The first half was a tight affair that swung one way and then another. The Force took control of the match during a dominant first 15 minutes of the second half. Throughout the match the Force also made it across the advantage line much more easily than the Rebels.
Melbourne Rebels regathered the kick off and were awarded a penalty a minute later. Reece Hodge made no mistake from 40 metres to give the Rebels a 3-0 lead.
After 5 minutes Steve Cummins went off the field with concussion following a hit by Chance Peni, where his shoulder bounced off Cummins’ chest on to his chin. So Peni not long into his return from injury was given the cheese (ie received a yellow card).
The one man disadvantage did not deter the Force who scored from a brilliant set piece from a line out in the 7th minute. Richard Hardwick grabbed the ball after the line out and headed infield before turning the ball back on the outside for Michael Ruru who blew through a hole in the Rebels defence. Ruru then set up Bill Meakes for a much deserved first Super Rugby try.
A short time later the Force tried the same play but Hardwick’s pass to Ruru was forward. Whilst Peni was off the field the Force scored 7 points to nil.
The Force had a promising attack when a Dane Haylett-Petty grubber was blocked and Haylett-Petty dived on the ball but as Mitch Inman was set to pounce Pek Cowan came in from the side and was duly penalised. The Rebels lost the ball from the line out. Isi Naisarani then made a 40 metre break but the Rebels turned the ball over at the next ruck.
In the 21st minute the Force were on the attack until Reece Hodge stole the ball at the ruck just outside his defensive 22. The Rebels passed the ball from the right side of the field to the left. When Amanaki Mafi received the ball he put the foot down to go around Tatafu Polota-Nau and gain 25 metres. Mafi then turned the ball on the inside to Hugh Sinclair who provided a short, flat pass to Marika Koroibete. Koroibete was in open space from 40 metres out, it was shut the gate and the Rebels regained a 10 – 7 lead.
The Rebels then tried to exploit the Force with their left side attack after Nic Stirzaker took a quick tap and Mafi, one of his customary runs, the Rebels spread the ball through Jonah Placid and Reece Hodge to Koroibete. Koroibete made a good run but his inside pass just went over the shoulder of Mitch Inman.
The Force were the next to attack after gaining momentum from a rolling maul from a line out near half way. However, the Force lost the ball in contact just five metres out. The Force scrum applied massive pressure to the Rebels and this resulted in Reece Hodge being under all sorts of pressure as he attempted a clearing kick that was charged down by Peter Grant. The Force regained the ball and a short time later Adam Coleman burrowed over for a captain’s try.
The Force led 14 – 10 in the shadows of half time. The Force made 40 metres quite easily following the kick off before Polota-Nau knocked on. The Rebels again shifted the ball left through the hands of Placid, Toby Smith and Hodge, before Jackson Garden-Bachop poked his nose through the line and offloaded to Koroibete who in turn passed to club stalwart Mitch Inman. Inman ran 30 metres but Alex Newsome tackled him within reach of the line. Luckily for the Rebels, Koroibete was backing up and Inman passed to see Koroibete score his second double for the Rebels.
Half time Rebels 15 Force 14
As the Rebels did at the start of the match the Force were able to regather their own kick off. Peter Grant was able to give the Force back the lead with a penalty goal.
The Rebels dodged a bullet when Tom English made a meal of a Grant chip kick but Polota-Nau knocked on in his effort to score. From the scrum Mafi scooted down the short side but Naisarani was able to drag him into touch.
Newly capped Wallaby Richard Hardwick grabbed a try when he picked up the ball at the base of a ruck and rolled over for a try. The Force were in this position following 13 phases off the back of a line out.
Tatafu Polota-Nau then made a 20 metre break which led to some wonderful play by the Force. Michael Ruru provided a great ball for Curtis Rona and then Dane Haylett-Petty threw a cutout pass to Chance Peni who cut back inside to give the Force a 31 – 15 lead. The Force suffered a double injury blow at the same time with Jermaine Ainsley and Isi Naisarani both going off after Peni’s try.
After a period of attack by the Rebels Jackson Garden-Bachop with a beautiful ball to Colby Fainga’a for a try, to reduce the deficit to nine points.
The last twenty minutes of the match the Force defence showed the kind of resilience the team has been displaying all year. Meanwhile the Rebels had a lot of the ball but struggled to get over the advantage line.
In the last 10 or 15 minutes the frustration that both sides must be feeling started to show with a little bit of niggle coming into the game.
In a nice touch post match players from both teams joined together in a circle as a sign of solidarity.
Full time Force 31 Rebels 22
THE GAME CHANGER
Chance Peni’s try in the 51st minute after some wonderful work from Polota-Nau, Ruru, Rona and Dane Haylett-Petty, which pushed the Force’s lead to 16.
The G&GR MOTM
There was quite a number of good performers without their being any stand outs. I will lean towards Bill Meakes, who was heavily involved in both attack (10 carries) and defence (12 tackles) and scored a try.
Dane Haylett-Petty was his usual reliable self. Adam Coleman and Richard Hardwick were also both good. Marika Koroibete again showed his improvement, his pace and how lethal he is in open space and I would expect him to debut for the Wallabies before the end of the year.
Tries: Bill Meakes, Adam Coleman, Richard Hardwick, Chance Peni
Conversions: Peter Grant 4/4
Penalties: Peter Grant 1/2
Tries: Marika Koroibete 2, Colby Fainga’a
Conversions: Reece Hodge 2/3
Penalties: Reece Hodge 1/2
Citings & Cards
Chance Peni (yc)