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Crusaders rocked by Rebels
Phipps stars in shock Melbourne win
Melbourne Rebels spoiled Crusaders skipper Richie McCaw's return to the starting line-up with a shock win over the seven-time champions on Saturday.
Scrum-half Nick Phipps played a starring role for the home side, running in two tries during the 28-19 victory before Stirling Mortlock put the game out of reach with his 50th Super Rugby try.
The Crusaders' points all came in the first half with a 29th minute try from lock Sam Whitelock plus a conversion and four penalties from Tom Taylor.
Phipps' first came after just 11 minutes, converted by fly-half Kurtley Beale, who also knocked over a penalty 13 minutes later.
Heading into the break with a 19-10 lead though, the visitors looked firmly on course for a routine win over the struggling Rebels, who had just two wins to their name in the previous 10 games prior to the clash.
But Melbourne had different ideas on the restart and for the first time since 2009 the Crusaders were held scoreless in the second half as the hosts produced a clinical display to clinch the win.
Beale closed the gap to 16-19 in the opening 15 minutes of the final period before Phipps grabbed the lead when he went in for his second try on the 65-minute mark.
Beale converted to make it 23-19 with 13 minutes left on the clock and, just a minute later, Mortlaock crossed to seal a memorable - yet highly unexpected - win.
The defeat left Canterbury seven points behind first-place Waikato in the New Zealand conference.
The Chiefs play defending champions Queensland on Sunday with a chance to extend their lead.
"We started well," said All Black captain McCaw, who was named in the starting XV the for the first time since suffering a foot injury during last October's World Cup winning campaign.
"We had a grip on the game but we made some crucial mistakes, and you can't do that in Super rugby. This is going to make things a lot more difficult."
Rebels captain Gareth Delve said it's evident his side is improving.
"We've worked hard, our confidence is building," he said. "At times we were struggling, but we made a massive impact in the second half."
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|Friday 6th March|
|06:35||Chiefs vs Highlanders|
|08:40||Brumbies vs Western Force|
|Saturday 7th March|
|06:35||Blues vs Lions|
|08:40||Reds vs Waratahs|
|15:05||Cheetahs vs Bulls|
|17:10||Stormers vs Sharks|
|Friday 13th March|
|06:35||Hurricanes vs Blues|
|11:00||Western Force vs Melbourne Rebels|
|Saturday 14th March|
|03:30||Crusaders vs Lions|
|06:35||Highlanders vs Waratahs|
|08:40||Reds vs Brumbies|
|13:00||Stormers vs Chiefs|
|15:05||Cheetahs vs Sharks|
|Friday 20th March|
|06:35||Highlanders vs Hurricanes|
|08:40||Melbourne Rebels vs Lions|
|Saturday 21st March|
|06:35||Crusaders vs Cheetahs|
|15:05||Bulls vs Western Force|
|17:10||Sharks vs Chiefs|
|Sunday 22nd March|
|05:05||Waratahs vs Brumbies|
|Friday 27th March|
|06:35||Hurricanes vs Melbourne Rebels|
|09:00||Reds vs Lions|
|Saturday 28th March|
|05:30||Chiefs vs Cheetahs|
|06:35||Highlanders vs Stormers|
|08:40||Waratahs vs Blues|
|15:05||Sharks vs Western Force|
|Saturday 28th February|
|Lions 19 - 22 Stormers|
|Bulls 43 - 35 Sharks|
|Melbourne Rebels 15 - 20 Brumbies|
|Chiefs 40 - 16 Crusaders|
|Friday 27th February|
|Cheetahs 25 - 24 Blues|
|Western Force 13 - 42 Hurricanes|
|Highlanders 20 - 13 Reds|
|Saturday 21st February|
|Sharks 29 - 12 Lions|
|Stormers 27 - 16 Blues|
|Reds 18 - 6 Western Force|
|Highlanders 20 - 26 Crusaders|
|Friday 20th February|
|Bulls 13 - 17 Hurricanes|
|Melbourne Rebels 28 - 38 Waratahs|
|Chiefs 19 - 17 Brumbies|
|Sunday 15th February|
|Waratahs 13 - 25 Western Force|
|Saturday 14th February|
|Bulls 17 - 29 Stormers|
|Sharks 29 - 35 Cheetahs|
|Blues 18 - 23 Chiefs|
|Friday 13th February|
|Lions 8 - 22 Hurricanes|
|Brumbies 47 - 3 Reds|
|Crusaders 10 - 20 Melbourne Rebels|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com