Preview: Queensland Reds vs Melbourne Rebels - Green and Gold Rugby
Melbourne Rebels

Preview: Queensland Reds vs Melbourne Rebels

Preview: Queensland Reds vs Melbourne Rebels

A classic confrontation – a team with nothing to lose against a team with much to lose.

The Queensland Reds will be playing for pride and trying to avoid the wooden spoon. The Melbourne Rebels are desperate to reach the finals for the first time and need a win to sure up their chances.


Last week the Reds had a tough night at the office, in a game that was even tougher to watch, going down to the Blues 39-16 at a cold Eden Park. Before the test break, and following their humiliating loss against the Sunwolves, the Reds lost bravely to both the Hurricanes and Highlanders and also lost in a high scoring match against the Tahs at home. Queensland’s last win came in Round 11 against the Lions.

Should they lose again this week they will equal their club record of six consecutive losses, set last season. Currently they sit in 14th spot on the ladder, five points ahead of the Sunwolves.

A win last week would have almost guaranteed the Rebels a finals appearance and given them a genuine shot at topping the conference. Instead they found a way to lose to the Waratahs by giving up two trys from intercepted passes in the last quarter. In the weeks prior to the break, the Rebels were thrashed at home by the Crusaders and followed that with wins against the Sunwolves, Blues and Brumbies. A loss this week and win for the Sharks will see the Rebels drop from eighth to ninth and out of the finals. The Rebels have not yet beaten a team above them on the ladder.

The last match between the two sides was in Round 2 in Melbourne. The Rebels ran away with that game 45-19 after the Reds had Scott Higginbotham sent off and Lukhan Tui Yellow Carded early in the match. In all matches between the two, the Reds have won nine games to the Rebels five. The Rebels have won five of the last eight encounters.

Queensland Reds

In a big loss for the Reds, and the Wallabies, a ruptured bicep has ended Samu Kerevi’s season prematurely. Rising star, Jordan Petaia will take on the role of outside centre while Filipo Daugunu will get a start on the right wing. Izack Rodda returns to the second row with Harry Hockings dropping out of the 23. After ten NRC games and strong performances in club rugby, 27 year old flyhalf, Teti Tela has been named on the bench for a potential Super Rugby debut. Caleb Timu and Lukhan Tui have swapped numbers with Timu earning the start at openside flanker.

The Reds big weapon has been their scrum and they will no doubt look to use it to good effect again in this game. As we have seen though, a dominant scrum does not of its own make a winning team. The Reds Wallaby laden forward pack has not really delivered in general play. They have struggled to get an offload game going and have been unable to link with their backline effectively.

Coach, Brad Thorn has obviously placed an emphasis on defence this year however the Reds have conceeded 61 trys in their 14 games; only the Sunwolves have a worse record. Captain, Scott Higginbotham reiterrated the mantra during the week “We were way too passive with our tackling against the Blues a week ago so our defence has to be fired up with the line-speed to pressure Michael Ruru and those around him,” he said.

A tight defence is certainly important but, in attack, the Reds have the lowest number of trys scored in the competition, crossing the chalk on only 38 occassions. Seven of those trys came in a single game.

The harsh reality is that most (non-Kiwi) teams would struggle if their best attacking players were unavailable for the whole season.

Melbourne Rebels

Tetera Faulkner, Marika Koroibete, and Dickie Hardwick all return from injury this week. Faulkner and Koroibete will both start with Hardwick joining the bench. Jermaine Ainsley has been called into the starting side at the expense of Sam Talakai. Ben Daley, Lopeti Timani, and Semisi Tupou have all been ommitted. Adam Coleman has failed to recover from injury and will miss again.

The Rebels’ season to date has been a mixed bag. At times they have looked to be as good as any team, at other times they have completely fallen apart. Dave Wessells has said on several occassions that he wants the team to play “brave rugby” but there is a difference between brave and foolhardy. Last week against the Waratahs the Rebels literally threw the game away with two passes that didn’t need to be thrown intercepted late in the game. That shows a lack of composure and nous.

Two areas that the Rebels need to improve markedly is their discipline and one out tackling. The Rebels are the most penalised team in the competition, conceeding 157 penalties and eight yellow cards to date. They must stop making needless infringements – looking at you Amanaki Mafi, the most penalised man in Super Rugby. The Rebels also have the competition’s worst tackle success rate at only 82%. Whether this is due to poor technique or defensive structure is for the coaches to figure out but, missing tackles at crucial times is one of the main factors that has lead to some of the season’s worst blow outs.

If the Rebels can address these areas and play with pace and width they should win this game comfortably. If the pressure of the situation gets to them and they tighten up then another bad loss could be on the cards.

Special mention and congratulations to Colby Fainga’a, this will be his 100th Super Rugby match.



  1. JP Smith
  2. Brandon Paenga-Amosa
  3. Taniela Tupou
  4. Izack Rodda
  5. Kane Douglas
  6. Caleb Timu
  7. George Smith
  8. Scott Higginbotham (C)
  9. Moses Sorovi
  10. Hamish Stewart
  11. Eto Nabuli
  12. Duncan Paia’aua
  13. Jordan Petaia
  14. Filipo Daugunu
  15. Jono Lance
  16. Alex Mafi
  17. Harry Hoopert
  18. Ruan Smith
  19. Lukhan Tui
  20. Angus Scott-Young
  21. Tate McDermott
  22. Teti Tela
  23. Aidan Toua


  1. Tetera Falkner
  2. Anaru Rangi
  3. Jermaine Ainsley
  4. Matt Philip
  5. Geoff Parling
  6. Angus Cottrell
  7. Colby Fa’ainga
  8. Amanaki Mafi
  9. Michael Ruru
  10. Reece Hodge
  11. Marika Koroibete
  12. Billy Meakes
  13. Tom English (C)
  14. Jack Maddocks
  15. Dane Haylett-Petty
  16. Nathan Charles
  17. Fereti Sa’aga
  18. Sam Talakai
  19. Ross Haylett-Petty
  20. Richard Hardwick
  21. Harrison Goddard
  22. Jack Debreczeni
  23. Sefa Naivalu



Taniela Tupou

Tighthead prop, Tupou is among the players to watch just about every game he plays. His scrummaging is constantly improving, he is exceptionaly mobile, and can keep the ball alive with his passing and offloading abilities.

Hamish Stewart

The reds are obviously looking at Stewart as their long term flyhalf. He has been eased into the role during the course of the season, starting with a few minutes here and there. He will be looking for a big game this week after being hooked before half time against the Blues.

Jordan Petaia

Eighteen year old Petaia is an extremely talented young player but he has some big shoes to fill this week in the absence of Samu Kerevi. You can expect the Rebels to send some big ball carriers through his channel to test him out.


Embed from Getty Images

The Rebels’ Front Row

Collectively the Rebels’ front rowers are going to need to be on their game. The Faulkner, Rangi, Ainsley combination will provide good go-forward around the park but may struggle against the Reds pack at scrum time.

Reece Hodge

Hodge has been improving in his new role as flyhalf but is still spending too much time getting involved in rucks and mid-field defense. Look for Dane Haylett-Petty to often be at first receiver when the Rebels are on attack.

Matt Philip

Philip possibly played his best game of rugby last week, centainly his best for the Rebels. He ran for 138 metres from 18 runs, they are Mafi like figures. Can he back that up this week against Rodda and Douglas?


If you compare the season’s statistics, team sheets, or ladder position for the two sides you would have to say that the Rebels will win this comfortably. The question is, which team will turn up on the night? The Reds have had a few very good performances and with a bit of better luck may have had much better results. Will the pressure of fighting for that last finals spot fire the Rebels up or cause them to choke?

I think (hope) the Rebels will put in a big performance this week. Rebels by 15 points.


Date: Friday, 6th July
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Milton
Kick-off: 7:45pm
Referee: Paul Williams
AR1: Nic Berry
AR2: Graham Cooper
TMO: Ian Smith
Weather: 70% chance of rain, maximum of 25°

  • 70% chance of rain?!? The Reds can’t catch a dry ball on last week’s form.

    The quality of the Rebels play last week, if replicated, will mean a comfortable victory everywhere but the scrums.

    • Kevino

      Reds tactics.
      1) Knock on
      2) Win scrum penalty
      3) Kick for touch
      4) Repeat steps 1 to 3 until scrum penalty leads to penalty try.

      • Bobas

        fake injuries until the scrums are uncontested.

        • Mr Wobbly

          I wonder if the Rebels would be the first team to ever try that ;)

      • idiot savant

        No self respecting kiwi referee is ever going to award an Australian side a penalty try.

        • juswal

          Would it be possible to respect yourself if you’re both a kiwi and a referee? That’s some heavy psychic baggage to drag through life.

    • Mr Wobbly

      There’s bound to be some dew as well :)

  • disqus_NMXfOrw5ot

    Game of Thorns – Saviour of the Reds Kingdom – from the wooden spoon, but only because the Sunwolves are in our conference.

    • idiot savant

      Dont speak too soon. The spoon is within the Reds grasp.

  • idiot savant

    I expect tonight will be more proof that a dominant scrum is irrelevant in Super Rugby. Its out of date thinking. If you choose forwards to dominate set piece they will be big and probably slower and quicker to tire all of which makes them less of a threat at the breakdown which is where the game is really won. How many kiwi sides have a truly dominant scrum? They do enough to secure their own ball and thats all that is needed.

    Wessells is much smarter going for a mobile front row and Hardwick over Timani. Its hard to see how the Reds can hurt the Rebels. The Rebels biggest obstacle will be themselves.

    • Braveheart81

      I think it just proves that a dominant scrum on its own doesn’t win you games. There is nothing wrong with the mobility of the Reds forwards. They have a number of really dynamic players. A big part of their problem is they aren’t playing nearly as skilfully and cohesively in general play as they need to be. With the pack the Reds have they should be able to be competitive in a lot more games despite having a backline that is deficient in terms of overall talent. They’re just not doing it though.

      They’re not doing enough with ball in hand and their defensive line tends to be too passive.

      • idiot savant

        I agree with all that though I still think focussing on scrum dominance is not the right priority to win at Super Rugby level. I think its more important at test level because that form of the game is more conservative and backline defences are better.

        You’re right the Reds forwards do not compress opposition defences by offloading in close. They are very one out. But the big problem is they do not dominate the rucks and provide front foot ball. All their ball movement is slow. Hence they are the lowest scorer of tries in the whole competition.

        For all this talk about playing for each other there is not a lot of intensity and desperation at the breakdown or in defence. And thats what wins matches.

        I just would have expected Thorn to focus more on coaching ruck techniques and you have to ask what the return is from the cost of having George Smith in the fold for two years? Development of future 7s? Improved breakdown performance from the team? More wins?

        I think the promotion of BPA and Mafi over Ready is an example of Thorns priorities. He has gone for big bodies over a ruck monkey. Just like his crash ball centres. Its all about size. Meanwhile the Sunwolves and the Tahs jog in tries out wide because the big boys cant suck enough oxygen in to feed their corpuscles to get out there. And he goes on and on about how tough he was in his day going out there to bash blokes. Theres a pattern here. Its not size that counts.

        • Braveheart81

          I really don’t think this is where the Reds are losing out. I think BPA is a pretty dynamic player. You have a pack that should be dynamic will ball in hand. The Smith twins are both very good props at running and passing (and at the breakdown). Tupou is amazing. You’ve got Tui, Timu, Higgers etc. who should all be great ball runners and skilful offloaders/passers in close but it just isn’t happening.

          As you said they’re running one out and not doing anything particularly deceptive.

          I don’t think there is a problem with the cattle in the Reds pack, it’s just that they aren’t being asked to play the game around the park that they should be.

          They could be attacking the breakdown harder but I think a lot of the Reds problems are with ball in hand. There are just so many games where they aren’t providing any threat at all.

    • Keith Butler

      I think we’re going to have to agree to disagree on your view of the relevance of the scrum in SR. Must be my age but I’m still a firm believer in the old adage ‘forwards win matches, the three quarters determine by how much’. I would also argue that the Crusaders win a lot of their close games by having a dominant pack and a decent set of backs to do the necessary. I’ve also seen many a Rebs game that has turned of their pack being given the hurry up. The weather forecast for Brisbane is showers. Could be enough dropped passes to make the scrum a deciding factor. I hope I’m wrong and that the Rebs bring their A game for 80 mins and win. If they do I reckon it will be closer than many have predicted.

      • Mr Wobbly

        I’m not necessarily disagreeing with you but make of this what you will…

        Team Scrum Success:

        1 Chiefs 95%
        2 Stormers 93%
        2= Blues 93%
        4 Highlanders 92%
        4= Crusaders 92%
        6 Hurricanes 91%
        7 Reds 90%
        8 Lions 89%
        8= Sunwolves 89%
        8= Brumbies 89%
        11 Rebels 88%
        11= Waratahs 88%
        13 Bulls 85%
        13= Jaguares 85%
        13= Sharks 85%

        • Keith Butler

          Very interesting set of stats. Surprised to see the Blues so high considering that they were ironed out by the Reds last week.

        • first time long time

          But more importantly how many penalties are they giving away when it’s the other teams scrum feed?
          If the reds had doubled down their bets on a few more scrums last week they may have won that game by forcing a card much earlier. It’s not my favourite facet of play but that reds scrum is destroying other teams which is a nice change.
          Put a 9 and 10 behind that pack who can control the game and demand front foot ball, not wait for it to become static, and I think you’ll see different results.

      • Braveheart81

        I think the point is that the scrum is only one aspect of forward play and the Reds pack are dominant in that area and generally deficient in others. They’re not winning the contact zone and a lot of that comes down to them just providing one out runners that are easy for the defence to handle.

        They have big, skilful forwards but they aren’t using any of the attributes that would make them dangerous in general play.

        • Keith Butler

          True. You would have thought that with BT as coach and George Smith a mentor for younger players the Reds overall play would be better. Will be a close game tonight imo.

  • Mica

    Reds front row is only place where they are ahead. Locks and back row even. Halves slight favour to Rebels on experience. Backs Rebels pretty easily. Let’s see if the Rebels learnt from last week.

  • After last week’s “performance”, I’d have to say this is probably the most pessimistic I’ve been about the Reds’ chances this year. My prediction; Reds dominate scrum time but backs are shit – Rebels by heaps.

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