The ACT Brumbies travelled to Melbourne to take on the Rebels in their quest to secure their position at the top of the Australian Super Rugby conference.
Welcoming back several injured players, the Melbourne Rebels went into this match full of intent. They touted do-or-die battle with the ACT Brumbies as their “Grand Final”. Certainly, with a tough final 6 games left in their fixture, a loss here to the Rebels would all but rule out a finals berth in 2016. The Brumbies came into this match without experienced backs Joe Tomane, Matt Toomua and Robbie Coleman. This paved the way for some rookie Brumbies, including James Dargaville at inside centre, to show their wares.
From the kick-off, both teams were showing their intent, with possession changing hands several times. After seven minutes and attacking phases close to the Rebels’ line, a penalty to the Brumbies gave them first points. Christian Leali’ifano slotted an easy penalty from near in-front.
Jack Debreczeni missed a certain penalty kick not long after, but the Rebels didn’t have to wait long to score. In the 10th minute, after some sublime attacking play found Debreczeni break the line, passing on to Cam Crawford, who touched down under the posts.
It was not long after the Brumbies hit back with a Try. The Brumbies used their patented rolling maul, from a line-out close to the Rebels’ try line, giving David Pocock the 5 points. The Brumbies kept hammering the Rebels’ defence, and while vastly improved since their previous match, the Brumbies managed to find the chalk again. Rory Arnold collected the ball off a ruck, and crashed over in the 32rd minute.
Christian Leali’ifano scoring the Brumbies’ 3rd try of the evening
The Brumbies scored another try in the 37th minute, to further extend their lead. Rookie Centre James Dargaville set up Christian Leali’ifano, who crossed for an easy try.
Sensing there was a forward pass in the lead-up to the try, Leali’ifano took a quick, but unsuccessful, unsuccessful drop-kick conversion attempt. This ruled out the possibility of a TMO review of the try. This is a loophole Bernard Foley rued not taking the previous week in the Waratahs win over the Cheetahs, missing out on a 3-try advantage bonus point.
In a fairly fast-paced first half, the teams went into the sheds with the Brumbies comfortably ahead 20-10.
The Rebels must have been given a stern talking to by Head Coach Tony McGahan at half-time, as they came out firing. Five minutes into the second half the Rebels were first to fire a shot with Reece Hodge scoring in the corner, with Debreczeni managing to add the extras. Not to be outdone, the Brumbies moved the ball around to find Scott Fardy in the corner in the 52nd minute. Sefa Naivalu also found the chalk for the Rebels in the 57th minute, both conversion attempts unsuccessful.
Reece Hodge going in for the Rebels’ 2nd try of the night
In the 68th minute, it looked for all money that Brumby Allan Alaalatoa had scored a cracking try. Before Leali’ifano managed a quick conversion, this time TMO George Ayoub stepped in and reviewed the lead-up to the try. He ruled a knock on, disallowing the try. Perhaps it was late justice for the Brumbies forward pass try in the first half. However, the Brumbies managed to find the try line via Nigel Ah Wong in the 71st minute.
The Rebels valiantly tried to hit back, but it was not to be and the final score was 30-22 to the boys from Canberra, scoring 5 tries to 3.
THE WRAP UP
The Rebels looked like a much more well-oiled machine this game, their defences tighter and they were willing to throw the ball around in attack (with minimal handling errors). However, the Brumbies more than had their match in the forwards and come scrum time they dominated nearly every time one was packed down (the much-maligned AAMI Park turf has not improved greatly, by the way). Combined with a bench full of impact, the Brumbies had more to give and while the Rebels stayed close, in the end, it wasn’t close enough.
The Game Changer
This game was won in the forwards, notably the Brumbies scrum dominated the Rebels’ set piece time and again. While the Rebels were menacing in attack, they came unstuck at the breakdown and the experience of the likes of Stephen Moore, Scott Fardy and David Pocock showed when it mattered.
The G&GR MOTM
Take your pick from any of the Brumbies forward pack (including the reserves), they were all solid, though no real stand-outs, even Pocock had a fairly quiet night (by his standards). I’m going with Sean McMahon, though, he never gives up, leads by example and should, for mine, be handed back the Captain’s key to the Melbourne Rebels.
For the visitors, Tevita Kuridrani had a relatively quiet night at 13, but did enough to prove the outside centre jersey is his. Christian Leali’ifano controlled the play well, but Wallabies coach Michael Cheka would be concerned about his kicking success rate. For the Rebels Sean McMahon has proved yet again he has to have a place somewhere in the Wallabies and rookie Reece Hodge, while not ready for the green and gold just yet, has shown he is a future Wallaby.
SCORE & SCORERS
Rebels 22 (10)
Tries: Crawford (10″), Hodge (45″), Naivalu (57″)
Conversions: Debreczeni 2/3
Penalties: Debreczeni 1/3
Brumbies 30 (20)
Tries: Pocock (16″), Arnold (32″), Leali’ifano (37″), Fardy (52″), Ah Wong (71″)
Conversions: Leali’ifano 1/5
Penalties: Leali’ifano 1/2
CARDS & CITINGS
Rohan Hoffmann (Australia)