A potentially serious knee injury for loose forward Brad Shields threatens to disrupt the early stages of the Hurricanes' Super Rugby campaign after he was a notable casualty of a narrow pre-season loss to the Melbourne Rebels on Saturday night.
Shields was assisted from Simonds Stadium in Geelong about 20 minutes into the clash and although Ardie Savea crossed soon after to give the Hurricanes a 12-3 lead they were eventually pipped 24-22.
The abrasive Shields will have scans when the squad return to the capital later today, a team spokesman said it was too early to determine the extent of the injury.
Melbourne, reinforced by former All Black - and Hurricanes midfielder Tamati Ellison, won a typically disjointed spectacle in an AFL heartland when first five-eighth Bryce Hegarty landed a long-range penalty with eight minutes remaining.
The Rebels are traditionally one of the worst defensive units in the competition but an improvement under new head coach Tony McGahan seems feasible after they held the Hurricanes at bay for the final 34 minutes.
That barren period coincided with the introduction of Ellison, who only arrived in Melbourne last week after completing his Japanese club commitments with the Ricoh Black Rams.
The 30-year-old offered some nice touches and sound tackling though he was well supported by a rebuilding backline no longer featuring Wallabies Kurtley Beale, James O'Connor and Nick Phipps.
Former Wallabies halfback Luke Burgess expertly filled the void left by Phipps and was a commanding presence behind a dominant forward pack.
Melbourne led 18-15 at halftime and although a converted try to Matt Proctor six minutes after the resumption put the Hurricanes back in front, ill discipline and the accurate boot of Hegarty ensured the Rebels extended their perfect pre-season record following last weekend's 33-28 defeat of the NSW Waratahs.
Melbourne Rebels 24 (Hugh Pyle, Colby Fainga'a tries; Jason Woodward 3 pens con; Bryce Hegarty pen)Hurricanes 22 (Nehe Milner-Skudder, Ardie Savea, Matt Proctor tries; Marty Banks 2; Beauden Barrett pen). HT: 18-15
- Fairfax Media
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