Semi-Final Time- Reds v Rebels Preview – Green and Gold Rugby
Super Rugby

Semi-Final Time- Reds v Rebels Preview

Semi-Final Time- Reds v Rebels Preview

It is qualifying final time in Brisbane as the in form Queensland Reds line up to face the Melbourne Rebels. With the two teams taking in quite different form lines to the clash, the easy thing to say will be the Reds will romp it in. But will it be the case? Are the Reds the real deal? Was the Rebels great escape against the Force a blip or a reflection of their actual spot in the landscape? Let’s take a look…

Credit QRU/Brendan Hertel

Credit QRU/Brendan Hertel


With memories of last weeks relatively comfortable win against the Brumbies front of mind, coach Brad Thorn has opted for stability, and why wouldn’t you? With a team that has conceded a total of three tries since half time of the Waratah debacle, things are clearly clicking.  For those playing at home, that is now three tries conceded in three and a half games. While the Brumbies may have been foxing somewhat last week, I don’t imagine the Force or Rebels were when they managed one try between them in their respective games against the Reds.

As such, the Reds have named an unchanged starting lineup and made only minor tweaks to a bench that performed very well with expanded minutes against the Brumbies. Jack Straker comes back for Ruan Smith and Alex Mafi returns as backup hooker, putting a temporary halt to the Josh Nasser-at-hooker-experiment.

Of note, this semi-final will be the 50th Reds cap for Lukhan Salakaia-Loto and Alex Mafi in what should be the biggest post-COVID crowd at Suncorp. After having 9,922 through the gate last week, the Reds are hoping to have a crowd approaching 20,000 this weekend.


Rebels coach Dave Wessels has made several changes to his team following their escape against the Force last week. They needed to win by four or more and they left no margin for error, getting over the line in the last minute.

In the pack, Brad Wilkin comes in at 6, and in the backline Frank Lomani returns at halfback and Andrew Kellaway comes in on the wing. On the bench, Rob Leota, Theo Strang and Campbell Magnay are added.

Certainly in most eyes, this is a slightly stronger lineup than last week, especially with the livewire Lomani at the scrumbase.

Last minute try scorer and pants man

Last minute try scorer and pants man


The halves- The Rebels have added Frank Lomani to the starting lineup to battle the Reds Tate McDermott who has arguably been the form halfback of the competition so far. McDermott outplayed Nic White last week and barring injury or some other hijinks is a shoo-in for the Wallaby squad at the least. Lomani is the Fijian Test half but has bounced in and out of this Rebels team this season.

The game managers-The Rebels have put Matt Toomua back at 10 in recent weeks, and having seen him at 12 in the weeks before that, an argument could be made that the team not only looked better, but he played better in the centres, with Andrew Deegan at 10. In all likeliehood, Toomua would line up at 12 in the Wallabies team as well, outside the renaissance man James O’Connor.

The last three weeks have reinforced how O’Connor is the form 10 in Australia, dictating tempo and generally pulling the strings like a true puppetmaster 10 should.

How good are people?- With more than 9,000 turning up last week and capacity under restrictions of 26,000 odd Suncorp Stadium and the Reds are hoping for around 20,000 this week. Whether they reach those heights remains to be seen but something around 15,000 will not only cause me to break into a cold sweat but should provide decent noise at a Reds game for the first time in years. Last week showed real crowd interaction and pride, especially in the defensive effort, with the Reds getting a standing ovation from many at full time.


With minimal changes, a big home crowd and three good wins on the trot, this game is the Reds for the taking. Really, they should quite easily deal with the Rebels and march on to the final next week down in Canberra.

However, football can a funny thing, and one mental error in looking past the Rebels will be their undoing. The Rebels scraped their way into the semi final last week and will be looking to make amends for that performance.

Past games this season tell an interesting tale as well- there was a draw in the first meeting and then the return leg saw the Reds win 19-3 despite the Rebels having monstrous amounts of possession. As much as a defensive effort that was, it was also an indictment of the Rebels inability to get over the line.

Reds by 12



Rebels (courtesy of 

15 Dane Haylett-Petty
14 Andrew Kellaway
13 Reece Hodge
12 Billy Meakes
11 Marika Koroibete
10 Matt Toomua
9 Frank Lomani
8 Isi Naisarani
7 Richard Hardwick
6 Brad Wilkin
5 Trevor Hosea
4 Matt Philip
3 Jermaine Ainsley
2 Jordan Uelese
1 Cameron Orr


16 Efi Ma’afu
17 Cabous Eloff
18 Matt Gibbon
19 Michael Stolberg
20 Rob Leota
21 Theo Strang
22 Andrew Deegan
23 Campbell Magnay


15 Jock Campbell
14 Chris Feauai-Sautia
13 Jordan Petaia
12 Hamish Stewart
11 Filipo Daugunu
10 James O’Connor
9 Tate McDermott
8 Harry Wilson
7 Fraser McReight
6 Liam Wright
5 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto
4 Angus Blyth
3 Taniela Tupou
2 Brandon Paenga-Amosa
1 Harry Hoopert


16 Alex Mafi
17 JP Smith
18 Jack Straker
19 Tuaina Taii Tualima
20 Angus Scott-Young
21 Moses Sorovi
22 Bryce Hegarty
23 Hunter Paisami

Match Details Date: Saturday 12 September
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Kick-off: 19:15 AEST
Referee: Nic “Rasp” Berry
  • Alister Smith

    The weather may affect the crowd a little unfortunately, though hopefully it will have cleared away by then. It would have been good to have slipped across the border and watched this one. Thanks Annastacia.

  • Nutta

    The Pinko’s should smash this and roll on into the Donkeys with real momentum.

    Therefore the match really is for the Reds to lose.

    So as a completely non-gambling man, I am soooo tempted to back the Rebel Scum to win by a point from a Two-Cows penalty after the final whistle.

    • UTG

      Yeah, I don’t mind the Rebels in this. When they play well they really choke the opposition, the Reds might struggle if it’s not fluid.

  • numpty

    Rebels looked much better in attack with Tuttle, shame he is injured. Reds should do it, but finals can do funny things. It will be interesting to see how the backrow contest turns out. Reds D and attack should both be superior. Playing at home counts for alot too.

    • Kevino

      Rebels look better with any other scrum half on the park. Lomani has been poor and should be 3rd choice if everyone was fit.

    • idiot savant

      Agree on Lomani. He is the slowest deliverer of the ball in the competition. Any go forward achieved by their pack is wasted by him as he waits to pick the ball up. And Deegan hasn’t looked as good with less time so I can see why Toomua is back at 10. As Hoss has pointed out, Meakes is not a distributor so when you combine slow ball with that the outside backs have no space and time. Marika gets more ball with the Wallabies than he does with the Rebels.

      Forwards will be more interesting though. Last time the Rebs flogged the Reds at the lineout and held their own at the scrum which gave them the enormous amount of possession they couldn’t do anything with. Playing 2 open sides is a good move by Wessells as it will help to minimise the amount of ball the Reds have.

      So for the Rebs to cause an upset they have to bank on Reds poor discipline (Toomua will keep taking the points) and monopolise possession and territory. I expect huge games from Phillip and Naisarani. And then if it gets close Thorn’s young side could get nervous. But that’s a lot of ifs.

  • Alister Smith

    Dave Wessels is looking to turn some attention on Taniela Tupou at scrum time. He claims “everybody knows Taniela Tupou is the most penalised guy in Super rugby in 2020″.

    But I wonder if that is true or if it might actually be the front rower that is playing against Thor that is the most penalised. He might give some away but he also gains some penalties for his side at scrum time – at least a couple on the weekend when they kept going down against him.

    • numpty

      Tupou was most penalised (across the park, not just scrum) pre-covid. Not sure if that’s still the case post… But, no doubt he has dominated all props he has versed pretty much come scrum time.

    • mike asher

      He’s looked a different player post CV. I always watch him through my fingers because he has (or had?) a tendency to try and wipe out at least one player a game with no arms. Luckily for him he normally got away with it. Seems to have matured maybe?

    • numpty

      Thor is the seocnd most penalised player post-covid. BUT only two of those penalties have come scrum time. Sio is the most penalised and a good portion of those have come from the scrum.

  • Jason

    Been watching all the James Bond movies with my partner and Blyth seriously reminds me so much of Jaws!

    Reds by 15+

  • Keith Butler

    Unless Meakes and Hodge up their game 100% I’m afraid that my Rebs are screwed. We’ll also be under the pump upfront. At least Angus isn’t in charge.

    • KwAussie Rugby Lover

      Yeah both have been quite poor this year. I don’t like Hodge at 13 and i think he really struggles there. I actually think this year he’s been a better 15 than DHP when he’s been playing but as the captain i guess DHP wins the selection battle.

      • Keith Butler

        The perennial problem of the Rebs. Players playing out of position.

    • Ugh, agreeing with an Englishman…

      But while I have some time for Meakes, as does he in his career I feel, Hodge shouldn’t be in the 13 shirt, I think he should move back to 15, or move out of the starting numbers to be honest. That seems harsh, but he’s not really playing well enough to start but he’s versatile enough to be injury cover for quite a lot of positions off the bench.

      • Keith Butler

        Don’t worry Eloise, normality will be restored come the 6Ns. I also agree with your comments regarding Hodge. We live in strange times!

  • mike asher

    Watching on from the UK I’ve thought Super AU has just gotten better-and-better after a pretty dour start. Brums & Reds clearly best in comp but Finals are different beasts.

    I get the sense from the rugby media that the Rebels are viewed as lucky to be there. Really? I actually see it completely differently.

    In the Tahs & Force they played 2 x teams utterly DESPERATE to win! Tahs to make a rare finals appearance and Force to notch up a win against the old ‘enemy’. In both matches the Rebs fell well behind mid-way through the 2nd half. In previous seasons that would’ve been curtains.

    Tahs 31 – 17

    Force 30 – 20 (In effect 14 behind)

    However instead of crumbling, they composed and dominated.

    I saw headlines saying things like “Rebels scrape home; fall over the line; lucky escape…” However I saw a team that ‘battled-home; never-gave-up, dug-deep’… 14 point deficits are things you expect the Crusaders or ABs to reel back in, not AU teams, and certainly not the Rebels! But yet they did with purpose, intent and persistence. And against decent teams with massive wills to win themselves.

    This game will be interesting. Reds are the form team – no question. They are brimming confidence but they haven’t had to travel further than down the road to the Gold Coast in an entire month. Lucky them. But they are young and very inexperienced. And now they are EXPECTED to win on Saturday and by some margin from what I’m reading.

    The Rebels on-the-other-hand are expected to lose and this expectation will allow freedom. They have also shown in the last fortnight that, as a team, they know how to win the biggest moments. And the experience of key players really does count in Finals – where PRESSURE changes everything.

    Too’mua seems to have ice in his veins this season (my Super AU MVP) and the experience – and combination – of Haylett-Petty, Hodge & Koroibete was the turning point in the Force game. Experience counts.

    The Reds most experienced player is JOC and as a Rebels fan I’m very happy with that. The difference between his best and worst is enormous. And the thing that seems to flip his switch is pressure. Under pressure he can be truly woeful and it’s his kicking that normally gives the first clues. Anyone remember ‘that’ goalline clearance from fullback back in 2015? ;-) #justsaying

    Hoping for a good game… and a dry track?

    • Thomas Murray

      Easy when you playing easy teams

  • KwAussie Rugby Lover

    With you on this one Ben. I think the Reds will be too strong and I’m not sure the changes made by the Rebels will work. Personally not a fan of 2 7’s and I think it unbalances the loose trio too much.

  • onlinesideline

    not sure I ever get coaches calling out opposition players re their weaknesses ie Thor penalty magnet. Whats first thing that will go through his mind when he is tempted to clean out someone or bore in at scrum time or whatever ? – Answer: Screw Wessels – aint doin’ it
    Its like taking away 3 or 6 points for your side.
    Thorn thinking: Thanks Dave, could use some help.
    99% of time coaches should just play the respect opposition game and stay “Shtum”

  • donktec

    Going on form the Reds should have this, hoping the Rebels to put up a good show and make it a close game – don’t want to be yelling at the tv (too much) and scare the neighbours

Super Rugby

Passionate about rugby from the grass roots up. Usually found at Brisbane club rugby games, or being involved in the junior and schools system. Love a chat, happy to admit when I'm wrong. I will watch any game of rugby regardless of who is playing, from juniors through to tests

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