The home loss against the Waratahs is a crucial blow for the Melbourne team.
The Rebels were forced to win their second last home game of the season, in order to keep their hopes alive. In a gritty encounter, they weren’t able to overcome a determinate Waratahs outfit.
The Waratahs can now hope for a playoff spot, that after the home loss versus the Jaguares last week, seemed impossible.
Both teams tested each other with high balls in the wet of AAMI Park, although when the Waratahs used their kicks to gain meters, the Rebels lacked in precision, and most of the time just handed back possession.
It was the Waratahs who scored the first points. After just 6 minutes the visitors use their set piece in the best way possible, moving the ball quickly out of the scrum on the left hand side. A quick Beale pass finds Haylett-Petty off guard and Rona, Foley and finally, Ashley Cooper combined for the try.
The Rebels quickly got 3 points back thanks to a Cooper penalty, dead set in front of the sticks.
The Tahs converted a penalty of their own after having enjoyed some possession in the Rebels 22. They were unable to find space through the defensive line, but a penalty from Adam Coleman gave Foley an easy kick for 10-3.
With the penalties’ count increasing against the Rebels, the Waratahs made more metres in the home side’s half. They forced the Rebels into another penalty and made another easy three points.
With the Rebels resembling a boxer on the ropes after only 25 minutes of play, the Tahs had another scoring chance when Cooper was caught by Ashley-Cooper over his try line. The resulting scrum gave another attacking possibility to the visitors, but Maddocks stopped AAC in a desperate tackle inches from the chalk.
The defensive effort encouraged the home team and Koroibete was close to scoring when Rona stopped him in front of the try line with a no arms tackle. The Waratahs should have been punished more harshly than with a simple penalty, given the no arms tackle stopped a certain try.
The Rebels kept on pushing but were denied twice by the TMO, who could not find a clear grounding in the first instance, and saw a knock forward in the second occasion and weren’t able to put any other points on the scoreboard.
First half score: Rebels 3 – Waratahs 13
The Rebels came back from the sheds with some sense of urgency. After a number of useless kicks from both teams that attracted the boos from the normally patient Rebels supporters, the home team finally got the ball moving by hand.
Koroibete ran over a tackler and offloaded to Haylett-Petty who ran a couple of metres before passing to Cooper for the try. The flyhalf converted his own try to reduce the gap to only 3 points.
At the first opportunity, the Waratahs scored their second try thanks to Rona who caught a ball from Ashley-Cooper rolling between the legs of two Rebels players.
The spectators and the Wallabies held their breath at the 15th minute when Foley came second best in an aerial contest with Cottrell. Fortunately, the player didn’t suffer any serious injury, and was able to continue. Referee Williams and his assistant Peyper decided that the Rebels back rower was genuinely going for the ball and adjudicated a scrum to the Tahs.
The Rebels were able to score again, this time Genia got the try after a fine Koroibete pass, unfortunately for them Cooper wasn’t able to convert the try making it a 5 point game.
The Rebels were desperate for another score and pushed hard into Waratahs territory even after the final hooter, but the visitors’ defensive line held firm in the last minutes of the game to ensure a victory that will most likely end any dream of a finals berth.
Final Score: Melbourne Rebels 15 – NSW Waratahs 20
The Game Changer
The missed penalty try and yellow card against the Waratahs in the 26th minute deprived the Rebels of 7 crucial points in their effort to come back.
The G&GR MOTM
Captain Hooper was crucial in his defensive effort in the second half when the Rebels threw the proverbial kitchen sink at them.
Reece Hodge showed his toughness, when after he dislocated a finger, got the physic to put it back in place from the sideline during play and gots back to tackle Foley. Marika Koroibete performed strongly on the wing, Beale had another fine game at fullback, although the uncapped player that impressed the most was again Billy Meakes that revitalised the Rebels in the second half when he came in for Matt Toomua.
Score & Scorers
Melbourne Rebels 15 (3):
Try: Cooper, Genia
Conv.: Cooper 1/2
Pen.: Cooper 1/1
Waratahs 20 (13):
Try: Ashley-Cooper, Rona
Conv.: Foley 2/2
Pen.: Foley 2/2
Cards & citings