Rebels still punching in toughest competition in the world

It was another tough night out for the boys and myself against the Crusaders last weekend. It was a high-scoring game full of penalties and with both teams scoring only one try each.

It was a better performance than the week before, but still, of course, not the result we were after. Nonetheless, the people who saw the game would know that the six-point loss was not for lack of effort.

The week leading up to last Friday night's game couldn't have felt longer. After coming off such a disappointing loss to the Western Force, every player had to pick up his bottom lip and prepare for what we knew would be a tough week of ''Dumper's''  [coach Tony McGahan's] contact drills and intense analysis sessions. When the Crusaders come to town, you are playing a truly international sport, as they have 12 All Blacks in their team. That is the beauty of Super Rugby.

The defence from the first whistle was full of venom and bite, both packs competing aggressively at the breakdown. Unfortunately for us, our hard work on the ball was not appreciated by the referee and the penalties begun to mount up in the first half.

We trailled 12-6 at half-time, and with no tries to either team, the vibe in the dressing room was great. The fact that the only way the Crusaders had been able to put points on the board was through penalties picked us up.

Then we ran back on and it was start, stop, start, stop ... this is basically how the second half went. From penalty to scrum penalties, piggy-backing the Crusaders into our half, we began to feel the pressure increasing.

A kick return to an unsettled defence was all it took for the Crusaders to take their opportunity and with crisp hands scored in the corner for the first try of the game.

Still on point, we worked hard and answered back with a 12-man maul and Scotty Fuglistaller got the Rebels their first try. It was too little too late though; the damage had been done.

Kicker Tom Taylor was the difference between the sides, landing six penalty goals and one conversion.

Although it was a tough loss to swallow, there were a lot of positives for us. The obvious was that it takes some great defence to keep a team such as the Crusaders -  with a total of 294 All Black caps -  to just one try.

Super Rugby is the hardest rugby competition in the world and we are a four-year-old team fighting our way into it. The Australian conference has really stepped up this year and the derbies here are producing some exceptional football.

Friday night's game against the NSW Waratahs at Allianz Stadium in Sydney has special significance: the teams are playing for the Weary Dunlop Shield, an important piece of silverware we have sitting for everyone to see at our home at Visy Park.

For me, this game means a lot. It could be the leftover rivalry of growing up in Queensland and being brought up with the NSW-Queensland grudge match. But it's more than that. This trophy was the first silverware the Melbourne Rebels won, not to mention the first trophy I won as captain of the club.

Being presented with the Weary Dunlop Shield at AAMI Park last season in front of thousands of the Rebel army, my family, friends and teammates, was an unforgettable moment - one I plan reliving.

It's not going to come easy. The Waratahs are stacked with internationals, even having a Springbok in the mix. After looking like an unbeatable team, the Brumbies have proved otherwise. The only bad thing to come out of that is we have lost the opportunity to be the first team to beat the Tahs in 2014.

The story Rebels still punching in toughest competition in the world first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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