Injury concerns add to Rebels third straight defeat
THE Rebels missed a golden opportunity to take back top spot on the Australian conference and win their first match in South Africa as they went down to the Bulls 28-10 in Pretoria on Saturday night.
Trailing 21-3 at half time, the Rebels got back into the match early in the second half when halfback Michael Ruru scored to cut the margin to 11 points.
But the Rebels lacked the polish and sustained pressure to be able to leave Loftus Park with the win.
Making matters worse, the Rebels have a number of injury concerns after captain and lock Adam Coleman, fullback Dane Haylett-Petty and hooker Jordan Uelese were all forced off.
The 18-point loss was the Rebels' third straight defeat and they now have six days to prepare for their next match against the Stormers on Friday.
A comedy of errors led to the opening try, as Rebels young gun Jack Maddocks failed to field Handre Pollard's penalty kick.
From the resulting play, former Springbok captain Adriaan Strauss continued his rich vein of tryscoring form after dotting down for the Bulls' first try.
Rebels fly-half Jack Debreczeni, playing his 50th Super Rugby match, missed two penalties in a row, but managed to bang over his third attempt to cut the score to 7-3.
Springbok centre Jesse Kriel then scored a superb try off a Burger Odendaal chip kick to see the score out to 14-3.
The Rebels wasted an opportunity down the right-hand touchline as Angus Cottrell broke free, but the play broke down as the flanker attempted an ambitious offload for his winger Maddocks who spilt the ball under pressure.
Divan Rossouw's try on the half time hooter meant the Bulls went into the main break with all the momentum and a buffer.
Ruru's try shortly after halftime gave the Rebels hope of a second half comeback.
An outstanding kick chase and tackle from Test flyer Marika Koroibete forced a turnover soon after, but the Rebels weren't able to repay the winger's good defensive work as they made yet another error close to the Bulls' line.
Reece Hodge missed a long-range penalty with a quarter-of-an-hour remaining.
A late try to replacement halfback Andre Riaan Warner sealed a comfortable win for the Bulls.