The Melbourne Rebels maintained their position at the top of the Australian conference with a hard earned win against a resiliant Queensland Reds team that refused to give up on a cold, wet, and windy night in Melbourne.
Earlier in the season it looked as though the Rebels would comfortably win the conference but three consecutive losses have opened the door for the Reds or Brumbies to sneak past. The Reds had won five of their last seven games and would have believed they could make it three in a row with a win at AAMI park.
The Rebels showed their intent right from the kick off, running the ball from well inside their own half, before a well placed kick from Will Genia found touch ten metres from the try line. A knock on from Anaru Rangi caused the first scrum set of the match. A powerful Reds scrum earned a penalty with a subsequent penalty for offside leading to the first points of the night to Bryce Hegarty.
A moment or two later the Rebels come close to opening their account. Under penalty advantage Quade Cooper put through a well weighted grubber kick grounded by Dane Haylett-Petty. A video review however showed a slight knock-on from Reece Hodge.
At around the 15 minute mark, Tate McDermott put up a high box kick. Samu Kerevi clattered into Genia in the air giving referee Angus Gardiner no choice but to show Kerevi a yellow card. The Rebels made the Reds pay for their ill discipline almost immediately. The Rebels came close to scoring from a driving maul before Quade Cooper found Marika Koroibete who crashed straight through the attempted tackle of both Sefa Naivalu and Hamish Stewart. Stewart was injured in the tackle attempt and had to leave the field, replaced by Isaac Lucas. Cooper made no mistake with the conversion to give the Rebels the lead 7-3.
The Reds soon added another three points with a second penalty goal to Hegarty for an offside offense. 7-6 to the Rebels as Kerevi returned from the sin bin.
At thirty one minutes the Rebels crossed the chalk again with Anaru Rangi crashing over from a maul. The score came from an attempted clearing kick from McDermott that cannoned into the back of Alex Mafi’s head creating an accidental offside. A series of infringements from the Reds saw Gardiner finally issue a warning. The Reds defense, now on their best behaviour, were unable to stop the maul. Cooper again converted the take the score out to 14-6.
It didn’t take long for the Reds to hit back. Hegarty found Lucas on his outside who managed to brush off a Luke Jones tackle before passing to Taniela Tupou. Tupou returned the ball to Lucas with a pass that may have been marginally forward. Nevertheless, Lucas dotted down for his first try in Super Rugby. Hegarty’s conversion missed leaving the score at 14-11.
The Rebels attempted another driving maul from a lineout but, with time up on the clock, Scott Higginbotham illegally pulled the maul down and was punished with a yellow card for repeated team infringements. The Rebels managed to butcher the resultant lineout with a poor throw to end the first half.
It took less than four minutes for the Rebels to score again with the try of the night. From a midfield scrum, Billy Meakes put Reece Hodge through a gap with a lovely short pass. Hodge looked as though he would score himself but was brought down by a good tackle from Jock Campbell. Hodge passed from the deck to Gus Cotterell who offloaded to Genia, Genia found Tetera Faulkner running a nice line down the left wing to score in the corner. Cooper’s conversion attempt curved left, then right, then bounced off the cross bar for a miss. 19-11 to the Rebels against the 14 man Reds.
Five minutes later the Rebels were in again. This time with a try to Dane Haylett-Petty following a series of passes that created a gap for Hodge to get some space and pass the ball back inside for Haylett-Petty to finish. Cooper’s conversion was unsuccessful but the Rebels were out to a 13 point lead. Cooper would not stay on the field much longer, receiving a knee to the head attempting to lay a tackle on Samu Kerevi. He looked quite groggy and failed his Head Injury Assessment.
The Reds, now back to a full contingent, kept hanging in despite being well behind in both territory and possession. A down-field penalty against Rangi for a mistimed tackle lead to a try to replacement prop, Harry Hoopert from the back of a maul. Hegarty had no trouble with the conversion and closed the score to 24-18.
Another penalty against the Reds with the Rebels hot on attack brought another warning from Gardiner. Hodge added three points to increase the Rebels lead to nine points.
In the next 15 minutes each team scored another penalty goal with successful kicks from Hegarty and Hodge.
The Reds earned a further scrum penalty with time up and elected to take the points and earn a bonus point. Final score: Rebels 30, Reds 24.
The Melbourne Rebels would be pleased to get the win and break a losing streak of three games. They showed some very good rugby in patches but would be disappointed with the number of missed opportunities and should have probably won by a greater margin. As in their earlier season match they were successful in containing Samu Kerevi’s influence which played a big part in the win.
The Reds would again be cursing their poor discipline, they have now given up 11 yellow cards for the season. They know how to grind and keep playing for the full eighty minutes but lack creativity. Their wingers must be thinking that they should bring their knitting to keep busy. The ball rarely gets wider than their centres.
THE RUN HOME
The Rebels are at home again next week against the Bulls. Following that, they travel to Tokyo to play the Sunwolves, host the Warratahs, have an away game against the Crusaders and play the Chiefs at home to finish the season.
The Reds have the Warratahs at home, Chiefs away, the Jaguares and the Blues at home, and wind up their season against the Brumbies in Canberra.
The Game Changer
Taniela Tupou came close to scoring a try but was held up over the line, giving the Reds a 5 metre scrum in front of the posts.
A try would have closed the gap to just two points but the Rebels pack put in a huge scrum and earned a clearing penalty to relieve the pressure.
The G&GR MOTM
Dane Haylett-Petty played one of his best games for the Rebels and certainly put his hand up for the vacant Wallabies full back position.
He ran for over 130 metres from ten runs, kicked beautifully for touch and gained over 100 metres with his field kicking to go with his six defenders beaten and a try.
Izack Rodda carried well and put a lot of pressure on the Rebels lineout. Taniela Tupou looks to be getting back to his best form. Sefa Naivalu hardly touched the ball. Samu Kerevi was well contained and was caught out of position defensively on a couple of occasions.
A number of the Rebels Wallaby hopefuls including Luke Jones, Isi Naisarani, Reece Hodge, Billy Meakes, and Quade Cooper would have done their chances no harm.
Scores and Scorers
REBELS – 30
Trys: M. Koroibete 18″, A. Rangi 32″, T. Faulkner 45″, D. Haylett-Petty 51″
Conversions: Q. Cooper – 2
Penalties: R. Hodge – 2
REDS – 24
Trys: I. Lucas 38″, H. Hoopert 56″
Conversions: B. Hegarty – 1
Penalties: B. Hegarty – 4
Cards and Citations
Yellow Cards: S. Kerevi, S. Higginbotham