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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 13th February|
|06:35||Crusaders vs Melbourne Rebels|
|Saturday 21st February|
|06:35||Highlanders vs Crusaders|
|Saturday 28th February|
|06:35||Chiefs vs Crusaders|
|Saturday 14th March|
|03:30||Crusaders vs Lions|
|Saturday 21st March|
|06:35||Crusaders vs Cheetahs|
|Saturday 28th March|
|17:10||Bulls vs Crusaders|
|Saturday 4th April|
|14:00||Sharks vs Crusaders|
|Saturday 11th April|
|08:35||Crusaders vs Highlanders|
|Friday 17th April|
|08:35||Crusaders vs Chiefs|
|Saturday 25th April|
|08:35||Crusaders vs Blues|
|Saturday 2nd May|
|08:35||Hurricanes vs Crusaders|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com