Reds v Rebels Match Review - Green and Gold Rugby
Melbourne Rebels

Reds v Rebels Match Review

Reds v Rebels Match Review

Let’s cut the crap about this being the Rebels first Super Rugby finals appearance, or the Reds’ first since 2015.  This is Super Rugby AU and it has no history.  Now that should not diminish on the significance of this game for either team.

The Rebels are perhaps the team under the most pressure in Australian Rugby considering the resources sunk their way and without too much to really show for it.  The Reds are the up and comers, but is their substance to their play? Can they perform under the pressure of finals footy?

A perfect Brisbane night at a picture-perfect Suncorp Stadium provided the ideal setting to find out.

First Half:

The match start with the Rebels dominating the early possession but having to survive a barrage of strong Reds defense, led by Chris Feauai-Sautia, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto (playing his 50th game for the Reds) and Harry Wilson who put a massive hit on Isi Naisirani.

Early stages of the match were a mix between the Rebels playing with extreme width, as both Marika Koroibete and Andrew Kellaway received plenty of ball, while the Reds played the more conservative territory game.

It looked like the Rebels would be first to score through a combination of the two, as Matt Toomua found Kellaway out wide with a perfect cross field kick.  Replays showed that it the Rebel wing just put his front foot in touch in goal as he tried to place the ball.  It was centimetres in it but it was enough to deny early points.

The game can be made on these moments and more so on what happens afterwards. For it was from the goal line drop out, and the ensuing Rebels attack, that Jordan Petaia latched on to a Toomua pass and raced away for a Reds try at the other end. Reds 7-0

The pre-game banter around Taniela Tupou by Rebels coach Dave Wessels seemed to do the trick as the visitors drew a scrum penalty which gave Toomua the chance for his team’s first points. Reds 7-3

Petaia was almost in again when Jock Campbell latched on to a beautifully weighted James O’Connor chip.  His balance was superb as he looked to break through. He was grasped metres from the line and a pop pass to Petaia looked to put the young centre over again.  The pass was spilled in hot contest from the Rebels’ defence and the home crowd would be denied.

The battle of the breakdown was living up to expectations as Fraser McReight and Richard Hardwick, in particular, went hard at the breakdown.

When Billy Meakes was far too lazy at the breakdown, failing to roll away, it gave O’Connor a chance to extend his team’s lead with a valuable penalty.  Reds 10-3

Petaia’s night was worryingly over early, only half an hour into the night, with a possible concussion in a tackle.  Hunter Paisami is a very able replacement, but it was a sad sight regardless for Reds fans.

It was followed by a period of manic play from the Reds as they seemed determined to break some sort of offload record.  It was silly stuff and put the team under undue pressure.  It almost paid off for the Rebels when Naisirani charged a clearing kick down and it was only the cruellest of bounces that denied him what seemed to be a certain try.

The hits kept coming for the home team with Feauai-Sautia also replaced through injury, leading to reserve scrumhalf Moses Sorovi taking the field to play wing.

Just when it felt like the home team would safely find their way to the sheds, just like last week against the Brumbies, they found themselves conceding a soft try.  Koroibete, always roaming, picked up the ball from the base of the ruck and was off for the try line before any Reds player or fan could catch a breath. 10-all.

It was a crucial try and, given injuries to key Reds backs, and the Rebels being desperately unlucky to miss another two tries, the visitors would enter the break with plenty of confidence.


Second Half:

The injuries kept coming at the start of the 2nd half, but it must have been something to do with the Caxton Street end of the stadium. This time it was captain Dane Haylett-Petty who went down and he was replaced by Campbell Magnay, resulting in Reece Hodge shifting to fullback.

The result was immediate as Paisami found space down the blindside before linking with Filipo Daugunu who held up the pass Salakaia-Loto to score the try in his 50th game.  Reds 17-10

Matt Toomua was the next big name to drop limping off with half an hour left on the clock.  It was a staggering set of injuries that must have had Wallaby coach Dave Rennie wishing it was a first passed the post title series.

With Toomua going off, Hodge took the opportunity to polish off his kicking boots and blasted a 40m effort to close the gap on the scoreboard. Reds 17-13

The scrum battle was as intriguing as ever and evolved as the game progressed.  The Rebels had the ascendancy in the first half, but the Reds’ dominance was clear throughout the 2nd half.  A powerful Tupou led shove, presented O’Connor another penalty shot at goal. He got it.  Just.  Reds 20-13.

Once again, the Rebels had a try disallowed, but this time it was more their own fault.  After a powerful Naisirani charge through the heart of the Reds’ defence, the Rebels were hard on the Reds line. They looked to find the space out wide to put Koroiebete away but Meakes’ pass went forward and the opportunity was lost.

The injury rate continued to grow faster than the score.  Jordan Uelese was next down and then Hamish Stewart.  Each team was hobbling it’s way to full time with the Reds’ backline looking particularly patchwork.

The home team obviously decided it was time to take the backs, and the clock, out of the equation. The Reds began to use their scrum pretty much solely to draw penalties. It had the duplicate benefit of taking important seconds off the clock and giving their team easy metres.

It was on the back of such a play that the Reds were finally able to seal the deal.  Fresh off the back of a powerful scrum, and 75 minutes into the game, Taniela Tupou ran on to a marginal Bryce Hegarty inside ball.  Nella had multiple options including steamrolling over the top, but he drew the tackler and set Daugunu over for a deserved try.  Reds 25-13

It was the nail in the coffin for a committed Rebels team and would propel the Reds into the Grand Final next week in Canberra.  Whether they’d have 23 fit players would be a question to be answered another day.


The Game Changer

While every injury to every key player had an impact, with perhaps Toomua’s the most significant, it was only Daugunu’s try with five to go that confirmed the result.


I’ll give this one to Filipo Daugunu.  It’s rare for a winger to snag a MOM award, and even more so when it was probably more for his defensive effort. Two key turnovers and some massive hits were big moments, with the try the icing on the cake.

Wallaby Watch

Well, how many Wallabies are fit?  Koroiebete, Naisirani and Hardwick were excellent for the Rebels, while Stewart was very close to player of the match and must have got Rennie’s pencil working.  Kudos must go to the hookers too, who didn’t miss a lineout throw all match.

Reds 25:

Tries: Jordan Petaia 9’, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto 44’, Filipo Daugunu 75’
Conv.:   James O’Connnor 10’, 45’
Pen.: James O’Connnor 25’, 57’

Rebels 13:
Tries:  Marika Koroibete 40’
Conv.: Matt Toomua 41’
Pen.: Matt Toomua 16’, Reece Hodge 55’


YC:  Nil

Crowd: 11,607



  • idiot savant

    Love the speed with which you do this Reg. Thank you. Once again we’ve seen how sides that go wide fast can really trouble this Reds side. Wessells surprised everyone including the Reds, judging by JOCs post match comments, by opting for this tactic. In the first 15 minutes the Reds were on the ropes, the Rebels made 50 metres easily by going wide fast and then Kellaway almost scored. Wessells also gave Lomani a boot up the ring about his slow delivery. Its the best game Ive sever seen him play and what a difference it made to the Rebels. Ultimately though they lacked the class to pull it off. A number of their key backs are not quick enough and their passing isn’t slick enough. Meakes shortcomings were laid bare. He is not a distributor. Hodge is too slow to play 13 at the top level. He got a wide ball early with no one in front and only made 10 metres before the cover closed him down. Toomua is the only playmaker they had and that aint enough at this level. For the Reds it was a turning point. They sucked ups the pressure, handled the lack of possession and injuries and brought it home. Great confidence builder.

    The game was very fast and physical though. It was finals football. Marika and Phillips really stood up. Gold jerseys for both of them. It might be too early this season but Hosea looks like a long term Wallaby. On the Reds side, until last week I had Tom Wright partnering Marika on the gold wings until Tom showed he needed defensive work ons. Fillipo is the best defensive winger in Australia now and he is now my pick to join Marika against the ABs. Thorn dropped him last year and told him to go back to club and make defence a priority. He clearly did the work. Thor is a freak, LSL a lock on gold lock, JOC was very good, Blythe is finally taking the next steps, and Stewart was so influential in all the unglamorous hard stuff. The Reds lost nothing when Pasami replaced Petaia. And Tate’s passing is still his Achilles heel. The Reds lost nothing when Moses swapped in. Saw Thorn walking the ground after the match lost in thought. He could do worse than ring Knuckles and ask how to play the next week as the turnaround will be tough.

    • Reds Revival

      Beautifully summarised IS. Meakes was the Scum’s Achilles heel, having a night to forget. Wilson’s hit on his opposite Naisarani early in the game was a morale booster, and then Daugunu’s brilliant tackle on Hodge was the sort of defence that would have Matt Taylor having wet dreams!
      Hamish Stewart was immense in defence, and the tag team of Petaia/Paisami offence was too much for the Rebels to handle. I was on the edge of my seat until the 75th minute, which is exactly how you want finals footy to be.
      Great write up Reg!!!

    • Huw Tindall

      Top post mate. I’m becoming a massive Stewart fan this year. Was skeptical the past couple of years when he was shunted around between 10, 12 and 15. 12 looks tailor made for him. One of the best defenders going around, up there with Toomua, and has a great kicking game and distribution is up to standard. Hopefully his injury isn’t too bad.

      Same on the Daugunu front. Was all about the fast feet before but put on bulk and now makes tackles and hits rucks with the best of them. He was put on a Wallabies retainer last year and was scratching my head but whoever made that call at RA needs an award because he is worth investing in!

      • Nutta

        Another breakaway turned centre isn’t he? K’train is/was one too. Solid grounding in hard nosed running, defence and early consolidating the breakdown really shows in the centres skill set.

        • Geoffro

          How about a prop cum centre ? Tupou hitting the gap and offload for the try was a joy to watch.Usually when a prop sees daylight like that they’re not even looking to get the ball away,just a hard charge.

        • Nutta

          I think he is a pretty special player but I also think because of his running skills he has the benefit of having had plenty of midfield charges so it’s not the shock to the senses that it is to most of us front-rowers.

          A mate of mine tells a funny story about how in a game for Albury Steamers vs Riverina Army, after he pulled a golden bit of play with a cheeky little quick 22m drop-out, he regathered, took the only defenders tackle and flicked me a pass off the ground and I found myself with literally a half a field open out to the left and no opponent in front of me. What did I do? Tear off down the field angling out to the left into the open areas? Take a quick 20m of space out on the left and grubber kick down towards the opponents quarter for field position? What did I do? I ran 45* to the right, head down, looking for someone to run into…

        • It certainly was, and it was not the only time he was making breaks. Reminds me of Radeke Samo at his best.

    • Keith Butler

      Very good summary IS. The Rebs gave it all and came up short. I posted before that game about my misgivings of have Meakes and Hodge at 12 and 13 and so it proved. Both have had pretty off seasons. Just speculating what the outcome might have been with Deegan at 10 and Toomua at 12. Daugunu definately MoM and worthy of G&G. Hooper will be under pressure as well from McWright and a good few Reds put in a very decent showing. For the Rebs Koribete, Toomua and Isi. Wouldn’t mind seeing a Matt Phillip/LSL engine room. Overall a great game and a credit to both sides. Go Reds next week.

  • Larry Jorgensen

    Why was “take me home country road” playing at the end of the match? And even more puzzling, why was the crowd singing along? West Virginia? FFS.

    • Reds Revival

      It’s played at the end of every home match for some bizarre reason Larry. However, it does reinforce the banjo picking stereotype of Queenslanders, which they seem happy to lean into?

      • Nutta

        It’s bloody terrible. I have this theory that Queenslanders secretly with they were Texans. Ever notice that if you meet a Texan anywhere in the world they never say they come from the US? They ALWAYS come from Texas. Specifically. You ever heard a Queenslander say they come from Australia? Same thing…

    • wilful

      Should have been the Toots and the Maytals version in honour of the great man.

    • Mica

      It’s either this or Neil Diamond. It’s been going on for a while now. An easy song that everyone can sing along to with a few beers under their belts……..

  • Hoss

    Terrific match and only sealed with 5 to go. For all the ribbing I give the Rebs and Force, the sacrifices they have made so we could have Aussie Rugby is simply incredible. Away from their base, homes, friends and families and to still turn up week after week and put in and never shirk it is we have a game to watch is testament to the character of them as people.

    My sincere thanks.

    Good signs for the Reds when you can have an off-ish nite and still get the chockies and momentum in their side as well. But a cunning Ponies and a simmering McKellar lay in ambush, next week will be a cracker.

    Just a reminder that the link is still open to pick your wallabies 23 from the initial GAGR 46 you picked. I will post the GAGR 46 again tmw when Moses announces his squad and we can see how he went…..

    • idiot savant

      Hear Hear. The Force and the Rebels have made a huge contribution to rugby in our our of need. The game is broke and they have put their shoulder to the wheel. Add in CV 19 and the pay cut and its all the more meritorious.

    • Reds Revival

      Is Moses Sorovi announcing the squad???

      • Hoss

        Rennie is ‘Moses’ mate – he will deliver us to the promised lands.

    • Huw Tindall

      Post the link again Hoss? I want to have my armchair selector’s say.

    • Absolutely right Hoss. I think The Force would have won a couple of games if in Perth. They are the real deal. Add a couple of top flight players and they will be a threat just as they used to be. Either way I hope they stay within the Australian competition.

  • Huw Tindall

    Super AU keeps on delivering and I’m not unhappy we could see it again next year! Add in a Pasifika team or a Japanese team and you’ve got a great tourney. Well done Reds and hats of to the Rebels for making the whole thing possible, along with the Force, in the first place.

    Reds looked vulnerable about 60 minute mark but JP Smith steadied the scrum and helped with a couple of key penalties to relieve pressure. It seemed to take it out of the Rebels and the Reds finished on top in the last 10. Cracking game and other than the casualty ward of key players it lived up to the hype. Hopefully Petaia and Uelese are OK as they can’t cop a break (pun intended!) on the injury front.

    Was thinking when Toomua went off that Stewart wouldn’t be a bad second choice at 12…then Stewart went down with an HIA and dodgy looking knee. Irae Simone could come roaring back in contention at 12 if the injuries are halfway bad.

    Rennie must be licking his chops to get this hands on fit squad of Wallabies.

  • KwAussie Rugby Lover

    Thanks Reg. Watched this today as I was out last night. Cudos to the Rebels and the year they put in away from home. I’m sure both them and the Force had a lot of struggles with that time away that we haven’t seen and I think we all owe them some thanks for the sacrifices. Loved that this game went to the wire but for me what I got out of it was:
    – Injuries had a big impact, especially Toomua and both teams need more depth.
    – I thought the ball was generally far too slow out of the rucks which gave both sides too much time to set up their defenses
    – Far too much ball went to players standing still rather than running onto the ball. Again this just gives the defence more time.
    – both teams seemed a bit out of sorts and there wasn’t a lot of flow in the play
    – I think Meakes and Hodge will both be glad this season is over. Meakes played well at times in defence but his options with the ball weren’t the best. Hodge proved, once again, that ho is not a 13.
    – As I expected the two 7’s didn’t impact the game and it left Naisarani to have to cover too much as no one was playing the 6 role.
    – Koroibete was certainly looking for work and I like that he’s stepping up in these games. Just need Rennie to work on his defensive positioning.
    – Phillip’s was great and gave it 100% but I thought in general the Rebels played like a group of individuals more than as a team and maybe the season away from home just got to them a bit.
    – Daugunu was great and it’s good to see so many options at wing for the Wallabies

    • UTG

      I find this post to be ridiculously negative. A couple in particular:

      Wilkin and Hardwick were easily some of the Rebels best. Watch the lead up to Koroibete’s try—Wilkin beats a defender and breaks the line, the Rebels get quick ball and over the advantage line again and Wilkin gets up off the ground and makes the clean out that opens up the middle of the ruck for Koroibete to scoot through.

      The Rebels worked very well as a unit in the set piece throughout the game. The game plan to stretch the Reds wide also worked well but they just couldn’t get over the goal line. I think these are both pretty obvious signs it wasn’t just one out runners and playing as individuals.

      As to the speed of the rucks, well that’s a product of both sides playing two 7s in the backrow—a lot of presence over the ball.

      • IIPA

        Yep have to agree. Smacks a bit of “good game but not a patch on Super Aeotoroa”.

        I thought the Hardwick / Wilkin selection was vindicated. Both had good games. Liam Wright for me was the one a bit inconspicuous throughout but maybe it’s his lack of headgear!

        Meakes had a great first 30, the long pass to MK wasn’t the wrong option ( MK ‘scored’ ) but poorly executed. I do accept he had a mixed season and Hodge needs to do more.

        • UTG

          Yep, I’m happy to say that Meakes and Hodge definitely had mixed games (probably indicative of their seasons). Wright doesn’t have the bruising physicality that stands out watching the game live but he’s extremely polished, I expect on the video review all his little extras add up.

    • I think you’ve picked a lot of negatives out of what was a thrilling match. Not saying they’re not correct, and you missed a couple – when JOC made his break in the first half, where were the support players for example? That was the most egregious example, but the presence of support players at breaks was hit and miss. You can find examples where they were there, examples where they were missing too though.

      However, there was a great deal of commitment, passion and usually a fair bit of nous showed. The Reds lineout fired, maybe not as well as you’d like, but far better than earlier in the season. The Rebels scrum fired too, not dominant throughout, but with the reputation of the Reds scrum, who expected that early penalty to go that way?

      I definitely agree the breakdown was slow, but I think some of that is down to the referees, some of that is down to the players adapting to the laws and working out how to slow the ball and get away with it.

      I think if you look elsewhere, the new breakdown law is seeing the traditional 6 role change. In England and NZ, as well as in the Pro14, a lot of traditional 6’s are moving into a sort of hybrid 6-7 role. With the breakdown being faster, there’s a need for more fetchers because that ruck is cleared and the next one is formed faster than you can run over there. So the 6 is becoming more of the second fetcher, less of the clear out operator. On attack, in some countries, they still carry a bit of that extra bulk, but sometimes a hooker or a prop is picking up that tight carrier role instead. I’m sure it wasn’t an intended consequence of the law change, but it seems to be a pretty direct one.

      • KwAussie Rugby Lover

        Yeah it was but I thought a lot of the rugby was quite poor at this level with dumb decisions being made by people who should know better, although I admit the importance of the game probably had a bit to do with that. I’m ok with slow ball when there’s a contest going on for the ball, TBH that’s what I love about this game, but the slow bit that shit’s me is when the half slowly rolls the ball back through about 3 players, looks about left and right and either licks or waits until he has all the attackers set and then passes the ball to them so they have to wait for it while the defenders race up. It does nothing for the game

        • The caterpillar is a terrible part of the game, one that’s come down from the NH and even with the 5 second rule shows no sign of going away, sadly.

          I agree it’s bad part of the game, and there was a fair bit of poor decision making too. I guess I just saw the game in a more positive light than you overall. Definitely bad parts, but positives too.

        • KwAussie Rugby Lover

          Maybe a rule saying the ball is only in a ruck when more than 70% of the ball is covered. That’d stop that shit

    • Mica

      I thought Wilkin had a pretty good game at 6. Also looks like he has the physique of more a 6 than a 7.

  • Hambone

    Thoroughly enjoyed that game last night, always helps to have a few beers and whiskeys under the belt to add inciteful screams of joy and pain from the TV room at a kids party gone late. Tip of the hat to my rebels, they just didn’t have the cattle to finish it off. Quality contest, both teams came to play. Thanks for the battle. Next week should be another great contest, I hope some of the reds lads pull up nicely in time to strap the boots straight back on..

  • UTG

    No doubt we’ll have a full article soon but for now get into it:

    Jermaine Ainsley (3 Tests, Melbourne Rebels, 25)
    Allan Alaalatoa (37 Tests, Brumbies, 26)
    Tom Banks (6 Tests, Brumbies, 26)
    Angus Bell* (uncapped, NSW Waratahs, 19)
    Filipo Daugunu* (uncapped, Queensland Reds, 25)
    Pone Fa’amausili* (uncapped, Melbourne Rebels, 23)
    Folau Fainga’a (12 Tests, Brumbies, 25)
    Jake Gordon (1 Test, NSW Waratahs, 27)
    Ned Hanigan (20 Tests, NSW Waratahs, 25)
    Will Harrison* (uncapped, NSW Waratahs, 21)
    Dane Haylett-Petty (37 Tests, Melbourne Rebels, 31)
    Reece Hodge (39 Tests, Melbourne Rebels, 26)
    Michael Hooper (99 Tests, NSW Waratahs, 28)
    Tom Horton* (uncapped, NSW Waratahs, 23)
    Trevor Hosea* (uncapped, Melbourne Rebels, 20)
    Len Ikitau* (uncapped, Brumbies, 21)
    Harry Johnson-Holmes (1 Test, NSW Waratahs, 23)
    Marika Korobiete (28 Tests, Melbourne Rebels, 28)
    Noah Lolesio* (uncapped, Brumbies, 20)
    Jack Maddocks (7 Tests, NSW Waratahs, 23)
    Tate McDermott* (uncapped, Queensland Reds, 22)
    Fraser McReight* (uncapped, Queensland Reds, 21)
    James O’Connor (52 Tests, Queensland Reds, 30)
    Brandon Paenga-Amosa (4 Tests, Queensland Reds, 24)
    Hunter Paisami* (uncapped, Queensland Reds, 22)
    Jordan Petaia (3 Tests, Queensland Reds, 20)
    Matt Philip (3 Tests, Melbourne Rebels, 26)
    Joe Powell (4 Tests, Brumbies, 26)
    James Ramm* (uncapped, NSW Waratahs, 22)
    Lukhan Salakaia-Loto (21 Tests, Queensland Reds, 24)
    Pete Samu (9 Tests, Brumbies, 28)
    Rob Simmons (100 Tests, NSW Waratahs, 31)
    Irae Simone* (uncapped, Brumbies, 25)
    Scott Sio (63 Tests, Brumbies, 28)
    James Slipper (96 Tests, Brumbies, 31)
    Lachie Swinton* (uncapped, NSW Waratahs, 23)
    Matt To’omua (52 Tests, Melbourne Rebels, 30)
    Taniela Tupou (19 Tests, Queensland Reds, 24)
    Jordan Uelese (9 Tests, Melbourne Rebels, 23)
    Rob Valetini (1 Test, Brumbies, 22)
    Nic White (31 Tests, Brumbies, 30)
    Harry Wilson* (uncapped, Queensland Reds, 21)
    Liam Wright (2 Tests, Queensland Reds, 22)
    Tom Wright* (uncapped, Brumbies, 23)

  • Fairly good game with one superb try by The Reds.

    Tend to think though that the crowd would have been much bigger had the opposition been The Warathas. As to the crowd though I was surprised and disappointed to see virtually nobody wearing a Covid19 Facemask.

    Certainly should be a cracking Grand Final next Saturday.


  • Agree with a comment elsewhere, that it is worth remembering SuperRugby AU and Super Rugby Aotera have NO history. This is the first year of both championships. Hopefully 2021 will be the first year of Trans Tasman Super Rugby.

  • Although I guess officially Toomua going off was the moment it was really all over, the point at which I was convinced it wasn’t going to be Rebels night was when the ball shot forwards instead of up for Naisirani.

    I know the rugby ball does some weird things, but the general rule is on the fourth bounce it goes up, but that one fancied the car instead and off it went, carrying my hopes with it.

    I know the scores stayed closer than that suggests, the Rebels came back to 10-all even, but it just seemed like an omen, that the bounce of the ball was against us, and so it proved to be.

    The Rebels have now reached the knockout stages of a competition, and although they didn’t win, they put in a credible performance throughout the 80 minutes, which is good. They lost to a better team on the night, much though it pains me to say it. Roll on next week.. and come on you Reds.

    Now that that takes me back a few years (different Reds, I used to live in Liverpool).

  • donktec

    Random thoughts on a Monday morning:
    that bounce… did seem to be a bit of an omen – the game went almost to script and was close to the wire. Rebs hang in there during the first half. Then the Red were on top most of the second half, great defense again. Rebels showed flashes of brilliance and then find ways to make a meal of things. Seemed headless after losing Toomua, was yelling them for kicking away the ball. Philip in defense getting in front of Tupou, better him than me… Night of the walking wounded though, hope everyone is back on their foots sooner and not later.

  • Tim

    hunter paisami was the game changer for sure. He had alot of hands in both tries that made them win.

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