Despite conceding a host of penalties and two yellow cards, The Melbourne Rebels earned their third win of the season against a disappointing A.C.T. Brumbies at AAMI Park.
With both sides making several changes to their previous week’s line-ups, most of the pre-game discussion focused on whether the Brumbies would overpower the Rebels forwards. No two teams have more contrasting styles than these. The Brumbies basing their game around winning penalties and using their lineout, scrum, and maul to smash their opponents. It makes for an interesting match up against the Melbourne Rebels who like to play a flat, high tempo attacking game.
The opening fifteen minutes of the game was quite an arm wrestle. The Rebels had the first opportunity for points with a very kickable penalty. They opted to go for touch instead but lost the ball in the maul thanks to some good work from David Pocock. Many people expected the Brumby scrum to dominate the Rebels relatively inexperienced front row but the first exchanges proved to be quite even.
A good break from Tom Banks lead to the first in a succession of penalties to the visitors. Unexpectedly, the Brumbies elected to scrum instead of their go to play of a line out and maul. From the back of the third consecutive scrum, Joe Powell threw a beautiful long pass to Henry Speight on the right wing who scored in the corner with a brilliantly athletic finish. Christian Leali’ifano’s sideline conversion put the visitors out to a seven point lead after 18 minutes.
The Rebels’ first points came at around the 28 minute mark of the half with a penalty goal from Quade Cooper.
Just a few minutes later the Brumbies benefited from another penalty and kick to touch. Referee, AJ Jacobs called a number of offside penalty advantages until eventually he stops the play to present a yellow card to Adam Coleman. Of course, the Brumbies kick to touch and set up a rolling maul. This time successfully with Hooker, Folou Fainga’a crossing the chalk. Leali’ifano missed the conversion but with six minutes left in the half the Brumbies were out to a 3-12 lead.
With time up on the clock the Brumbies found themselves with another penalty, this time for Rob Leota not rolling away from the ruck. From the resulting lineout and maul, Matt Gibbon blatently came from the side to rip the ball from Fainga’a to earn a second yellow card and a penalty try to the Brumbies. With no conversion required the half time score was out to 3-19 with the Rebels to play the first ten minutes of the second half a man down.
The start of the second half did not follow the expected script. Sam Carter spilled the kick off allowing the thirteen man Rebels to attack the Brumbies’ line. Under penalty advantage, Quade Cooper threw a long, looping pass to Marika Koroibete on the right wing. Koroibete smashed his way through several would-be defenders to score a great try and pump up the local crowd. Cooper’s conversion attempt missed but the margin was down to eleven points.
Eleven minutes into the half the Rebels are back to a full contingent and have an attacking scrum well inside the Brumbies 22 metre line. A powerful run from Dane Haylett-Petty and a quick recycle allowed Will Genia to find Jack Maddocks with a long pass. Maddocks ran the ball close to the uprights before dotting down for five points. An accurate conversion from Cooper brought the margin back to just four points with plenty of time remaining.
Just inside the sixty minute mark the Brumbies hit back. Mr. Jacob whistled play to stop and send Adam Coleman off for a head injury assessment after seeing him cop a knock in a heavy contact with James Slipper. From the restart, Pete Samu broke from the scrum to charge toward the line. Powell found the hard working Rob Valetini who crashed over for a try. Valetini had moments earlier lost the ball short of the line and certainly deserved this five points. Leali’ifano’s conversion pushed the score back out to eleven points with less than twenty minutes remaining.
The Rebels came close to scoring immediately from the kick off but Anaru Rangi was turned on his back and held the ball up over the line. The relief for the Brumbies was short lived though. The Rebels earned a penalty from the resultant scrum. Genia took a quick tap, made a great step off his right foot and placed the ball down under the posts. Cooper’s conversion saw the margin reduced back to four points, 27-26 with fifteen minutes left to play.
The Rebels were not finished yet though. They hammered the Brumbies line for several phases, earning three penalty advantages in the process. Similar to his first half ball to Koroibete, Cooper threw another long pass, this time finding Maddocks on the right wing. Maddocks scored his second of the night and his sixth in four games against the Brumbies. Cooper’s conversion went through, off the post, and the Rebels had hit the front for the first time in the match.
That was to be the final score of the match. The game ending with Will Genia booting the ball into touch with the Rebels deep in Brumbies territory. Final score 29-26.
No doubt, the Rebels were lucky to win this one. They hurt themselves badly throughout the first half with poor discipline and cruelled their chances by giving up a string of turnovers. The second half was a different story altogether. Things started to click for the home side. The forwards gradually got on top of their Brumby counterparts and the 9-10-12 combination of Genia, Cooper, and Meakes began finding holes in the Brumbies defense. As a Rebels supporter I was very pleased to see the team play so poorly for half the game and still be able to find a way to win in the end. Good teams find a way to win, even when things aren’t going their way.
The Brumbies lost this game in the first half by not scoring more when they had the chance. By half time they probably should have been at least another seven points ahead. The Brumbies played like a one-dimensional outfit with a simple but reliable plan… Win a penalty, kick to the corner, maul – or scrum. Is that plan going to yield enough points to win them more games than they lose? They were unable to put enough points on the Rebels to win, even with a numerical advantage for twenty straight minutes.
What happened to the Brumbies side of three weeks ago, the one that put the Chiefs to the sword? The creativity and attacking flair that they demonstrated in that game was nowhere to be seen last night.
The Game Changer
I thought the instant Sam Carter dropped the restart kick straight after half time was a big moment. It lead to a thirteen man Rebels team scoring and grabbing some belief and momentum.
The G&GR MOTM
Will Genia seemed to take it upon himself to step up and win this game for his team and he played like a man possessed throughout the second half. A sensational performance from our G&GR Man of the Match.
Sitting up in the stands, Michael Chieka was able to watch a lot of Wallabies and Wallaby hopefuls go head to head in this match. I think he would have been impressed with some parts of the game from Coleman, Koroibete, and Fainga’a. Quade Cooper and Rob Valetini both had a couple of eye catching moments.
Scores and Scorers
REBELS – 29
Trys: M. Koroibete 41″, J. Maddocks 52″, W. Genia 65″, J. Maddocks 70″
Conversions: Q. Cooper – 3
Penalties: Q. Cooper – 1
BRUMBIES – 26
Trys: H. Speight 18″, F. Fainga’a 33″, Penalty Try 40″, R. Valetini 60″
Conversions: C. Leali’ifano- 3
Penalties: C. Leali’ifano- 1
Cards and Citations
Yellow Cards: A. Coleman, Matt Gibbon