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Rebels lose to NSW but win Reds utility

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Update: 5:39PM The Melbourne Rebels have moved to cover the lack of backline depth exposed in their heavy Super Rugby loss to NSW by signing Reds utility Mike Harris.

Harris, who has 10 Wallabies caps, has signed a two year deal with Melbourne.

With midfield veteran Tamati Ellison tipped to return to New Zealand with his young family, 25-year-old Harris will give the young backline some much-needed experience.

A member of the Reds' 2011 title-winning team, he can play fullback, five-eighth or in the midfield as well as offering goal-kicking smarts.

The Rebels have been linked to another Red in hooker Saia Fainga'a although are believed to be keen to keep Japanese international Shota Horie.

Ellison was a late withdrawal from the NSW clash after suffering a knee injury at their final training session which forced a reshuffle.

They missed his strong defence, particularly in the backline when the Waratahs' star backline found more room to move.

Test stars Bernard Foley, Kurtley Beale and Israel Folau were constant threats in NSW's six-try 41-19 romp.

Rebels centre Mitch Inman said NSW showed they had the line-up to win their first Super Rugby title after reaching the finals twice.

"I think their last two games shows that they're definitely in contention," he said.

"They're definitely a finals side and the way they finished off in the last 20 minutes - we were clearly outplayed."

Melbourne were still in the hunt after 63 minutes, trailing 24-19, but the visitors stepped up their attack with their physical forwards creating plenty of front-foot ball they were on their way to a bonus point.

Inman said it was disappointing his team couldn't go back to back after their rousing win over the Reds.

It's something they haven't managed to do this season.

"It's a shame that we took a step back after a very good win but we just went to sleep in that last 20 minutes and they made us pay."

It doesn't get any easier for the Rebels, who face another finals contender in the Brumbies in Canberra next round.

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