Preview: Rebels v Chiefs - Green and Gold Rugby
Melbourne Rebels

Preview: Rebels v Chiefs

Preview: Rebels v Chiefs

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.

The Halves

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.

Fearless prediction

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.

Match Details

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

  • Steve

    Oh man, Rebels really gonna need to step up (and some players in particular) if we gonna have any faith in their ability to step up at the WC. As has been highlighted before, Reb’s inter-conference record has been shocking this year and that seems much more relevant to Test matches.

    Isi made some decent metres last week, but he, Jones and Phillip going to really need to force Cheikhead’s hand if they’re going to be included.

    I actually can’t see Genia and Cooper really stepping up here, their form has been really indifferent in recent games. Toomua proved he was no better last week. I hope to be proven wrong and they play a blinder – but seems Powell/Lilo have been much the stronger combo 2nd half of the season.

    • Who?

      Hard to blame Genia and Cooper too much when the pack hasn’t delivered that much front foot ball, and have dropped a lot of pill. Last game for Cooper was against the Tahs, someone pointed out he had 22 touches for the night and the Rebels kicked 35 times. The Rebels also had 22 turnovers. Cooper had two of those 22 touches in his try, another touch in his disallowed try, another touch in Koroibete’s break into Rona’s shoulder charge… So, 18 touches left. That’s not many.
      The real question will be whether the Rebels can win the gain line in tight, because it’s pretty clear they’re not permitted to play in their own half, and they’re not permitted to shuffle to the second line plays the Tahs love, which their backline pretty clearly could run very nicely.

      • Steve

        Yeah, agree it’s not an apples for apples comparison with Powell/Lilo, but it’s easy for selectors to overlook you (in Cooper’s case) when you’re not carving it up, whatever the reason.

        The real question will be whether the Rebels can win the gain line in tight

        Agree with this, and it’s up to the players we’ve been talking up all season to make this happen against an NZ team. Wallabies 6 & 8 still wide open from what I can see (I’m sure Cheika will disagree)

  • Who?

    Gotta point out… Everyone’s saying that Maddocks has started every game this year, but he hasn’t. He missed the game against the Stormers back in April. This is important, as missing this game means he’s missed two games this year, thereby fulfilling any Wallaby rest quota requirements, which weren’t clearly indicated as being relevant to Maddocks.
    Carn the Rebs!

  • Huw Tindall

    Hope I’m proven wrong bur Rebels pack needs to get them some decent ball and the team need to sort our the diabolical defensive startegy last week. I suspect having Meakes and English in the centres will go a long way to helping that but they need front foot ball or they are stuffed. No sign of a plan B this year and I can’t see that changinf in round 18 if it hasn’t already.

    • Kiwi rugby lover

      I think Meakes and English are a much better option than Hodge. While I like Hodge I don’t think 13 is a position he’s suited to. I think he may struggle on the wing through a lack of out and out pace but wing or 15 are both better for him. I actually think this is a very good back line

  • I want the Rebels to win this. I just think the Chiefs are rested, will be boosted by the return of Retallick and boosted by the prospect of finals footie, which a chunk of them are used to in a way that’s not really true of the Rebels. That will hurt them in the tight moments.

    Carn the Rebs! But if I were a betting woman, I’d put the price of a pint on the Chiefs.

  • Kiwi rugby lover

    Love the optimism mate. Beating the team that beat the team that beat them by 60 points is a huge ask and while I will never say never I think they need too much to go their way to do this.
    In some ways I wouldn’t be unhappy with a Rebels win as I think Australian rugby, as opposed to RA, would benefit hugely from getting 2 teams into the finals, however I think looking back on this season the Rebels will rue some of their previous games more than the last 2.
    Chiefs by 13+

    • Keith Butler

      No wrong KRL. There were a couple of games that the Rebs blew by imploding in the last 20 odd mins. In a competition where every point is vital, QCs missed conversion in an earlier game that would have secured a bonus point could be costly.

      • Kiwi rugby lover

        Sorry that’s what I meant. They’ll be rueing these games more than any losses in this game or last weeks game. It really was a season that could have been for them. I’m not too upset as long as they recognise where they went wrong and look at putting something in place for next year as it’s all a learning processing and while Wessels is looking good he is still relatively inexperienced.

        • Keith Butler

          I think people expected too much too soon. Year 1 get to know each other, year 2 continue to build and get structures in place. Can’t say i’m too bothered about not making the finals this season. Spend a good amount of time in the off season reviewing all their games, including the wins and look at what areas need improving. They will learn more from the losses than from the wins. The Rebs have a good squad and even if we do lose a couple in the off season I will be disappointed if we don’t make the finals in 2020.

      • Hoss

        Stay the course KB.

  • John Tynan

    Slightly off topic, but the background of the Retallick photo a great example of the things that rub people the wrong way about Crazy Eyes. Sorry/not sorry if this attracts people to pile on in a Rebels article.

    PS – good write up, I think Eloise has nailed it.

    • Brumby Runner

      Hmm. My first impression was that it was Hooper, but on a second look, I thought it was Foley. Anyway, your point stands.

      • John Tynan

        I’ll have another look.

    • Hoss

      Star jumps mid match is a perfectly accepted stretching exercise.

      Everyone’s a critic.

  • Keith Butler

    A big game for both teams. I for one was decidedly underwhelmed by Debreczeni when he was at the Rebs. He was meant to be the next big thing at 10 but underperformed and the seigegun boot often turned out to be a pop gun. Would he be in the team if Duncan McKenzie wasn’t injured? It will be interesting to see how he goes tonight. If the Rebs back row can get in his face from the get go we might get a result. However, with the momentum of the win last weekend the odds will favour the Chiefs.

  • Custard Taht

    The outcome of this game will come down to coaching. In that, if plan A is failing, will Wessels continue with it and forcing a structured game, or whether he will let Cooper and Genia play what is in front of them.

    • Who?

      Isn’t it disappointing that we so rarely find the balance between ‘play what’s in front of you’, and programmatic specificity? So few coaches seem to understand that the program is instituted to give direction when there’s no clear best opportunity to exploit, and should be designed to create opportunities, which should then be seized as they present themselves. So frustrating… I wouldn’t have thought it was such a complex concept!

      • Custard Taht

        You wouldn’t think so, but apparently it is!

        With Genia and Cooper steering the ship, Wessels should give his two steeds the reins.

  • Gallagher

    C’mon Rebels!!! A win we need for sure, but at the very least I will be happy with a competitive, burn everything, chase everything, hit everything that moves attitude, and some tactics that show they CAN win the game, even if it comes close. This is finals footy a round early, and that’s what it takes to progress! REBBBBELS!!!! REBBBELS!! REBBBBBELS!!!

  • Keith Butler

    Kafer and Martin can get fucked. Have never heard such a biased commentary.

    • Who?

      Kafe was a bit harsh at times, but Marto was absolutely scathing. He should be embarrassed with his behaviour – who has a go at a coach in a halftime interview?! Marto sounded gleeful at the Rebels’ suffering.
      Meanwhile, the Tahs send a team of nobodies across the ditch to ensure the Clan get into the finals…… Great work, Gibbo.

      • Keith Butler

        He has never had a good word to say of the Rebels. Mind you last night was another disgrace.

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