The Rebels host the Chiefs in a winner-takes-all contest at AMMI Park
The equation is simple: the Rebels win and they make the finals. Lose with a bonus point, and they sweat on other results. Lose without a point, and it’s probably curtains for the Rebels in 2019.
Feels like we’ve been here before, right? It definitely feels like groundhog day to me. No doubt we will explore the reasons behind that in the season review, but for now, let’s worry about the game on hand.
In round 17, the Rebels were outclassed, outgunned, and outplayed by a much better Crusaders side. No doubt the Crusaders were hurting from their loss the Chiefs in Suva, and they took their rage out on the Rebels. It was not a pretty sight; missed tackles, aimless kicks, badly positioned defenders, it had it all! A horror show for any coaching team.
After a such a good start to the season, where they at one stage led the competition, they now find themselves in the same position as 2018; a must-win match against a Kiwi opposition, who also must win to make the finals. At least this time we play at the Stockade.
A tough night for the Rebels in Christchurch last weekend.
The Chiefs come off an amazing win in round 16 against the Crusaders in Suva. Down 20-0 in the first half, they flipped the match on its head and won a frenetic match 40-27. They enjoyed a nicely-timed bye last week, so they will be fresh for the trip to Melbourne.
Will Genia and Quade Cooper headline the ins for the Rebels, with the pair returning to the starting side. Tom English earns a recall to Outside Centre, with Reece Hodge pushing out to the Wing. Jack Maddocks is given the week off to recover from a minor knee/calf issue. Given that Jack has started every game this year, he’s probably due for a rest.
In the pack, Luke Jones starts at Luck, replacing the injured Adam Coleman (shoulder). Anaru Rangi returns to Hooker in a straight swap with Joran Uelese. Marika Koroibe returns to give some speed on the left Wing, and the versatile Campbell Mangay on the bench.
Luke Jones – big job on his hands for this weekend.
Bar the absence of Coleman and Maddocks, it’s one of the strongest sides the Rebels have put out this season. Familiar combinations in the haves, centres, and lineout will certainly help the Rebels get some early confidence and settle into the match.
REBELS (15-1): Dane Haylett-Petty (c), Reece Hodge, Tom English, Billy Meakes, Marika Koroibete, Quade Cooper, Will Genia, Isi Naisarani, Richard Hardwick, Angus Cottrell, Luke Jones, Matt Philip, Jermaine Ainsley, Anaru Rangi, Tetera Faulkner
Reserves: Jordan Uelese, Matt Gibbon, Sam Talakai, Ross Haylett-Petty, Rob Leota, Michael Ruru, Matt Toomua, Campbell Magnay
The Chief welcome back three All Blacks to the starting side. Brodie Retalliak, Nathan Harris, and Angus Ta’avao return to bolster a pack brimming with talent. Rebels fans will note the return of the former prodigal son, Jack Debreczei, picked at Flyhalf for the Chiefs. Its a formidable team for anyone to face when your season is on the line.
CHIEFS (15-1): Solomon Alaimalo, Shaun Stevenson, Anton Lienert-Brown, Alex Nankivell, Sean Wainui, Jack Debreczeni, Brad Weber, Pita Gus Sowakula, Sam Cane (c), Lachlan Boshier, Tyler Ardron, Brodie Retallick, Angus Ta’avao, Nathan Harris, Atu Moli
Reserves. Samisoni Taukei’aho, Aidan Ross, Nepo Laulala, Jesse Parete, Mitchell Jacobson, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Marty McKenzie, Tumua Manu
Players to watch
Retalliak vs Jones
Picture this; 1991 NZ, in a research facility hidden deep in the mountains that surround Hanmer Springs, scientists devise a plan to craft the perfect Rugby player. Designed to scrum all day, catch lineout ball all night, run unabated all around the field, and score tries for club and country. They called him, Brodie.
One of the premier locks of his time, he’s won two Super Rugby titles, a World Cup, and an IRB world player of the year. Sure, he’s been in team rehab for the last few months, but any time he is on the field he makes a difference. A filly fit Brodie is a scary proposition for any team.
Brodie Retallick – teams are often up in arms on how to handle the big man.
There is one player up for the challenge of taming the big man – Luke “Merlin” Jones. After two years in the Top 14, Luke returned to Melbourne this year a more versatile player. He’s lost none of his raw abrasive energy, nor his set-piece skill. Now, he dominates both in the tight five, as well as a blindside flanker. He’s been a big reason why the Rebels set piece has fired this year, and he must surely be knocking on the door of the Wallabies. I would like Jones to mark him in the lineout, and look to nullify his work around the breakdown fringe, where’s he bound to look for the odd break. Even if Jones manages to show the lineout service, it gives our backs a chance to shut down the attack from a lineout win.
Genia/Cooper vs Weber/Debreczei. Perhaps an odd pair to spotlight, but in reality, we know the game will be won in the halves. Or more specifically, how they perform on the night. The backs are largely on par with each other, so it comes down to the service from the halves.
Brad Weber is playing some of the best Rugby of his career. In their last match, where they beat the Crusaders, Brad racked up three clean breaks, thirty run metres, made six tackles, and scored a try. Behind a good forward pack, he’s forging a good park with Debreczei and unleashing players like Alaimalo and Shaun Stevenson to score tries. If Jack has another good game, REbels fans will probably slump in their chairs and wonder what could ahve been with Jack.
Brad Weber – playing a great season for the Chiefs.
They will face a huge challenge against the experienced pairing of Genia and Cooper. These two know how to play high-pressure Rugby, and have done all throughout their career. When given good front-foot ball from the pack, Genia and cooper light up the Rebels backline with some dazzling play that even makes this old Prop swoon a little. THe plays in the first park of 2019 were something to behold, and the Melbourne faithful hope the find the same form on Friday night. Sure, the last few weeks have been lean, but these two are big game players and their partnership will define the match.
Should I watch?
Really? Do I need to ask this question? If you’re an Aussie Rugby fan, I’m sure you’d love to see two Aussie team battle it out in the finals. Well, if you want that to happen, get behind this match. Kayo, Fox Sport, or even make a flying visit to the Stockade. This is a club defining match for the REbels, and they want everyone down there to hopefully witness history.
Much like last year, my prediction will not be based on fact. It’s pure emotion.
I think the packs will be evenly matched, so the backline will need to capitalise on the ball they get from the pack. Cane and REtalliak will be massive pests at the breakdown, but I expect Jones, Cottrell and Hardwick to be even bigger pests. The Chiefs have the wheels out wide, but our back three are up for the challenge. Look for Koroibete to have another big game of the wing.
In all honesty, I think the Genia/Cooper pairing will be the deciding factor. Debreczei will falter under pressure, allowing cooper to control the game.
Tom English, sharing the love with fans.
One more message, for the Rebels themselves. Melbourne is behind you, all the way. We’ve had our highs and lows of the years, but it’s led you to this point; a chance to seal your first even spot in the finals, in front of your fans at the Stockade. You’ve earned this chance, so go out and take it! There will be an army of adoring fans, screaming for you on Friday. Good luck, Rebels.
Rebels by 5.
Date: Friday, June 14, 2018
Venue: AAMI Park
Kick-off: 7:45 PM (AEST)
Referee: Angus Gardner
AR1: Ben O’Keeffe
AR2: Graham Cooper
TMO: George Ayoub