Rebels Snatch Defeat from the Jaws of Victory - Green and Gold Rugby
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Rebels Snatch Defeat from the Jaws of Victory

Rebels Snatch Defeat from the Jaws of Victory

The battle for the top of the Aussie conference proved a memorable one at AAMI Park as the Waratahs emerged victorious in a come from behind victory over the Rebels.

First Half

The Waratahs failed to secure the opening kick off and from there the Rebels piled on the pressure through some strong ball carries which ultimately resulted in the Waratahs conceding a penalty and Reece Hodge kicked the Rebels to a 3 – nil lead.

The next 10 or so minutes featured plenty of errors from both sides. The Waratahs were impatient and looked to spread the ball wide before they’d generated any quick ball or forward momentum and made little headway as a result. The Rebels were making plenty of metres through their forward runners but couldn’t maintain their composure for long enough periods.

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In the 16th minute the Waratahs won a turnover and then Bill Meakes produced a stupid professional foul kicking the ball from Nick Phipps hands at the breakdown whilst he was lying on the ground. Referee Nic Berry had no hesitation showing the slice of cheese and the Tahs had a one man advantage. It was the impetus to get the Waratahs into the game with a scything run a couple of minutes later from Kurtley Beale resulting in Taqele Naiyaravoro strolling over untouched for his 12th try of the season, equalling the club’s season record.

With the score 10-3, the Rebels struck back with a brilliant first phase try from a lineout on the Waratahs 22 just 5 minutes before half time. Rangi threw to Philip at the front, Ruru threw a long cut out pass to Meakes who drifted out before passing, cutting out Tom English who ran a good line to hold Curtis Rona in defence to find Dane Haylett-Petty who sailed through the gap created between Rona and Naiyaravoro to score untouched.

The tied game was short lived however with the Tahs scoring a great team try only a couple of minutes later. A half break by the Rebels finished with a poor kick through by Naivalu which was fielded by Foley. The Waratahs spread the ball left making some metres and from the next phase with the entire field to their right, the Waratahs went wide. Rona managed to run around Amenaki Mafi before putting Michael Wells into space. Wells drew the fullback, passed to winger Alex Newsome who then threw a beautiful inside pass finding Will Miller backing up to finish a great team try. 17-10 Waratahs.

With time running out in the first half the Rebels had a golden opportunity to hit back after a tackle busting break by Sefa Naivalu. With the try line wide open Angus Cottrell dropped an absolute sitter.

Second Half

It was all Rebels early in the second half. After some sustained pressure the Waratahs gave away a penalty. The Waratahs were slow to react and a quick tap 10 metres out finished with Michael Ruru sneaking over for a try and the scores were level. From there, a combination of strong ball running led by a peerless performance from Matt Philip and some ill-discipline from the Waratahs allowed the Rebels to extend the lead through penalty goals to Reece Hodge.

After the June test series resulted in far more refereeing and TMO controversies than anyone would like to see and just an hour earlier the Blues vs Reds game in Auckland was Ben Skeened from the TMO booth, the TMO again decided to get involved. With play going on, Damien Mitchelmore said he had a foul play incident for Nic Berry to check. What happened from there can only be described as farce. The incident to be reviewed was many phases earlier when Rebels hooker Anaru Rangi ran the ball from the back of the lineout before slipping over and falling fairly softly into Bernard Foley. The issues to be looked at apparently were whether Foley had used arms in the tackle and connected high. No fewer than six replays were looked at before Nic Berry eventually decided it was a penalty at worst and the play went back up field to where the Rebels originally had a penalty for a Waratahs infringement. An absolutely ridiculous interjection by the TMO and the Rebels extended their lead to 26-17 for a penalty that had nothing to do with the Rangi/Foley collision.

With the Rebels looking firmly in control of proceedings, somehow the Waratahs began to find a way back. A Kurtley Beale break was the first signs of life for the Tahs in the second half and then a high risk intercept from Beale propelled the Waratahs into attack. Beale knocked the ball up and then managed to secure it on the second grab. If he hadn’t, it would have been a yellow card with the Rebels on attack. Instead, Ned Hanigan scored a few phases later with a powerful run through Matt Philip and Ross Haylett-Petty from close range. The only blemish on an otherwise phenomenal game from Philip.

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Still holding onto a two point lead, the Rebels threw it away, quite literally with Bill Meakes passing an intercept to Bernard Foley who ran 50 metres to score and give the Waratahs the lead. The Rebels still had chances but a key turnover to Ned Hanigan diffused one attack and then from an ensuing penalty, the Rebels again peppered the Waratahs try line before the ball was reefed loose in a tackle and Will Miller dived on it for the Tahs with a couple of minutes left. Rather than clearing their lines, the Tahs opted to try and run out the clock with a whole two minutes left from their own try line. It was obvious this wasn’t a good option and predictably with just 10 seconds left the Waratahs were pinged for holding on and the Rebels had one final chance to win the game. A lineout on the 5 metre line and the Tahs were under immense pressure but Will Miller managed to rip the ball away from Lopeti Timani and the ball was kicked into touch and the Tahs were victorious.

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Despite the Waratahs scoring four tries to two, this was a game the Rebels really should have won. They dominated much of the game and squandered a number of opportunities. They blew a substantial lead and then when handed the opportunity to win the game at the death couldn’t execute. Their season isn’t over but you’d imagine they have to win their last two games to seal a wild card spot.

For the Waratahs, their lead on top of the Aussie conference is now four points and with two home games to finish against the Sunwolves and Brumbies, their destiny is in their own hands.

This was a classic Aussie derby with both teams willing to attack at every opportunity. Despite some errors early in the game it built nicely and turned into a great game. Worthy of an Australian conference decider and the result was still in contention after the full time siren.

The Game Changer

With about 12 minutes left and the Waratahs down by 9 points, all the momentum was with the Rebels. Kurtley Beale took a high risk intercept on the second grab that resulted in a try to Ned Hanigan a minute later. If he hadn’t completed the intercept it would have certainly been a yellow card and the game sealed for the Rebels.


In a match the Rebels dominated for long portions, Matt Philip was immense. With 20 runs, close to 100 run metres, 2 clean breaks and a number of defenders beaten and offloads, he savaged the Waratahs defence all game. Topped all players for run metres.
For the Tahs, Kurtley Beale was instrumental in bringing the Waratahs back into the game and ultimately delivering the win for the men from New South Wales.

Wallaby Watch

Matt Philip will push hard for a spot in the Bledisloe Cup squad if he can finish his season with a couple more strong performances. In a game that featured plenty of stars, he was a standout.

The Details

Scores and Scorers

Rebels 26
Trys: D Haylett-Petty, M Ruru

Conversions: R Hodge – 2
Penalty goals: R Hodge – 4

Waratahs 31
Trys: T Naiyaravoro, W Miller, N Hanigan, B Foley

Conversions: B Foley – 4
Penalties: B Foley – 1

Cards and Citations

B Meakes (Rebels) Yellow Card
Crowd: 9,600

  • Rebels Ruck

    Such a disappointing loss, after the Rebels had done so well in the first part of the second half to catch the Waratahs, then build scoreboard pressure. I was there and Rebels fans were starting to ask whether their memberships included finals games – something we’ve never had to check before!! Then those two intercept passes! One is bad enough but two!! Undid so much other good work they had done. Put that together with two tries we botched through dropping the final pass before scoring. An uphill battle to make the finals now with a tough run home away to the Reds and the Highlanders.

    • Braveheart81

      If the Lions beat the Sharks in Durban tonight then the Rebels should only need to win one game to make it.

      • Rebels3

        Technically they don’t have to win a game if the sharks can’t win more than 1 of their final 3 games or the Jaguares fail to get 2 or more bonus points from the last 3games

        • Braveheart81

          Sure, but you’d far prefer for the Lions to win tonight and then the Rebels beat the Reds in Brisbane next week then you don’t have to worry about results going your way in the last round.

      • Its complicated, but I would prefer for the Lions to implode and cede second place to the Tahs so that the Lions are more likely to get a NZ team in the quarters. Still, with Whiteley back and Marx too, its an unlikely scenario.

        The Rebels deserve a spot in the finals and I think they will get there. The Reds backs were so poor last night that a Rebels repeat of this week’s performance will see the Reds lose by 50

    • Keith Butler

      Disappointed yes but this was the best game the Rebs have played all season against a very good side. Matt Philip had a massive game as did Ruru and Meakes tied up Beale for most of the game. I thought we pushed too many passes in the last 10 mins which led to Foleys intercept. We can still make the finals if other results go our way but that doesn’t bother me one bit. We are now starting to play as a team.

    • Missing Link

      I have a good feeling the Rebels will win the next 2 games. If they play as well as they did on Firday night. The Reds are a bit of a banana skin team but if the Rebels play their best rugby, they’ll overcome them and the Highlanders are out of form, they were dismal against the Chiefs who walked all over them.

      • Keith Butler

        The problem for me is the Reds pack particularly at scrum time. The Rebs could get penalised off the park and lose players to cards which could skew the outcome in the Reds favour. Getting some decent scrummaging props between now and the 2019 season must be a priority. I think we have very good depth elsewhere apart from the perennial problem of having a 10 who can boss the game. Neither Hodge or Debs cut it for me. As I posted earlier give Maddocks a go at 10 in the Rising to see how he shapes up. Apparently Stephen Larkham rates him highly.

        • Missing Link

          It’s a head scratcher for me, the Rebels had Hegarty playing at 10, he wasn’t mind blowing but they won a few games. Hegarty is now considered a decent prospect at the Tahs but playing in the back 3. McGahan benched Hegarty once Debreczeni came along and Hegarty left due to lack of opportunity, I don’t blame him either. Fast forward a few years and Debreczeni has not really developed into the 10 Australia desperately needs and Wessels has now benched him, but the replacement Hodge doesn’t have the passing game required of a world class 10, and a lot of back play from the Rebels involves a lot of short stuff from Hodge and Meakes/DHP/Maddocks acting as a second string to release the rest of the backline. At times it works as they scored a brilliant try against the Tahs on Friday night, but you have to question why your best distributor and game manager is not playing 10. I’m not sure who that is, but the questions stands. Someone mentioned DHP, it could work. Hodge and DHP could effectively swap, Maddocks could also go to 10, Hodge to 13 and push English to the wing or bench and have both hard hitting Fijians on the park at the same time. The thing about English is he is now a leader which makes it harder for Wessels to keep him out of the 15. Not to say the Rebels have problems – there was a really awesome passage in the second half where they were just turning the screws on the Tahs with fast paced offload rugby, it’s a bit of a stretch but i’m going to say “it was kind of like watching a kiwi team” hahaha but then unfortunately for the Rebels it came undone when they got carried away with those intercepts and the Tahs had the composure to claw their way back in with 2 trys.

        • Keith Butler

          Good post ML really sums up our problem. We have a batch of good/very good quality backs, the trouble being that they can play in a number of different positions. If only they could say I only want to be considered as a 10, 12…whatever, they might take that next step, focus on the skills required of that position and become exceptional rather that just another utility back.

  • Braveheart81

    Pretty disappointed there was no picture of Tom Robertson’s ear on Getty Images just quietly. That cauliflower was all time!

    • Keith Butler

      I remember my cauli very well. Had it drained before playing and afterwards for 2 or 3 weeks. The three quarters in the changing rooms would look the other way when the needle went in. Tom has got some way to go before he reaches Rowntree standards but he is young.

    • Huw Tindall

      You wouldnt be able to show images of his ear before 9pm on TV

    • Shtinatina
  • GoMelbRebels

    The difference in the end was experience. With more composure we would have kept the risky play to a minimum once we were in front. Anyway, probably the happiest (or less upset) I have been after a loss. Not bad going for first year as a new combined team. If we can go into 2019 with the majority of the squad intact, we could go even further. Not that I am giving up on this year, there IS still a chance of finals and with two rounds to go for us, that is a first!

    • Huw Tindall

      Yeah a lot to like. Rebels are a classic example of a side rebuilding after significant change. I expect they’ll be dangerous in 2019 with a season under their belt. Just need a #10!

  • Chinese Dave

    So after a week during which the tahs were constantly maligned, the much vaunted rebels (rebelling against being given every advantage by the ARU I guess) come up against a plucky underdog Waratahs side consisting of lightweight rookies and international players badly selected due to the coach’s favouritism. Beale is stupid, Foley lazy,kepu lost it and Robertson et Hannigan never had it.

    Go the tahs and of course man of the match Matt Philip.

  • Brumby Runner

    An excellent write up, (BH?). You and I might bathe vicariously in the glow of Matt Philip’s tremendous game. We were both calling for his inclusion in the Wallabies squad from early last year, or maybe even NRC the previous year. He is one heck of a footballer.

    I have never been so disillusioned (and disgusted) with the TMO interventions as I was with the Foley tackle/no tackle incident. Time to muzzle them and only allow them to help on the invitation of the referee. No other involvements at all imo. If a nasty incident is missed, get some citing officers with balls to make the call after the game is over.

    This was one of the better Aus conference games we’re likely to see. Full credit to both sides for playing with spirit and intent.

    • Braveheart81

      Thanks BR!

  • Simon S

    Another massive crowd in Rugby-mad Melbourne…… Not.
    Less than 10k again; what a disgrace!

    • Missing Link

      Let me guess, you’re from Perth? It’ll take some people a while to come around, but rugby is alive and well in Melbourne. The fact we’ve now had 3 out of 4 Aussie teams beat kiwi teams this year and the Rebels beat an NZ side on home turf is testament to the ARU making the right decision despite all the negativity and backlash.

  • Fatflanker

    Hey, hey, hey – am I dreaming or did I see some great Aussie offloads?!..we can do them! Watching the replay of this game was chicken soup for the soul after that Reds/Blues travesty. Bad luck to the Rebs – that intercept must have been a heart-breaker.

  • Hoss

    happy to take the win but it almost makes me feel bad for the Rebs – almost. The win masks well known problems with the Tahs, but there were positives. Simmons was good, actually his best game in blue for mine, Miller was dynamic and really played a terrific on-ball role as well. A win In a disruptive week is a bonus. Spanners, well that match is how he got his nickname, he was diabolically bad for much of it (kicking passing) its only that he was up against a terrible 10 for the Rebs that we get up. Seriously how can a team with that much good quality pill, dynamic forwards and the best game by an Oz second rower all year in Phillips manage to lose that ?

    I tipped 3 Oz wins for the round, but what was really obvious was the complete lack of talent and depth across all Oz teams at 9 and 10. They were all dreadful, doesn’t bode well for RWC.

    • Keith Butler

      You tell me Hoss. Best game the Rebs have played all season and they still lost. Meakes tied up KB for most of the game but he escaped to set up Hannigan’s try and cut the deficit to 2. Rebs go into panic mode and start to push passes one of which led to the intercept. That and dropped passes when the line was open summed up their day. Matt Philip had a massive game (if only I’d been that good!) but at least I have a cauliflower to match Robertson’s. He’s in for an interesting couple of weeks with draining etc but he is a med student so could practice his needle skills in front of a mirror.

      • Missing Link

        That’s the thing, the Rebels didn’t need to push those passes, next minute Foley is out of the line, creating a gap for the Rebels out wide. This game could have been a 13+ win to the Rebels if they didn’t panic. Philip was really impressive as well as Meakes.

        Jesus, Robertson’s ear had it’s own postcode :)

        • Keith Butler

          Big concern for me next weekend is how the front 5 will go against the Reds. It would be a real shame if the game was decided on the number of penalties given away or time spent in the bin. We need better scrummaging props imo.

    • Andy

      Call me daft but I’d like to see the rebel’s try DHP or Meeks at 10.

      Both can pass well, both can defend well, both have pretty decent vision and from what I’ve seen both have superior kicking games to any 10 currently starting in the Oz teams. We’ve got a decent record of converting inside and outside backs to 10 in this country so I see no reason to stop trying it especially when the stocks are so low.

      Would have also been good if Godwin got given the 10 shirt at the brumbies. But considering he is off there’s probably no point. Banks maybe? Not sure on his passing but the rest of him game is very sound.

      • Keith Butler

        I thought Jack Maddocks was the next cab off the ranks for the 10 slot. Hodge doesn’t look the part to me and Debs hasn’t lived up to the hype that he was going to be the next star at 10. Play Maddocks at 10 in the Rising and see how he goes.

        • Andy

          Why not.

  • idiot savant

    The Tahs defence won this game. Sure they scored two tries from intercepts but the Rebs had so much ball, field position and momentum they would’ve won that game if it wasn’t for the Tahs defence. The Tahs are hands down the best tackling side in Australia. Maybe if the Rebs had better playmakers they might have won. And for a side considered to have powder puff forwards the Tahs pack might just have won the forward battle. Helped in no uncertain measure by having a genuine 7.

  • Missing Link

    How good was Naivalu’s try saving tackle on Cam Clarke. Poor Cam was seeing stars, hope he’s ok but it makes me wonder why Naivalu hasn’t had more game time for the Rebels.

    • Keith Butler

      He did make a couple of fumbles off what were ok passes in the attack zones. Would Koroibete have held on to them?

      • Rebels Ruck

        Where was Koroibete by the way? He was named in the side but replaced presumably on the day. Injured?

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