The Queensland Reds have snuffed out a spirited Melbourne Rebels fightback to secure a crucial 36-32 win in their Super Rugby Pacific clash at AAMI Park.
The Reds' third successive victory comes at an ideal time with the trans-Tasman component of the competition starting next week, with Super Round being held at the same Melbourne venue.
At one stage trailing by 14 points, the Rebels hit the front for the first time in the 63rd minute, leading 25-24 after Matt Toomua converted a much-deserved try from lock Matt Philip.
But the Reds then scored twice within two minutes to stamp their authority on the game.
Prop Taniela Tupou dived across the line in the 66th minute and then Josh Flook ran onto a long ball after a break by Fraser McReight to score
Melbourne continued to toil hard and a try by prop Cabous Eloff closed the margin to within four points with four minutes left on the clock.
But they were unable to find another five-pointer for the upset win.
Queensland led 24-15 at halftime, scoring three tries, however, two of those could have easily been scored by the hosts.
The Rebels worked the ball through quick hands and got to within 10 metres of the line but McReight snaffled the ball at the breakdown.
The Reds flanker took off down-field before offloading to Harry Wilson who sent the ball on for Tate McDermott to touch down.
Melbourne were in another strong attacking position, looking to take advantage of Queensland missing winger Filipo Daugunu, who was given a yellow card for a high tackle.
But Lawson Creighton intercepted a Stacey Ili pass and ran 80 metres to score.
The Rebels at least manage to salvage two tries, scored by flanker Richard Hardwick and hooker James Hanson, while the Reds had 14 men.
Queensland lost Jordan Petaia midway through the first half with the star fullback appearing to suffer a hamstring twinge after his boot got stuck in the turf.
Suliasi Vunivalu came through the match unscathed, playing 50 minutes, with the former NRL winger lining up for his first game of the season due to ongoing hamstring injuries.
The Reds play the Hurricanes next Saturday while the Rebels take on the Crusaders on Sunday.
Melbourne Rebels 32 (Tries: Hardwick, Hanson, Philip, Elof. Con: To'omua 3. Pens: To'omua, Hodge) Queensland Reds 36 (Tries: Vest, McDermott, Creighton, Tupou, Flook. Cons: O'Connor 4. Pens: O'Connor)
MELBOURNE REBELS V QUEENSLAND REDS TEAMS
REBELS: 15 Reece Hodge, 14 George Worth, 13 Andrew Kellaway, 12 Stacey Ili, 11 Glen Vaihu, 10 Matt To’omua, 9 James Tuttle, 8 Tamati Ioane, 7 Richard Hardwick, 6 Michael Wells (c), 5 Josh Hill, 4 Matt Philip, 3 Cabous Eloff, 2 James Hanson, 1 Matt Gibbon.
Replacements: 16 Efi Ma’afu, 17 Cameron Orr, 18 Rhys Van Nek, 19 Josh Canham, 20 Brad Wilkin, 21 Sam Wallis, 22 Joe Powell, 23 Carter Gordon.
REDS: 15 Jordan Petaia, 14 Suliasi Vunivalu, 13 Hunter Paisami, 12 Hamish Stewart, 11 Filipo Daugunu, 10 James O’Connor, 9 Tate McDermott (c), 8 Harry Wilson, 7 Fraser McReight, 6 Connor Vest, 5 Angus Blyth, 4 Ryan Smith, 3 Zane Nonggorr, 2 Richie Asiata, 1 Feao Fotuaika.
Replacements: 16 Matt Faessler, 17 Harry Hoopert, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Lopeti Faifua, 20 Angus Scott-Young, 21 Kalani Thomas, 22 Josh Flook, 23 Lawson Creighton.
Referee: Damon Murphy
Assistant referees: Nic Berry, Amber McLachlan