The Rebels have snapped a five game losing streak with a come from behind 27-24 win over the Brumbies in Canberra. The visitors were down 21-5 at one stage but a spirited second half defensive display and a 78th minute balls of steel penalty goal from Reece Hodge saw them home to all but end the Brumbies 2018 season.
The Rebels scored a brilliant opening try after seven minutes with Tom English benefitting from some good work from Angus Cottrell. Cottrell collected the ball about 60 metres out and beat the covering defence of Henry Speight and offloaded to English who beat Christian Lealiifano into the left corner.
The Brumbies were unable to get much going in the opening 15 minutes with some questionable tactics and allowing the Rebels easy exits from their end with back-to-back penalties. But when they were given a chance in the opposition 22, they responded from Tom Cusack after a period of pressure right on the Rebels line and the conversion wide out from Wharenui Hawera gave them a 7-5 lead.
The momentum started to turn towards the Brumbies and the Rebels went down to 14 men just after the 20-minute mark with Amanaki Mafi copping a yellow card via the TMO after he was judged to have hit Scott Sio with a high shot. From the resulting penalty, Sio’s replacement Faalelei Sione had his first try in Brumbies colours after an offload from Cusack and Hawera’s second conversion made it 14-5.
The Brumbies went further ahead on the 30-minute mark with Rob Valetini marking his return to Super Rugby from a knee injury to get his name on the try scorer’s list. The home side swooped on a dropped ball and a few phases later, that included a cross-field kick, Valetini crashed over from close range. Hawera’s conversion made it 14 unanswered points whilst Mafi was off the field for the Rebels.
With Sio off the field after failing a HIA, the Brumbies scrum started to come under pressure. The Rebels went for the line off the penalty and with another penalty advantage, stretched the ball wide to Marika Korobiete who looked for all money to score himself but offloaded to English who had his second try of the night. Hodge was unable to convert from out wide to leave 21-10 at the break.
The second half started with the Rebels under the pump on their own line but came out unscathed with around nine minutes of possession with the Brumbies, including a series of scrum five metres out right in front of the sticks.
The Rebels had more work to do in their own end but came out on top with some great maul defence from Anuri Rangi to nullify the Brumbies set piece option and limited the damage to just a penalty goal after 15 minutes of pressure.
Without many chances to play, the Rebels closed the gap with a nice try from long rang with Jack Maddocks starting and ending the play with Reece Hodge able to find a gap out wide with a defensive mismatch against tiring Brumbies forwards.
That stunned them into action and they came out firing right off the restart with Mafi heavily involved as they marched downfield with ease and off the back of another penalty, they reduced the margin again with debutant Semisi Tupou scoring in the right corner and Hodge’s conversion from the sideline leveled the score with 15 minutes to go.
Both teams were throwing it around in the last ten minutes with the Brumbies going close after a Rebels error with Andy Muirhead toeing the ball ahead but the covering defence saved them as Lachlan McCaffrey knocked on in the shadows of the line.
The Brumbies had a chance to edge in front after a questionable penalty but Lealiifano was unable to land his shot from 40 metres out.
And with just two minutes remaining, the Rebels had their chance to take the lead after Sam Carter was penalised after a high shot and Reece Hodge was able to land the penalty from wide out for the 27-24 win.
The Game Changer
The Rebels defence early in the second half after being down by 14 points when under the pump saw them out of jail combined with two late tries saw them snap their losing streak
The G&GR MOTM
A great comeback form the Rebels sees Tom English get the nod after scoring a crucial double. Jack Maddocks and Reece Hodge a dead heat for second
Steve Larkham was in attendance to watch this derby and Marika Koroibete seems to be getting back into form with a few good runs and setup one of English’s tries. Adam Coleman lead the forwards well and stepped up in the second half defensive effort, even with his team under a yellow card warning
Score & Scorers
Tries: Cusack, Sione, Valetini
Conversions: Hawera 3
Tries: English 2, Maddocks, Tupou
Conversions: Hodge 2
22 mins – Mafi (Rebels) – Yellow