds: 15 Ben Lucas, 14 Rod Davies, 13 Ben Tapuai, 12 Anthony Faingaa, 11 Luke Morahan, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Beau Robinson, 6 Eddie Quirk, 5 James Horwill (captain), 4 Rob Simmons, 3 James Slipper, 2 James Hanson, 1 Greg Holmes.
Replacements: 16 Saia Faingaa, 17 Ben Daley, 18 Ed O'Donoghue, 19 Radike Samo, 20 Liam Gill, 21 Nick Frisby, 22 Mike Harris.
Melbourne Rebels: 15 Jason Woodward, 14 Tom English, 13 Mitch Inman, 12 Rory Sidey, 11 Lachlan Mitchell, 10 James O'Connor, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Scott Higginbotham (captain), 7 Scott Fuglistaller, 6 Jarrod Saffy, 5 Luke Jones, 4 Hugh Pyle, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 Ged Robinson, 1 Nic Henderson.
Replacements: 16 Shota Horie, 17 Paul Alo-Emile, 18 Cadeyrn Neville, 19 Gareth Delve, 20 Nic Stirzaker, 21 Bryce Hegarty, 22 Kimami Sitauti.
Referee: James Leckie (Australia)
Assistant referees: Rohan Hoffmann (Australia), Damien Mitchelmore (Australia)
TMO: Steve Leszczynski (Australia)