It was a game of two halves. In the first half, the Reds were quite dynamic in attack using quick hands to devastating effect. Meanwhile, any attacking by the Rebels either resulted in a handling error or an aimless kick (much to the chagrin of the Rebels fans who were yelling “run”).
In the second half, the Rebels played more attacking running rugby. Not sure if this was a result of the injection of Sean McMahon at halftime for the first time this season, coach McGahan listening to the crowd and releasing the shackles, the players taking it on themselves or a combination of the above.
The Reds were not as sharp in the second half as they were in the first half but across the eighty minutes they were a fraction sharper than the Rebels and that was the difference.
Prior to kickoff acting Rebels captain Colby Fainga’a was again a late withdrawal and Reece Hodge had the C next to his name again.
Hodge put the Rebels on the scoreboard first with a penalty goal after George Smith was penalised shortly after the kickoff.
The Reds lost Campbell Magnay to injury in the first five minutes of the match.
Samu Kerevi provided the first excitement for the night making a break down the left wing breaking tackles at will and passing to Eto Nabuli. As he was tackled by a desperate Ben Meehan, Nabuli threw the ball inside. The Rebels dived on the ball but knocked on a short time later.
Following the scrum, some brilliant play from Scott Higginbotham in contact, a cut out pass from Quade Cooper to Nabuli and an inside pass from Nabuli sent Kerevi over for the first try.
Hodge put the Rebels back in front 6-5 with another penalty goal.
As the ball went across the touch line the natives got restless and there were a number of players involved in a push and shove which threatened to spill into the crowd. The referee requested the TMO look at it but it was decided to restart with the line out.
Karmichael Hunt received a yellow card for a professional foul at the breakdown while defending his try line. The Rebels decided to have an attacking scrum but their scrum was penalised.
A Nick Frisby box kick was taken well by Koroibete but the Reds stole the ball at the breakdown and moved the ball into the Rebels 22.
The Rebels regathered the ball but Stephen Moore showed his best Sally Pearson impersonation at the breakdown to result in an unplayable maul.
The Reds continued to show their dominance at the next two or three scrums but were then penalised for early engagement.
Reece Hodge committed a cardinal sin by failing to find touch from the penalty. The Reds decided to attack from this mistake. A great team try was scored by the Reds with Smith, Cooper and Higginbotham all heavily involved and Nabuli receiving the ball unmarked on the wing to score the Reds second try. Following Cooper’s conversion, the Reds led 12-6.
Kerevi a short time later once again cut open the Rebels and he had Simmons in support but the move broke down despite the Rebels defensive line being in tatters.
Some 5 or 6 minutes later the Rebels conceded a number of penalties in a row. This resulted in a 5-metre line out for the Reds, where the Reds driving maul was unable to be stopped by the Rebels and Stephen Moore scored a try.
One improvement required in the Reds game, particularly in the first half, was their inability to receive the Rebels’ kickoff. Once again they were unable to successfully receive the kickoff and then gave away a penalty. Hodge kicked the penalty goal after the siren to give the Rebels some momentum going into halftime.
Half Time Rebels 9 Reds 17
The long awaited return for Rebels fans of Sean McMahon for the first time this season occurred at the start of the second half. McMahon made an immediate impact with a number of damaging runs.
Ben Volavola kept the ball in hand and created the Rebels with a spark linking with Hodge and Marika Koroibete. Koroibete bounced off a number of tackles. George Smith was then penalised for offside and Hodge reduced the margin to 5.
Koroibete then put up an ill-advised kick which was taken by Duncan Paia’aua who passed to Nabuli, then on to Kerevi and to Higginbotham. Former Rebels captain and all-time Rebels leading try scorer Higginbotham came back to haunt the Rebels scoring a try, giving the Reds a 24-12 lead.
Tom English made a barnstorming run which resulted in Will Miller scoring his first Super Rugby try under the posts and the margin was back to 5.
A short time later English left the field after receiving a heavy knock.
Volavola then showed some wonderful creativity with a great cross field kick to Sefanaia Naivalu who found Jack Maddocks. The Rebels gained 50 metres from the play but Maddocks was taken into touch.
Some more enterprising play from the Reds with the ball going through a number of sets of hands resulted in Karmichael Hunt going over the line. The decision was sent up to the TMO, who ruled no try due to a forward pass by George Smith in the lead up.
Some good work from the Rebel forwards and some quick ball movement saw Marika Koroibete crash over in the corner. Referee van der Westhuizen awarded the try but upon seeing replays asked the TMO for confirmation. The TMO confirmed that Koroibete just got the ball down before his rump went into touch. Hodge narrowly missed the conversion and scores were level heading into the final ten minutes.
Kerevi made another break which sent the Reds on the attack. A chip kick out to Higginbotham created a try-scoring opportunity but Amanaki Mafi was able to place enough pressure on Higginbotham to see him drop the ball before grounding it.
The Reds then used a driving maul from a line out around 40 metres out to gain valuable ground. Hodge then knocked on as he attempted to tackle Cooper. Following the scrum, Kerevi barged over for the match-winning try.
The Reds were able to catch the restart just before full time and then put the ball into touch to record a much-needed victory. The losing bonus point for the Rebels was enough to leapfrog the Sunwolves and move off the bottom of the table.
Full Time Rebels 24 Reds 29
The Game Changer
The 78min try from Samu Kerevi. Would have broken a few Rebel hearts in the crowd.
The G&GR MOTM
Samu Kerevi ran for approximately 150 metres, made numerous line breaks and tackle busts and scored two tries.
Other than Kerevi, Sean McMahon showed that with a few more games under his belt he will push for Wallaby selection. Quade Cooper displayed controlled creativity in the first half in particular.
Score and Scorers
Tries: Will Miller, Marika Koroibete
Conversions: Reece Hodge
Penalties: Reece Hodge 4
Tries: Samu Kerevi 2, Eto Nabuli, Stephen Moore, Scott Higginbotham
Conversions: Quade Cooper 2
Karmichael Hunt yellow
Photos courtesy of Getty Images