The signs are good for the Melbourne Rebels after they ticked off a Super Rugby season goal with a shock victory over the Crusaders in the season opener.

Heading into their fifth season, last year's wooden-spooners had set themselves the target of finally breaking through for the first ever win away from Australia.

Round one, Christchurch - 20-10 - mission completed.

The win over last year's runners-up and seven-time champions was particularly sweet after a series of near misses last season.

The Rebels scored two tries to one and outmuscled a Crusaders side that looked still in pre-season mode, even with All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw and five-eighth Dan Carter in its line-up.

"I'm absolutely rapt with the boys, they went hard and credit to them,"

said Rebels captain Scott Higginbotham, who was one of his side's best.

Melbourne only managed four wins last season as they collected their second wooden spoon but the recruitment of sharp-shooter Mike Harris as well as the return from injury of forward Lopeti Timani boded well for their future.

Timani, who only managed two games in his debut season last year, topped the run count with 18 and scored their opening try.

But it wasn't all good news for the Rebels, with Higginbotham and halfback Nic Stirzaker cited by the SANZAR judiciary.

Stirzaker was shown a yellow card by referee Nick Briant for his third-minute footwork which appeared to make contact with McCaw.

The Higginbotham incident in the 50th minute wasn't seen by the on-field officials.

Crusaders skipper Matt Todd said his side simply made too many errors.

"We just weren't good enough tonight, we'll have to have a look at that

game and make some improvements, that's for sure," Todd said.

Melbourne coach Tony McGahan said the team needed overseas wins for confidence, with the champion Waratahs their next opponents on Friday night in Melbourne.

"It was something that we targeted," he said.

"The club has had some really good wins against Australian sides and we came close last year when we lost two games we probably should have won.

"You need those wins as a young club."