Updated: Saturday, 05 April 2014 00:43 | By Agence France-Presse

Highlanders down inconsistent Rebels

The Otago Highlanders held off a late fightback from the Melbourne Rebels for a gritty 33-30 win in Dunedin on Friday.

Highlanders down inconsistent Rebels

Ben Smith runs in a try in Wellington on August 24, 2013 - by Marty Melville

Both sides scored three tries apiece but poor discipline cost the Rebels as they failed to build on last week's stunning win over the ACT Brumbies.

"We've got to find a bit of consistency," Rebels captain Scott Higginbotham said.

"Penalties are hurting us. We're getting down into the opposition 20 and losing the ball. It's disappointing, something we've got to work on."

The Rebels, Higginbotham in particular, showed flashes off brilliance but could not maintain pressure against a Highlanders' defence that captain Ben Smith said did not take a backward step.

"We showed a bit of ticker, when they got a try we came right back at them," he said.

The Rebels, full of confidence after downing the Brumbies, attacked from the outset.

They were rewarded after just six minutes with a try to former Highlander Scott Fuglistaller after scrum-half Nic Stirzaker slipped through the defence to set him up.

Stirzaker's opposite number Aaron Smith thought he had evened the ledger five minutes later, only to have his effort disallowed because of a forward pass.

Flanker Shane Christie made no mistake two minutes later, scoring the Highlanders' first try after the Rebels spilled the ball in their eagerness to attack.

Aaron Smith made it two for the Highlanders when he wrong-footed Rebels fullback Jason Woodward to make it 17-10.

The sides exchanged penalties to make it 20-13 at the break but the Rebels evened it up just after the restart when Higginbotham intercepted a stray pass then sent a perfectly weighted kick into the path of Angus Roberts.

The Highlanders hit back through fullback Ben Smith, who scored in the corner after a period of sustained pressure on the Rebels' tryline.

Fullback Jason Woodward narrowed the gap to three points with four minutes to go but the Highlanders were able to hold on for the win.

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