BRISBANE, Australia - Jason Woodward kicked a controversial late penalty for an eye-gouging offence to give the Melbourne Rebels a 30-27 win over the Queensland Reds on Saturday, their first-ever victory over the Reds in Super Rugby.
Reds replacement Ed O'Donoghue was judged by the television match official to have raked the eyes of Rebels captain Scott Higginbotham during a scuffle in the 79th minute. Referee Steve Walsh had already dealt with the fracas, awarding a defensive penalty to the Reds.
Play continued for some time before the television referee called Walsh's attention to O'Donoghue's action. Walsh watched several replays on the big screen at Suncorp Stadium before accepting the TMO's recommendation to red-card O'Donoghue and to award a penalty to the Rebels, which Woodward kicked from close range.
The decision allowed the Rebels to post their fourth win of the season and to move clear of the Reds, who dropped to the bottom of the Australian conference with their sixth straight loss.
The Reds had drawn level with the Rebels in an extremely close game with a penalty in the 74th minute, tying the score at 27-27 but the contentious late ruling against the Reds handed Melbourne an historic win.
"I'm extremely happy with the effort of the boys," Higginbotham said. "It was a tough forward contest but at the end of the day that's not how you want to win a game.
"That's a bit disappointing but I'm very happy because we were well overdue for a win."
Higginbotham spent 10 minutes in the sin-bin for an elbow charge which broke the nose of Reds centre Mike Harris in the first minute of a fractious match.
Harris scored a try in Higginbotham's absence, giving the Reds an early 7-0 lead, and assumed the goalkicking duties — landing two conversions and a penalty — when Wallabies flyhalf Quade Cooper was forced from the field in the eighth minute with a shoulder injury.
The severity of Cooper's injury was not immediately clear but may cloud the naming of an Australian squad next week.
Rebels scrumhalf Luke Burgess, also in contention for Wallabies selection, scored two tries — the first double of his career — before leaving the field late in the match with a serious knee injury.
The teams went to halftime locked at 17-17 and Burgess' second try early in the second half carried the Rebels to an important lead. The Reds drew level with a try to replacement Ben Lucas, stayed on terms through an exchange of penalties then saw their winning hopes shattered by Woodward's late goal.
"The performance was gutsy," Reds captain James Horwill said. "We did some good things, did some bad things.
"In the end we were, once again, robbed by a stupid refereeing decision."
Melbourne 30 (Luke Burgess 2, Tom Kingston tries; Jason Woodward 3 conversions, 3 penalties), Queensland 27 (Mike Harris, Greg Holmes, Ben Lucas tries; Quade Cooper conversion; Mike Harris 2 conversions, 2 penalties). HT: 17-17.
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