Waratahs Break Rebels - Green and Gold Rugby
Melbourne Rebels

Waratahs Break Rebels

Waratahs Break Rebels

The NSW Waratahs travelled to Melbourne to redeem their lacklustre 1-3 start to the 2017 season while the Rebels looked to get their first win.

The Match

This was a must-win for both teams. The Melbourne Rebels had a (to put it bluntly) horror start to their season, coming into round 5, with no wins from 3 games. Meanwhile, the Waratahs had managed only one win from 4 games and with a tough road ahead, this was a game to get their show back on the road.

First Half

The dial was turned up “all the way to 11″ and stayed there for the entire game. The Waratah took early territory and spent much of the first quarter of the game camped out in the Rebels 22. Defences held strong, though with early scoring going to the Rebels first with a penalty kick from Reece Hodge in the 4th minute, and then to the Waratahs in the 11th minute with three points via Bernard Foley’s boot, making a welcome return to the Tahs.

The first try of the game went to Reece Hodge, after he sliced through the Waratah’s defences to score near the posts in the 18th minute, subsequently converting his own try, taking the score to 10-3.

After trading penalties each in the 25th (Rebels) and 30th (Waratahs) minutes a splendid run from Amanaki Mafi and pass to Jack Debreczeni ended with Tom English finding the try line and another conversion to Hodge, putting the Melbourne boys further in front.

Reece Hodge bagged his second try in the 36th minute, the last time the Rebels would score after Hodge’s conversion attempt was charged down by the Tahs’ Reece Robinson. A penalty attempt just before half-time was also missed by Hodge and soon after both teams hit the change rooms with the score 25-10 – the Rebels best-ever first half lead. Come the second half; things would change dramatically…

 Reece Hodge bags a double during a first half dominated by the Melbourne Rebels

Second Half

It remains a mystery what was said in the sheds during the break, but the Waratahs came out with a whole new attitude. The Rebels suffered a swag of injuries during the first half, with Culum Retallick, Chibba Hanson and Dominic Day (who must break some record for the shortest ever Super Rugby debut at 30 seconds), coming off with various injuries, mainly blows to their noggins.

While the Rebels still had a 19-point score advantage a very kickable penalty was passed over in favour of a kick to touch and line out, which all came up nought. Without Hanson in the second half, the Rebels already shaky line out fell to pieces.

Ned Hanigan got the Tahs’ comeback on the road with a try in the corner in the 49th minute, bouncing off Marika Koroibete in the process. Foley’s steady boot added the 2 points. Reece Robinson dotted down in the corner 8 minutes later, but Foley was unable to convert, taking the score to 25-18 in favour of the home team.

Injuries started to bite the Rebels, with Sefa Naivalu looking like he dislocated his shoulder but played on due to a depleted Rebels bench. Tom English had just earlier been subbed for Mitch Inman as he’d picked up a leg injury.

In the 77th minute, after sustained pressure in the Rebels’ red zone, Colby Fainga’a was pinged for a ruck infringement, bringing the Rebels down to only 14 men after multiple injuries left them short. The Waratahs quickly took advantage of this, sending replacement Michael Wells over the try line with Foley’s successful conversion levelling the scores 25-all with only 2 minutes to play.

The Rebels had led the game all night, but it is at the final siren where it counts, and this is where the Tahs drove the final nail in. With only 37 seconds left to go, David Horwitz, barely marked, strode over with the match-winner and heart breaker. Foley added the final 2 points, leaving the Rebels scoreless in the second half and only a losing bonus point for their efforts.

Embed from Getty Images

 Reece Robinson scores in the corner as the Waratah fight back

The wrap-up

It’s a game of two halves, and you have to play for 80 minutes. Yes, yes, I know…

The Rebels will rue a massive lost opportunity. They built a 19-point advantage at the break and could not hold onto it. Credit to the Waratahs for not panicking and sticking to their game plan. The Rebels were not helped by numerous injuries (and some might add questionable penalties), but that, as the man (or woman) once said, “that’s Rugby”. You have to play the full 80, not build a lead and they just try to hang on.

For someone not emotionally invested in this match (i.e. not a Rebels supporter), this was a great advertisement for local derbies. It had everything – it was fast-paced, high-scoring and included a last-minute match-winning try. “Dour” is not a word that can be attached to this match and is a compelling argument for not only keeping 5 Australian teams but also changing the Super Rugby format to include more local derbies.

The Rebels next travel to Dunedin in round 6 to play the Highlanders, while the Waratahs take on competition leaders the Crusaders at home in Sydney.

The Game Changer

The simple answer to this is “the second half”, but you could go back in the 37th minute when Reece Hodge’s conversion attempt was charged down by Reece Robinson (Reece v Reece). From that moment on the Rebels failed to add points and the tide had started to turn in the Tahs’ favour.


Although carded in the 77th minute, Colby Fainga’a in a losing team was immense all game, like he was the previous week against the Chiefs. If more Rebels adopted his “never say die” attitude the result may have been different. For the Waratahs, the steadying influence of Bernard Foley was a welcome return and was a factor in the second half comeback. For scoring 20 of his team’s points (including two tries in the first half), though and a much-improved kicking success rate, Reece Hodge gets my nod for GAGR Man of the Match.

Wallaby Watch

For the visitors, Jake Gordon is not only putting his hand up for more Super Rugby run-ons, his form thus far is pointing towards a possible future in the green and gold. While for the Rebels, Colby Fainga’a has really stepped up this year and while back row stocks for the Wallabies are fuller than most, Fainga’a could find himself in the Wallabies frame if he continues to impress week-in, week-out.

The Details

Score & Scorers

Rebels  25  (25)
Tries: Hodge (18″, 36″), English (31″)
Conversions: Hodge 2/3
Penalties: Hodge 2/3

Waratahs  32  (6)
Tries: Hannigan (49″), Robinson (58″), Wells (77″), Horwitz (80″)
Conversions: Foley 3/4
Penalties: Foley 2/2

Cards & Citings

Rebels: Colby Fainga’a (77th min) – repeated ruck infringements


~ 8500


Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)

  • Moose

    THanks for the writeup.
    An entertaining game. Great to see both Rebels and Tahs putting together an excellent half each, just need to work on that whole 80 minute thing.
    I wish the Tahs had someone with Hodge’s boot. Don’t know how a man with such skinny legs can hoof it so far. Less air resistance maybe?

  • idiot savant

    Thanks GO. Really like your assessment that this wasn’t dour – a word associated with the Scots who are at the heart of the colonisation of NZ. Rugby is enjoyable when played liked this. And thats how Australians learn to play rugby. We play positive attacking football and are utterly unschooled in spoiling tactics (we grew up getting penalised for offside, loitering, sealing off etc). When we come up against kiwi sides who are masters at preventing attacking play we mostly haven’t got a clue which is borne out in the results. I would think kiwis have won at least 90% of Super Rugby games against Australian sides in the whole history of the competition. And SANZAAR if you think dropping an Australian side from the comp is going to change that you’re dreaming.

    Having said that, loved the way the Tah pack played liked kiwis in the second 40. They swarmed into the breakdown and got the benefit of the doubt in ruck adjudication in doing so. All those Foley haters – what a difference he makes (just like last year when he joined late). And conversely look what happens when you don’t have a commanding presence at number 10 in the Rebels second half capitulation. Garden Backups hip fat caught up with him and he went awol. Lack of a general to keep the Tahs out of the danger zone meant thy couldn’t hold their lead.

    The Tahs can use the second 40 to go forward but the win was hollow – the Rebels lost key forwards, had no leadership, and that yellow for Colby was just bullshit.

  • Kiwi rugby lover

    Nice write up. The Rebels must be kicking themselves throwing that one away. Still seeing a lot if improvement in them but I wonder how much the sword of possibly being disbanded is affecting the players and staff. Must be a shit situation to be in and to continue to play so well says a lot for their character.

    • Keith Butler

      Do you have the right game KWL. The Force got hammered by the Saders on Friday. Nonetheless, disappointing that the Rebs couldn’t hold out for the win but losing three forwards to concussion didn’t help the cause. Still some positives though back row playing very well with Fainga’a and Mafi standout. Hodge a lot better this week and Debs looking comfortable at FB. Could be in for a world of pain next week against the a Highlanders with an injury list from hell.

      • Kiwi rugby lover

        Having a rough morning after too much Pinot Gris last night. Edited. Thanks

        I really like Mafi, he shows a lot of go forward. I think the injury list from the Rebels and Force has really caused them some pain this year and may be part of the reason they are an easy call to dismantle either. I still think it’s a backwards move for 2 reasons. Firstly, losing 20% of the teams won’t make the rest 20% better and secondly, the loss of supporters will hurt the whole game over here.

        • Keith Butler

          Pinot Gris, one of my favourites. Currently sampling Oyster Bay Chardonnay from Marlborough no less goes very nicely with flathead and chips. Would not like to break up the back row so Mcgahan will have some choices to make when Timani and McMahon are both fit. I expect that LT will go to lock. Doesn’t help our lineout but enhances our ball carrying. Hodge and English also forming a decent midfield partnership

        • Missing Link

          Chateau` de Bundyandcoke is my favourite drop at the moment

  • Nutta

    Good write up

    Colby was my MOTM. Huge game. And the Mafi wasn’t far behind

    Good to see Foley back. His composure was notable especially when comparing to the Reds sans QC this morning

    I thought the Tahs No8 in particular was having a shocker in the 1st half bombing 2 tries and defending poorly and was surprised he wasn’t yanked

    Reece Hodge is destined for big things I think. So much going in his direction with power, pace & size and some deftness to his game as well – not just all wanna-be big-nuts bash& barge

    I’m struggling to work out how the Rebs actually lost that one and I fear the ramifications will be significant. Such a golden opportunity lost to not just grab a win but stake a real claim of Franchise relevance over the Forcies after their Cru-spanking.

  • joy

    Hodge was man of the first half at best. Foley was man of the second half and deserved the full match award because his side won.

  • Missing Link

    The Rebels are missing T.Smith, Timani and McMahon dearly from their forward pack

  • Henry Ackerman

    Good to see both Reese and Bernie had the radar on…..
    The Rebs could do with a good ” finisher ”
    If not Tom Carter, then someone similar.
    BTW exellent wrap up.

    • GoMelbRebels

      That would have to be my brother – only David would make a Tom Carter comment just to shit me!

  • Rebels Ruck

    I don’t know what hurts more – watching the Rebels get pummelled for 80 mins or watching them get beaten from a 25-10 lead. Very unlucky with injuries again but we can’t hope to win with a non-functioning line out and a patchy scrum. At least they showed some real ability this week that can be built on. And will they fix those bloody restarts! How many times do we have no one properly contesting the ball in the air?

Melbourne Rebels

Who was it that said "there's always next season"? Oh yes, it was me, every year... Played every position in the forwards as a lad, was crap at all of them.

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