Force down to Rebels in 1st WSR loss - Green and Gold Rugby
Melbourne Rebels

Force down to Rebels in 1st WSR loss

Force down to Rebels in 1st WSR loss

The Melbourne Rebels became the first Super Rugby side to travel west over the Nullabor and challenge the World Series Rugby foundation team, the Western Force. The players and fans were hoping for good conditions and fast exciting rugby, so of course the skies opened up and the intermittent squalls threatened to negate any chance of a free-flowing end to end battle. Some-one forgot to tell the players this as both teams managed to keep a frenetic pace for the whole game and where still throwing it around right up until the final whistle.

The game started a bit sloppy as both teams settled into the contest and conditions. As the teams started to master the conditions the Rebels managed a couple of threatening runs. The Force then managed a prolonged period of possession and pressure resulting in the first try of the match to prop Harry Lloyd, coming on the end of some good forwards play close to the Rebels line.

Momentum then swung back the other way with the Rebels managing two tries of their own including a long range break out from their own half involving several well executed kicks to advantage eventually finished off by Debrezini under the posts. As the half drew near, the Force again applied pressure to the Rebels line and were perhaps unlucky not to close the gap, but the Rebels defence held firm to take a 9 point lead into the break.


Photo Credit: Delphy

The second half began with the biggest downpour of the game and as the half progressed, so did the Rebels. The relative depth of the sides started to make itself evident as the Rebels gained the ascendancy, running in another two tries to the Forces one in the half. The Force pushed to the end and matched the Rebels in most areas of the match, but did not have the final few percent needed to turn the opportunities into points. The Rebels put the points on the board when they needed to and ran out deserving winners 28 – 12.

Despite the weather, both teams resisted the temptation to revert to a “10 man rugby”, kick and grind style of play. That is not to say that the forward battle was not important or enjoyable, it was, but it was good to see both teams continue to throw the ball around and play enterprising rugby right to the death. The forwards battle was always going to be important and the weather just increased that importance. I was expecting the more experienced Rebel pack to have the upper hand here, but the young Force pack matched them every step of the way and managed to apply as much pressure as they absorbed. The Rebels had the better of the line-outs and the Force had the better of the scrums.

The difference in the sides came down to the backline. When the ball started moving it was the Rebels who looked most threatening and made the most breaks. Both 10’s managed to get quality ball out to their backs but the experience and combinations in the Rebels proved to be the difference on the night.

For the Force, Heath Tessman played a great game and led the young pack around well. Andrew Deegan had another good game at 10 and Rod Davies looked dangerous every time he touched the ball. For the Rebels, Matt Philip was influential early and worked hard all game, Henry Hutchinson looks elusive and very quick on the wing and Tayler Adams at 10 had a solid game, including hitting all his conversion attempts beautifully and grabbing an intercept try of his own (incorrectly announced as a Power Try at the time, but not quite started from inside the Rebels 22).

The most influential player on the park though was Billy Meakes. The inside centre was in everything, including putting in the cross-field kick-pass which started the Rebels most impressive try of the night. Meakes seems to make everyone playing around him look better and play better, with the form he showed tonight he must be being looked at closely by the Wallabies coaching team.


Photo Credit: Delphy

WA voted with their feet again, with just shy of 14000 people braving the conditions to show their support for the teams and this concept. Even a loss to the home side couldn’t dampen the spirits of the fans with just about every one of those fans staying right to the end and cheering just as loudly on the final play as they did on the first. There really is a great atmosphere being created at these games and the teams are buying into it. Credit to the Rebels, they had not much to gain and plenty to lose by heading West with 3 games left to play in the Super Rugby season and the Australian conference still up for grabs. But they came and fielded a strong side who played adventurous rugby. There is a strong bond between these two sides and, despite a couple of heated moments during the match, this bond has grown stronger.

Rebels 28 (Debreczeni, Meakes, Adams, Tuala tries; Adams 4 con) defeated Force 12 (Lloyd, Lee-Warner tries, Ian Prior con)

Yellow Card: Ruru (75’)

Photos courtesy of Delphy

  • Perth girl

    Thanks for the write up Brendan. The weather was awful so well done to both teams for trying to play expansive rugby and an even bigger well done to the great crowd that turned up to watch it

  • Moz

    Thanks Brendan,great write-up! Managed to watch the game live as its now on RugbyPass in Asia!

  • Sevenwithasixonmyback

    Great review. Top stuff that Rebs make the effort to play on a bye-week in another comp, blood a few new players but still field a first-tier side.
    Must say that scheduling this against the Wallabies match shows the dedication of Force fans to back-up.

  • Alister Smith

    It certainly suggests that the Force are not that far off Super Rugby standard, which, considering all the players they lost and the limited time they had to put together a team, is a fantastic achievement. The Crusader will definitely be the biggest challenge but that was always going to be the case.

  • Hannes En Brianda Barnard

    It was great to see almost 14,000 embracing the elements for a late night start (8pm) despite a Wallaby test being played as well. The Force fans are a special bunch, supporting their team no matter what. I wonder what the response would have been if another state team was cut? It is clear the ARU got this wrong, at least Twiggy is giving WA a new life.

  • Missing Link

    Well done Rebels, a convincing win in trying conditions and a great experience for a lot of their younger players.

    I thought the Force were going to run away with it but the Rebels pulled it back after the first Force try and took advantage of their opportunities, with the former Force players, especially Meakes really making their mark.

    Interesting that at one stage I believe Ruru and Goddard were both on the park at the same time and taking their turn to feed scrums, as well as Adams and Debreczeni alternating the playmaker role.

    • Habitual offender

      Was a good game to watch ML.(apart from the weather)
      Rebs played a more intelligent game for the conditions, and showed exceptional 80min defence.
      Force went too hard in the wet IMO and dropped a lot of ball, to be expected in the conditions.
      Being there Id say it was more evenly matched than the scoreboard showed, and yes, Meakes was a real problem (and a few others).

      Well done Rebels

      • Missing Link

        I think the difference is that the Rebels have been training together since the start of the year and playing since Feb, they’ve played against a stronger opposition. The Force haven’t been awarded that luxury.

        Also nice to see so many turn up despite the weather, it didn’t look like there were many people there at all on TV but understandably you’re going to favour the undercover areas when it’s pissing down.

        • Habitual offender

          Id say the 13500 was accurate, we were huddled with the other 10 000 under the grandstands, still came back home with a cold for my troubles.
          On field time is always going to be a viable excuse for the Force at the moment. Hopefully change next year with a comp instead of exhibition games.
          Would love to see the same game in the dry, Two distinctly different styles of playing out on the field.
          Next time eh.

        • Missing Link

          Yeah the whole thing is a work in progress at the moment, I never expected the Force team to be able to take on a full strength Hurricanes etc. but what WSR rugby is doing is pushing the boundaries/challenging status quo, which is great. It’ll be interesting to see the development path of WSR between now and when SR is next negotiated and if Twiggy has an attractive enough to bring to the table and shake things up a little.

Melbourne Rebels

Just a die hard rugby tragic from West of the Nullabor with a penchant for the written word. Happy to talk anyones ear off about anything to do with this great game, as many a poor work colleague has discovered over the years.

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