After a comprehensive smacking at the hands of the Sharks, followed by a drunken bust-up that shook the club to its core, the Melbourne Rebels needed a performance against the Cheetahs to allay fears about the performance of the team, and the stability of the franchise. It didn’t come.
The Rebels made the most of a dour opening in a rain-drenched Free State Stadium. While their scrum showed weakness early, the Rebels were energetic at the breakdown, debutant Jordy Reid showing why he was recently re-signed before playing a game, with two excellent turnovers. Defence was the name of the game, with a desperate tackle by Richard Kingi the only thing stopping the Cheetahs from opening their account after 12 minutes.
Two minutes later, after a great set of attacking phases, the Cheetahs forced the Rebels to concede a penalty, which was converted for a 3-0 lead.
The Rebels got their far share of the ball, and looked to be running it well, but pedestrian errors, such as not looking where the pass was going, led to turnovers and opportunities lost. Within five minutes of each other, the Rebels had lost possession due to a forward pass, caused by runners being disorganised and too close to each other, to regaining possession from great pressure at the ruck, only for Richard Kingi to miss the ball completely at the kick return.
After 23 minutes, the Rebels received a fortunate penalty for hands in the ruck, when the ball appeared to have come free of the contest. James O’Connor converted to tie the scores, 3-3.
The Jekyll and Hyde Rebels continued, as they worked the ball into their attacking half, only for Nick Phipps to shank a box kick (heretofore referred to as ‘doing a Nick Phipps’) and concede a lineout. The lineout was stolen by a rampaging Paul Alo-Emile and the Rebels were away, the Cheetahs forced to concede another penalty to stop the run. James O’Connor took the kick and the Rebels led on the half-hour, 6-3.
The Cheetahs didn’t take long to reclaim their lead, with brilliant running attack following a turnover, resulting in the opening try of the game to Hennie Daniller. The conversion was successful and the Cheetahs led 10-6 at the half.
The Cheetahs made the most of Melbourne’s slowness to open second halves, Robert Ebersohn effortlessly weaving through a scattered Rebel defence to set up Raymond Rhule for the Cheetahs’ second. Converted, they led 17-6.
The Rebels threw one last attack at the Cheetahs, and looked to be building momentum, rewarded in the 57th minute as they earned another penalty. O’Connor converted and reduced the deficit to 17-9.
The floodgates looked to be creaking open, with the Cheetahs controlling the flow of play with relative ease. Le Roux found himself on the receiving end of a lucky tap from Strauss, and ran in to make it 22-9 after 65. Five minutes later, Luke Jones was sin-binned for a very ill-disciplined hit, and the resulting play saw a fairly innocent overlap undefended, and the Cheetahs home for a bonus point. Converted, the score was 29-9 after 70.
A few minutes later, history repeated, as the Cheetahs used the overlap to send Benjamin over. The Cheetahs were sublime, and the Rebels looked like a team that just wanted to go home. 34-9 after 73.
While Caderyn Neville jumped on a loose ball to give the Rebels a consolation try on the buzzer, they had faded out of the contest long beforehand. The Cheetahs were rewarded for a brilliant style of play, but the Rebels will need to snap out of their funk. Next up, they have the Force and the Kings, and anything less than 8 points will see an axe swinging at AAMI Park.
The Game Changer
Robert Ebersohn‘s shimmy and shake through four Rebel defenders, and silky offload to Raymond Rhule for the Cheetahs’ second try, unlocked the floodgates. Ebersohn was crucial to the Cheetahs’ effortless display in the backs throughout the second half.
The G&GR Rebel MOTM
Nick Phipps – can say so long to the Test number 9. He and Scott Higginbotham really struggled to click, and often found themselves literally running into each other. Combine this with a box kick that is as poorly timed as it is poorly executed, and the Wallabies will be rolling out the gold carpet to Will Genia or Nic White.
Tries: Rayno Benjamin, Hennie Daniller, Willie Le Roux, Raymond Rhule, Johann Sadie
Conversions: Burton Francis 3
Penalties: Burton Francis MELBOURNE REBELS 16
Tries: Caderyn Neville
Conversions: James O’Connor
Penalties: James O’Connor 3