For the first time in their history, the Melbourne Rebels won three games in a row
The second derby of the season in Melbourne saw the Rebels face the Brumbies. Curiously both teams played the same opponents in the first two matches: Reds and Sunwolves.
The Rebels had to make one forced change in the starting XV, with newly appointed captain Adam Coleman not available substituted by Ross Haylett-Petty in the second row and by Tom English as skipper.
For the Brumbies the addition was front rower Scott Sio at his first outing of the season. A welcome comeback for the ACT players that suffered in the scrum in Brisbane but were dominant in Melbourne.
The slow starting Rebels took the best part of the first half to warm up, a worrying trend, should they play a more cynical opponent. Afterwards they dominated the match thanks to a solid defence and quick offensive schemes beautifully orchestrated by Will Genia.
The Brumbies were the first on the scoreboard, but after they lost their captain to a concussion, weren’t able to trouble the hosts.
Tom English captained the Rebels for the first time
A powerful start from the Brumbies saw the visitor spending the first ten minutes in the Rebels’ half and crossing the chalk through Chance Peni. Rebels’ indiscipline forced Will Houston to show the first card to Jordan Uelese. The hooker paying for the third team penalty.
The Rebels chose to keep numbers in the forward pack with Naivalu giving space to Rangi. The move backfired with Leali’ifano serving the try assist to Peni on the left wing.
The Rebels resisted the 10 minutes a man down without conceding more points and even had a chance to put 3 points on the scoreboard with a Reece Hodge penalty that drifted on the right from the halfway line.
After regaining the numerical parity, the hosts started to push towards the Brumbies try line thanks to the powerful runs of their powerful duo Mafi / Timani. The Japanese international scored the first try for the Rebels cleverly touching the base of the post pads after a 5 meters scrum.
Powerful Amanaki Mafi scoring the first Rebels’ try
Soon after followed the second major for the Rebels. Reece Hodge was the one collecting the honours but a series of phases saw almost every red white and blue player touching the pill. A powerful display of attacking schemes that delighted the Melbourne faithful. Hodge converted his own try for the 14-5 partial score with 5 minutes to play.
Tom Banks saved his try line in the dying minutes of the first half with a wonderful tackle on Sefa Naivalu after the speedster ran 80 meters towards the opponent’s posts. The initial reaction called for a high tackle, but the replay showed no foul in the fullback’s action.
First half score: Rebels – Brumbies 14 -5
Josh Mann-Rea left the pitch injuries at the end of the first half
A slow start for the second stanza of the match: the Brumbies got the most of the possession, but couldn’t convert it into points, crucially losing a ball forward close to the Rebels’ try line.
Dane Haylett-Petty and the Rebels had a nervous wait when the TMO watched repeatedly a replay of a fullback’s contact with Andy Muirhead
Speight scored at the 55th minute after the Rebels conceded a silly penalty for offside and the ACT went for the touch. The hosts concentrated too much on defending the maul and gave enough space to the backline. Hawera missed the conversion for a 4 point game.
Jordan Uelese gained a penalty on the halfway line, Reece Hodge went for the posts but missed again on the right.
Brumbies sub Leulua’aili’i was sent to the bin for a professional foul on the try line and it was Brumbies’ time to play 14 against 15.
At the first opportunity, the Rebels capitalised with Hodge’s second try of the game after a 5m scrum. The centre quick to react and collect Will Genia’ pass on the blind side.
Hodge converted for the 11 point lead with 15 minutes to play.
Two minutes later Maddocks scored a runaway try to put the game out of Brumbies’ reach.
The icing on the cake came with the fifth try: Ruru scored collecting a Rich Hardwick offload that was worth the entry price. The second rower stole the ball deep in the Rebels’ half and ran half of the pitch before getting out of steam, but he was quick to pass to the oncoming teammate.
Final score: Rebels – Brumbies /strong>
Another very solid performance from Matt Philip
The Wrap Up
Early days and no Kiwi or South African opponents for the Rebels, but for the first time, the franchise have won three games in a row.
The bonus point win gives the Rebels the lead in the Australian conference and clearly put them in contention to have their say in 2018.
The Brumbies had a very poor game, they contested the match only in the first 20 minutes of the game and had no pace to put the hosts under pressure.
The Game Changer
Leulua’aili’i’s card cost the Brumbies 19 points in the last quarter of the game. Tries to Hodge, Maddocks and Ruru secured the W for the home team.
The G&GR MOTM
Difficult to separate between Mafi and Hodge. The centre scored two tries, but the number 8 had a massive impact in the defensive line which created the perfect platform for the third win out of as many games for the Rebels.
Reece Hodge had a superb game, showing how the wallaby is not only a powerful kicker but also how much he has improved his defensive play, landing a couple of bone crunchers on the opponents. Cheika vision for him a future number 10 may change given his performances in the centres.
Score & Scorers
Rebels 33 (14)
Tries: Hodge (2), Mafi, Maddocks
Conversions: Hodge 4/5
Penalties: Hodge 0/2
Brumbies 10 (5)
Tries: Peni, Speight
Conversions: Leali’ifano 0/1, Hawera 0/1
Cards & citings
YC: Jordan Uelese (9′ – 19′); Leulua’aili’i (62′ – 72′)