The Melbourne Rebels fall short in Auckland, losing 36 – 30 to the Auckland Blues.
The Melbourne Rebels arrived to this match as Australian Conference leader, after their convincing win against the Cheetahs. They were looking for their second ever win in New Zealand, and their fourth win away from AAMI for the first time in a season.
The Blues, which had a bye in Round 9, were determined to keep up the pace of the other kiwi teams, in the race for the most complicated ever play off system, in the history of the sport played in heaven.
The first points went to the Rebels through a Reece Hodge try after only two minutes of play. The newcomer, playing at outside centre, was again impressive for the Melbourne outfit. Jack Debreczeni missed the conversion but slotted a penalty goal at the 11th minute to make it 8-0 for the visitors.
The Blues regain their composure and were brutal in their comeback: tries from forwards Parsons, Kaino and Faumuina turned a 8 points deficit into a 9 point lead in the space of less than 15 minutes.
Another try, scored and converted by impressive flyhalf Ihaia West extended the Blues’ lead to 24-11.
However, the Rebels were able to score a major before the final hooter to limit the damage and go into the shed only 6 points behind the home team.
Early on the board for the visitors: Reece Hodge
The second half began with a try from the home team, scored by speedster winger Tevita Li after just 2 minutes of play. The Rebels backs bizarre ball handling resulted in a 5 meter scrum for the Blues, and provided good field position to score.
Blues speedster Tevita Li
The Rebels regrouped quickly and were back into the Blues 22, but couldn’t transform pressure into points. At the 52nd minute they conceded the sixth try of the match after West kicked a penalty into touch and the forwards pushed over.
Once again, the Rebels were able to compose, and go back into enemy’s territory.
In rapid succession sub backrower Fainga’a and home idol ‘Super’ Sefa Naivalu were over the chalk for the visitors. Naivalu’s try was a fine run that covered almost the entire length of the field and was applauded also by the home crowd.
Jack Debreczeni converted only one of the two tries and the scoreboard with 12 minutes to play saw the Rebels at a converted try distance from an historical win.
But unfortunately for the Rebels, an obstruction on their last play seconds from the final whistle stopped them only 5 meters short from the try line.
Final score: 36 – 30 to the Blues.
The Wrap Up
The Melbourne Rebels were in search of history and almost made it, they came 5 meter short of it. They’ll return home with a deserved bonus point and with the confirmation that they are finally an 80 minutes team.
The Blues sweated over the victory mostly because they converted only 50% of their tries and missed another two penalties.
The Game Changer
Ihaia West try at the 30th minutes, just after a kick off from a Debreczeni penalty was a blow fro the Rebels’ morale. Despite the Rebels were able to reply with a try of their own before half time, the episode was a clear depiction of how crucial a restart can be.
The G&GR MOTM
Rieko Ione was impressive in any occasion he touched the ball. With his 62 meters gained was second only to Rebels’ Naivalu in this statistic and was a constant danger for the visitors.
From the players which aren’t already on Cheika’s radar, two players stood out: Reece Hodge and Jordy Reid. Unfortunately for the latter the wallaby’s backrow is very crowded, but the utility back could wear gold in the near future.
Score & Scorers
Blues 36 (24)
Tries: Parsons 14’, Kaino 19’, Faumuina 24’, West 31, Li 42’, Visinia 53’
Conversion: West 2/5, Francis 1/1
Penalties: West 0/1, , Francis 0/1
Reds 30 (18)
Try: Hodge 2’, Reid 39’, Fainga’a 65’, Naivalu 67’
Conversion: Debraczeni 2/4
Penalties: Debraczeni 2/2
Cards & citings