Rebels outplayed by the Blues - Green and Gold Rugby
Melbourne Rebels

Rebels outplayed by the Blues

Rebels outplayed by the Blues

The Rebels and the Blues opened the 2017 Super Rugby season, with an easy Blues win.

Both teams had something to prove; The Rebels wanted to stamp its authority in an uncertain Australian conference, the blues want a return to the glory days of early 2000.  however tonight, it would be the  New Zealand fans who would go home smiling after a dominant second half.

The first game is often a game of its own and big conclusions shall not be drawn out it. Bu,t clearly the Rebels should go back to the drawing board, with a lot of homework to do after a 38 points hiding.

They kept pace for most of the first half,  but after the break, they were annihilated. Multiple injuries to key players: McMahon, Naivalu, Koroibete, and at the last minute Inman, plus losing their captain 14 minutes into the game, should not be used an excuse to justify a terrible second half.

The Rebels should have a closer look to their game plan; too many possessions kicked away with no real opportunities, continue to plague them. The choice to play Mafi and Ried near the wing on attacking didn’t work; the powerful forwards were often away from the play, and didn’t contribute as expected.

Next week the Rebels will play the reigning champions Hurricanes. ’nuff said.

The Match

The game was in the balance until the dying minutes of the first half , with Rieko Ioane’s try giving the Blues a 10 point advantage at the break. In the second half, there was only one team on the pitch – the Blues. Tana Umaga’s team ran away to win, led by an impressive Ihaia West, and an hat-trick from Ioane.

Nic Stirzaker’s 50th cap was a short-lived affair  He had glimpses of good form,  and managed to score a try in the 14 minutes.  However,  suffered a concussion, and was forced from the field for the remainder of the match

First Half:

After 5 minutes where the Blues tried without success to break the Rebels’ line, the Auckland’s outfit scored a penalty of the boot of West.

The visitor’s lead was very short, with the Rebels scoring just one minute after the penalty kick. A nice break from Japanese internationals Mafi opened up the field for Jack Maddocks, who cut toward the centre, drew two defenders into the tackle and offloaded to the running  Nic Stirzaker, who threw a dummy and scored the try.

Unfortunately, the Rebels captain was forced out the field soon after with a suspected concussion.

Ten minutes after Nicks’s Try, the Blues had a nice opportunity to go back on top. A beautiful combination between Rieko Ioane and Matt Duffie brought them after the line but the Rebels defence was able to hold up the ball and prevent the score.  However, the 5m Scrum, Pauliasi Manu was too strong for the Rebels defenders, crashing over for the Try.

The Rebels made their way back into the visitors’ half and gained a penalty from a favourable position. Garden-Bachop hit the post, but on the subsequent kick, Jordy Reid blocked and Garden-Bachop was quick to redeem himself and scored his first try for the Rebels.  The rookie flyhalf wasn’t able to convert his own try and missed another kick two minutes later.

The Blues were quick to regroup and thanks to a possible knock on not seen by international referee Angus Gardner, the Rebels were caught off-guard, allowing Blues winger Duffie to score untouched.

West extended the Blues lead seven minutes to the siren with a 35 meters penalty right in front of the posts.

The missed goals cost Garden-Bachop the kicking role.  Reece Hodge was called to the kicking duties and slotted a penalty shortly after.

The Blues had the last word of the first stanza; Ioane was clever not to loose focus on a massive Rebels’ overlap on the left wing, kept the eyes on the ball and intercepted a lousy Ried’s pass to score the visitors’ third against the flow of play.

Rieko Ioane try decided the match

First half score: Rebels 15 – Blues 25

Second Half:

Hodge opened the second half with a penalty for the home team, but the Blues picked up from where they left with a Augustine Pulu try after a line out movement that caught the Rebels’ defence asleep.

A brilliant Ioane try at the 11th minute extended to Blues lead. The centre broke two tackles, and dodged another three Rebels’ backs,  to cross the line with a powerful, awe inspiring run.

Ihaia West had a superb game for the Blues

The Rebels tried to get back, but a precise West kick started a race to the try line between Nanai and Meehan.  The Blues’ winger won the foot racet to score try number six with 20 minutes to play.

In a game already won by the Blues,  Ioane scored his third personal try.  To pour more salt on their wounds the Rebels lost also Jonah Placid with an ankle injury.

Final score: Rebels 18 – Blues 56

The Wrap Up

The Blues had a dominant second half thanks to better execution and a more effective bench.  Conceding seven tries at home is never a good sign, and the Rebels were left with too many questions to answer.

The Game Changer

Rieko Ioane try at the end of the first half cut the game in two. From a potential half time score of 15-18, the two teams went to the sheds with the visitors 10 points up. In the second half there was no coming back.


Ihaia West had a superb game for the Blues, he orchestrated his players with precise hand passes and kicks, never missing a bit.

Wallaby watch

Very few new names can be made after this game: Tom English and Jack Maddocks started the game pretty well, but faded quickly un the Rebel’s quagmire.


The Details

Score & Scorers

Rebels  18  (15)
Tries: Stirzaker 6′, Garden-Bachop 22′
Conversions: Garden-Bachop 1/2
Penalties: Garden-Bachop 0/2, Hodge

Blues 56 (25)
Tries: Manu 18′, Duffie 28′, Ioane 39′, 51′, 63′, Pulu 44′, Nanai 59′
Conversions: West 6/7
Penalties: West 2/2, Francis 1/1

Cards & citings

YC: Ranger 72′



  • Fatflanker

    Well, that was just embarrassing. Did the 5 teams for Oz argument not much good at all.

  • paul

    Interesting article in the Australian with Rebels boss pretty much trashing the whole super rugby competition.
    He pointed out that trying to create a successful team/franchise under the current set up is near on impossible.

    • Gottsy

      What did he say the biggest challenges were? (I should probably google the article shouldn’t I haha)

    • Andrew Luscombe

      He’s exactly right. Many of the things most successful leagues have are missing. There needs to be a mechanism for equalising the teams, like a draft, competition wide salary cap and/or free movement of players, or it becomes impossible to start and grow a team – every new team started since the Super 12 is a failure (possible exception for the Lions coming back from relegation). That is the number 1 problem.

      The length of the season is number 2. Every other professional league is at least 22 weeks plus finals, plus 6 weeks of champion’s leagues. 15 matches per team in SR doesn’t sustain interest, get people in the habit, or generate enough money for each team to keep players from Europe.

      Spanning so many time zones is the next problem. It is also a major problem both for cost and fans following their teams. You can manage this to an extent, and they are, but via a mess of a format which has the same amount of travel as a champions league would have anyway, so why not split the league and introduce a champions league?

  • Pedro

    The rebels will hope their injured players return quickly so they can distance themselves from the “team” the were last night.

  • Gottsy

    The Rebels looked rudderless for most of the game. It seems they were lacking some real leadership- obviously losing Stirzaker so early didn’t help, and a few brain farts from Reid proved very costly. Hopefully they will be better for the run- they looked like they had never played together.
    I fear it will be another long year for the Aus franchises against the kiwis

  • Keith Butler

    Not the greatest start to the season but irrespective of the number of players out due to injury this was a pretty woeful performance. Not too many positives but Maddocks had a decent debut, English did OK and JD looked comfortable at FB. Next week against the Canes could be another painful experience.

  • Nutta

    I turned over at halfway through the 2nd half.

    Starting at the basics, the scrum was sound, the lineout was functional (when they got a decent throw) and I thought the Rebs had some genuine ball running options. All generally good stuff.

    Losing half and Capt hurt but for me the biggest issue was just simple execution: dropped high balls, wide-running forwards over-running on support lines, wide-running forwards throwing intercepts, poor tactical kicking options… it destroyed any hope of momentum

    These are all unforced errors. And if/when you give an opponent with that much ability that many opportunities you will get spanked. Hey Presto.

    Further, I was disappointed to see so much out-of-position play. For instance that No2 is a fat backrower for a start. He can’t throw and throwing is pretty bloody central to a modern no2, and his shape in-scrum is IMO poor. So if you aren’t a 2 then lose some mass and get back where he obviously belongs. All that said, throwing is a practiced skill – not an art – so rack up the hours and fix it man. It’s your living. And was that our national No8 playing as a Lock?

    Across the board is it too much gym work and not enough ball work? Are they simply unfit so making poor decisions? Dunno. That’s a coaches call. But it aint good.

    • Keith Butler

      You summed it up in two words poor execution across the board. Scrum OK, lineout a disaster and a back row with little or no presence at the breakdown. With Hanson injured we have two hookers who couldn’t hit a barn door on a good day. Instead of recruiting more back rowers we should have been looking for top quality locks so that LT could play in his proper position at 8. When we are a full strength we could have a decent side but I reckon we may still struggle in the front five.

  • AB

    I wonder what Cheika made of that…they say super form doesn’t convert to test form but in my opinion our wallabies campaign last year also died in the super rugby season when the Aussie teams wholly failed to compete with the NZ teams….

    • Blinky Bill of Bellingen NSW

      Personally I’ve never fully understood why Super form does not convert to test footy. Sure it’s played a different level and the space may not be always there, but straight throws are straight throws throw, kicks at goal the same, defense is always similar, etc. It’s not like comparing 7’s to 15’s.

      • Kokonutcreme

        I guess for test players who aren’t showing form in Super rugby, you have to assess how they are performing the role asked of them by their Super coach that may be different to their role in the test team and see if it’s their individual skillsets that are letting them down or not. Last year it was underestimated the impact of the form by Australian Super teams on the test side.

        Fundamentally those game skills you mentioned don’t change, but performing those skills under greater pressure with less time and space is where Super rugby differs from test rugby I guess.

        • Blinky Bill of Bellingen NSW

          Good point about a player and how they’re asked by their coach to play at Super level v Test side. I hadn’t considered that one.
          As for ‘time and space’, it’s been my observation that this is often either exposed or exploited at most sports. For example, an excellent lower level squash player will often struggle for some time when they go to the next level. But then that’s why we play the game, right?

        • Andrew Luscombe

          The point about differing roles is very important. This is where greater coordination between national and super rugby is key. Surely it’s better for a player’s role to be agreed between national and SR coaches, and then they train and play pretty much that role for both teams.

        • Blinky Bill of Bellingen NSW

          I notice you are saying ‘roles’ and not positions. This may allow greater flexibility where a Super team doesn’t have the depth or talent of say a NZ team. I think I’m seeing that across the ditch but are we at that stage in Australia or likely to be?

        • Andrew Luscombe

          I also wonder about Ireland and the Irish Pro12 teams. I only ever see a few highlights of Pro12, but I suspect they are coordinating in a similar way to NZ.

        • Kokonutcreme

          “Surely it’s better for a player’s role to be agreed between national and SR coaches, and then they train and play pretty much that role for both teams.”

          This is where Super and National teams interests can and will diverge because of how teams play.

          Israel Dagg is one recent example where his form for the Crusaders wasn’t compelling however in the Black jersey he ran and played with greater freedom. That was because Blackadder didn’t have many game breakers at his disposal in the backline and so wanted to use Dagg more as a line breaker and closer into the action. Hansen didn’t need to use Dagg as a line breaker and so would have him running wider in support to finish off or continue the attacks.

          I was always highly critical of how Blackadder was using Dagg and would write that either Blackadder needs to go or Dagg needs to switch teams to restore his mojo – he didn’t look like someone who was enjoying his rugby.

    • joy

      Cheika would have noticed that Hodge and Timani didn’t look like returning test players.

  • Just to show that round one form doesn’t necessarily dictate the rest of your season: Last year the Hurricanes were beaten by the Brumbies 52-10 in round 1.

    • Kokonutcreme

      I’ve read several references to that result – what is overlooked is that the Hurricanes were losing finalists the previous year. The Rebels haven’t yet qualified for the playoffs but I agree that it’s premature to write off their season from that result or for any doom and gloom merchants to believe this speaks for the rest of the ANZAC clashes to come.

  • Kokonutcreme

    My thoughts on the match:

    The Rebels in the first half played equally well on defence and attack, finding space on the edges by quick ball movement. They showed good line speed, pressuring the Blues into handling errors.

    Their scrum was solid but their inconsistency at lineouts continue to be a prolem.

    Were it not for Garden-Bachops woeful goalkicking they would have built a comfortable lead as reward for their efforts. However Garden-Bachop did show some nice touches and looked comfortable at this level at the start.

    Losing their captain Stirzaker to concussion was unfortunate and the inexperience of both halves at this level showed the longer the match wore on.

    The Rebels would have been annoyed at conceding the try to Matt Duffie as that was poor ruck defence on the blindside even though they turned over possession, and it came shortly after Garden-Bachop capitalised on a charge-down.

    From the 28 minute mark in the first half to the 44 minute mark in the second, the Blues outscored the Rebels 22 – 6, game, set and match.

    Nobody was expecting the score to blowout in the second half as it played out and the killer punch was the try scored by Pulu just after the break.

    The Rebels attack started to stand deeper and play well behind the advantage line and it was difficult to generate forward momentum and build pressure. With inexperienced halves and the forwards unable to make any deep carries, the rest of the backline became sitting ducks.

    The Rebels also started to look unsure under the high ball and gifted territory and possession when Ihaia West varied his play and kicked intelligently to get the Blues out of their half.

    There were several coach killer errors from individuals in the second half and the ripple effect spread quickly through the team. Garden-Bachop started to look less comfortable and I was surprised that McGahan didn’t consider returning Jack Debreczeni to 10 in the second half. Very disappointing second half for the Rebels that doesn’t represent how much better this side will play when the incumbents return from injury.

    The Rebels will need to park this result quickly as they travel to the Cake Tin next week to play the Hurricanes.

    The Blues got better throughout the game and that will be the most pleasing aspect for Umaga. The quality of their backline means they’re always a try scoring threat to any side, but questions remained about could they stay focused for the full game, remain composed when they didn’t have the ball for long phases and eliminate unforced errors?

    After an accurate start from the kickoff, for the next 20 minutes we saw the old Blues – forced passes, cross field running, too much lateral attacking, lacking direction. Then they conceded the first try and I wondered would the Blues crack or hold and strike back?

    The Blues were strong at scrumtime and had a few lineout problems early on but recovered. The recruitment of Pulu may well be Umaga’s master stroke and Blues fans will be hoping their little general gets through the season unscathed.

    Credit to both teams and their coaches for the pre-season work spent on refining tackling techniques.

    There was a lot of anxiety about how the high tackle threshold change would affect the game and if last nights entertaining match is an indicator of how all teams have addressed the issue it won’t become one.

    Angus Gardner was very good last night – clear, consistent rulings and he had a good dialogue with the captains and players.

    • Keith Butler

      Top review. Disappointing game overall but there were some positives. I thought Maddocks had a good debut and set up Stirzaker for his try very well. JD didn’t look out of place at FB and he got a couple of decently runs. Apart from his goal kicking Garden-Bachop had a decent debut as well. I had a feeling that Lopeti would be moved to lock because of the injury situation but only one recognised jumper in Cummins didn’t help more so when both hookers were often well off target. Still can’t quite get my head around why we recruited more back rowers when we are short of quality locks. I guess we’ll have to wait for Toolis and Day to make an appearance before making a judgement.

    • swingpass

      i think a very accurate summary. the Rebels certainly lost all composure in the opening 20 – 25 mins of the second half. the worry for me is, that these are the same problems that have plagued the team since its inception, poor decision making and poor skill execution, and a deficient line out. the returning players will make some difference but i’m not sure how much.

  • juswal

    The game was gone when the Blues scored their first try in the second half. I hoped the Rebels would then recommit to their game plan and concentrate on their structure, alignment and accuracy. If they had done that, they could have taken something away from the loss.

  • Don’t think the Blues will get the wooden spoon in the NZ conference this year. They have got a lot of potential, with first choice players coming back. Luatua aside, their backrow and second row weren’t that impressive, but Kaino and Tuipulotu are still to return, and that will tighten their offensive defence considerably.

  • astamax

    The pain, the pain…. the PAINNNNNNN

Melbourne Rebels

Diego Ghirardi is a rugby fanatic from Italy, living in Melbourne. Played on the wing, now mainly couch flanker or sideline halfback. Enjoys writing in broken English, which should be read in a Franco Cozzo accent to render it more original. In case you understand Italian, you can read his banters on or better not

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