The Melbourne Rebels have stunned the Waratahs with a five try to three 34-27 win at AAMI Park to reclaim the Weary Dunlop Shield.
Waratahs Head Coach Darren Coleman was forced to make changes to his match day 23, with Ned Hanigan, Max Jorgensen, and Dave Porecki all ruled out late in the week.
Both teams showed plenty of intent and physicality in a frantic start to the match, with both sides looking to shift the ball from side to side.
The Waratahs had the better of the opening stages of the match and were unlucky not to have a three-score lead inside the opening 20 minutes, with Nemani Nadolo and Langi Gleeson both having tries disallowed by the TMO.
Tane Edmed scored the opening points of the match through a penalty goal before the Rebels scored tries through Reece Hodge and Lachie Anderson.
Hodge's try was set up beautifully from an Anderson kick after the winger burst through the middle of the field and chipped ahead for his centre, before Hodge returned the favour with a kick of his own for Anderson to dot down in the corner just minutes later.
Edmed slotted another penalty in an attempt to stem the flow, but Richard Hardwick crashed over from close range late in the half, putting his team ahead 17-6 at the break.
The Waratahs rallied in the second half and briefly took the lead through tries to Nawaqanitawase and Gamble before tries to Matt Gibbon, Carter Gordon, and a Reece Hodge penalty goal left the visitors stunned and down by 14 with less than ten minutes to go.
A late try to Taleni Seu and a sideline conversion from Tane Edmed denied the Rebels a winning bonus point and took a valuable losing point home for the Waratahs.
Waratahs Captain Jake Gordon was dismayed at his team's lack of composure during the outing in Melbourne.
"We're really disappointed, we're just loose at the moment. Loose around the carry, loose around the breakdown, we invited their backrow over the ball all game, and they did a really good job of that," Gordon said.
"I was really happy with our first twenty and disappointed we didn't come away with two tries there, and we struggled to come back from that.
“We wanted to go set-piece to set-piece, and we thought around our lineout launches and maul, we were getting really good pay there, and at the start of the second half, we wanted to play at the right end of the field.
“We just gave them too many invitations into our 22 late in that second half."
Despite the loss, there were some positives from the match, with Harry Johnson Holmes making a welcome return from an Achilles injury suffered during the June Wallabies camp, and Sateki Latu making his Super Rugby debut off the bench.
The Waratahs now turn their attention to their round four match against the Hurricanes, next Friday, March 17, in Wellington.
TRIES: Hodge, Anderson, Hardwick, Gibbon, Gordon
CONS: Hodge 3/5
PENS: Hodge 1/1
TRIES: Nawaqnaitawase, Gamble, Seu
CONS: Edmed 3/3
PENS: Edmed 2/2
REBELS (1-15): Matt Gibbon, Alex Mafi, Cabous Eloff, Josh Canham, Trevor Hosea, Josh Kemeny, Brad Wilkin (c), Richard Hardwick, Ryan Louwrens, Carter Gordon, Monty Ioane, Stacey Ili, Reece Hodge, Lachie Anderson, Nick Jooste
RESERVES: Jordan Uelese, Cameron Orr, Pone Fa’amausili, Tuiana Taii Tualima, Vaiolini Ekuasi, James Tuttle, Lukas Ripley, David Feliuai
WARATAHS (1-15): Tom Lambert, Mahe Vailanu, Archer Holz, Jed Holloway, Hugh Sinclair, Lachlan Swinton, Michael Hooper, Langi Gleeson, Jake Gordon (c), Tane Edmed, Nemani Nadolo, Lalakai Foketi, Izaia Perese, Mark Nawaqanitawase, Ben Donaldson
RESERVES: Tolu Latu, Harry Johnson-Holmes, Dan Botha, Taleni Seu, Will Harris, Charlie Gamble, Teddy Wilson, Ben Dowling