After being routed in the first two rounds most predicted another slaughter for Melbourne’s Rebels against New Zealand’s top side, the Waikato Chiefs. In an entertaining and hard fought encounter at AAMI Park, the Rebels surprised many with their aggressive game and were still a chance to snatch the win until a late surge from the Chiefs.
In the first action of the game, the Rebels let Damien McKenzie’s kick off bounce and the Chiefs regained possession. To an audible sigh of relief, the Chiefs knocked the ball on and no damage was done.
Consecutive penalties to the Rebels, against Dominic Bird and Sam Cane, saw Reece Hodge call for the kicking tee directly in front of the posts. Hodge struck the kick well but missed to the left. Moments later, McKenzie was lining up a shot at the other end of the field following a penalty for a deliberate knock down. McKenzie’s kick also drifted wide and the score remained nil all.
Hodge was given two more opportunities for penalty goals in the next ten minutes but was unable to convert either into points. Mr Anselmi took a moment to have a chat to the Chiefs captain, Sam Cane, about his side’s discipline after conceding their sixth penalty in only the 18th minute.
The Chiefs opened the scoring at the 22 minute mark, more through good luck than good management. Tom English stripped the ball in a tackle on the try line, the loose ball bounced back into play and into the hands of Dominic Bird who touched down for five points. McKenzie made no mistake with the conversion and the Chiefs lead 0-7 after 24 minutes.
The Chiefs looked to have a second try just two minutes later but the replay showed that Shaun Stevenson had put a toe on the touchline as he flew down the left wing.
Moments later, Liam Messam pushed the referee’s patience too far by going off his feet at a ruck and is shown a yellow card. Jackson Garden-Bachop took over the kicking duties and secured the Rebels first points. 3-7 to the Chiefs after 27 minutes.
Eventually, a knock-on from Sefa Naivalu ended a tight half of rugby with no further change to the score. The Rebels fans seemed happy with their teams efforts and were starting to get involved in the game.
The Rebels started the second half firing. A dangerous break through the mid-field by Amanaki Mafi was snuffed out by a Sam Cane turnover. The reward came moments later, though. Some heavy work from the forwards gave Debreczeni space to pass to Garden-Bachop who threw a beautiful ball to Marika Koroibete to score his first try in Super Rugby; a spectacular finish in the left corner. Garden-Bachop missed the conversion, but the Rebels were in front for the first time, 8-7.
Two minutes later, the Chiefs looked to have hit back with a quick lineout throw catching the Rebels off guard. The try was disallowed on review as the TV replay showed Stevenson again had a foot in touch and should have been a Rebels lineout. In a somewhat bizarre sequence of events, a penalty was awarded to the Chiefs for an infringement by Mafi on Stephen Donald. McKenzie missed and the Rebels held on to their narrow lead.
At 53 minutes Colby Fainga’a earned his side a penalty for Mitch Brown not releasing. JG-B extended the Rebels’ lead to 11-7 as the Chiefs replaced their front row.
In another strange set of circumstances, the Rebels were awarded a penalty for a lifting tackle on Naivalu. Advantage was played out and then, after some prompting from the Assistant Referee, the lifting tackle was finally reviewed, and Solomon Alaimalo was sent to the bin for ten minutes. In all the fuss, another potential act of foul play may have gone unnoticed.
The Chiefs regained the lead after some excellent work from Brodie Retallick, crashing through the Rebels defence to score. McKenzie converted to make the score 11-14.
Garden-Bachop levelled the score with a penalty for a shoulder charge by Johnny Faauli on Pat Leafa. 14 points all, ten minutes to play.
At 74 minutes, Leafa gifted the Chiefs three points with an unnecessary penalty right in front of the uprights. The Chiefs lead 14-17.
Three minutes later Sam Cane put the result beyond doubt, crashing over the tryline against the right goal post. McKenzie extended his team’s advantage to eight points with another successful conversion.
The Chiefs were not done yet. From deep in his own half, Brodie Retallick conjured an offload to Anton Lienert-Brown who found space on the right wing. Lienert-Brown got the ball inside to Shaun Steveson to finish a wonderful try and earn his team a bonus point win right on the final siren.
An entertaining and hard fought match right to the end; final score 14-27.
This game was a big step up for the Rebels from their previous efforts. Five minutes from full time they were still in with a chance to win but just lacked polish when they needed it most. Mafi, Fainga’a and Steve Cummins worked exceptionally hard for the full eighty minutes and lifted their teammates. The halves pairing of Stirzaker and Garden-Bachop showed improvement this week but still have a long way to go.
Our most capped Rebel; The People’s Champ, Laurie Weeks
- Foundation Rebel, Laurie Weeks, became the most capped Rebel.
- Pat Leafa played his 50th game for the team.
- Melbourne’s own Fereti Sa’aga made his run-on debut at Loose Head Prop (and played well enough to start again next week).
- Harlequins and Melbourne Rising player Murray Douglas made his Super Rugby debut.
With the number of young local players starting to come through the Rebels system and, the success of Victoria’s schoolboy teams and Under 20s, the future is looking bright for the Rebels.
Next Friday night the Rebels host the Waratahs.
Despite already playing three tough games, rotating a number of their stars, and playing with 14 men for twenty minutes, the Chiefs still managed a bonus point win. They did as all good New Zealand teams do and played right to the final whistle, eventually scoring twenty points in the last thirteen minutes. It seemed inevitable that they would score the final try.
Brodie Retallick, Sam Cane, and Tom Sanders were among the best for the Visitors. The experiment with Damien McKenzie at Fly-Half was short lived as Aaron Cruden was subbed on inside the first half hour.
Powerful game from lock, Brodie Retallick
Next week, the Chiefs can put their feet up and enjoy a bye round from atop the New Zealand Conference.
The Game Changer
Just on the hour mark, Nic Stirzaker charged down a clearance kick from Johnny Faauli to earn a five metre scrum. With a one man advantage, a four point lead, and the fans belting out the Rebel Chant they needed to score. The Chiefs weathered the storm and cleared safely
The G&GR MOTM
For the home team, Amanaki Mafi played a cracking game both with ball in hand and defensively but, the MOTM award this week goes to Brodie Retallick. Retallick scored a try, had a hand in at least one other, made multiple off-loads and tackle busts and tackled relentlessly
Both Chibba Hanson and Reece Hodge had solid games although Hodge’s goal kicking was poor missing three kickable attempts. Sefa Naivalu had some good involvements but should have backed himself to beat his man on the outside and score rather than cutting back infield during the second half
Score and Scorers
Tries: M. Koroibete (44″)
Penalty Goals: J. Garden-Bachop (29″, 54″, 71″)
Tries: D. Bird (22″), B. Retallick (67″), S. Cane (77″), S. Stevenson (80″)
Conversions: D. McKenzie (23″, 68″)
Penalty Goals: D. McKenzie (74″)