The Rebels beat the Brumbies 19-17 at AAMI Park in Melbourne after a late Reece Hodge penalty, to claim a hard-fought derby-day victory and first win of the season.
The Brumbies outscored their hosts three tries to one but Hodge’s boot and the profligacy of Wharenui Hawera kept them in the game.
With the news during the past week about Australia losing a Super Rugby franchise, the Rebels were out to prove a point.
They had not won a game all season and languished at the bottom of the Australian conference with only a single point from five matches.
Despite having three men sent to the sin bin inside 45 minutes, they did not wilt in the final quarter this time. Instead, they dug deep and found a way to stay in touch as they made life difficult for the ACT side.
The game started well as the Rebels raced to a 10-nil lead after Sefa Naivalu’s opening try on 15 minutes and the boot of the fullback.
But, the momentum shifted minutes later after the double sin-binning of Fereti Sa’aga and Lopeti Timani.
Henry Speight – who scored a double – made the two-man advantage count, scored to get his team on the board.
The Brumbies went through the phases and Jarrad Butler stepped inside beat two defenders and sent the winger away down the sideline.
With seven minutes remaining in the first half, the Brumbies were awarded a couple of penalties and decided to scrum.
They pushed the Rebels over their try line, Butler picked up the rolling ball and scored his fifth Super Rugby try.
Hawera’s conversion gave his team the lead but it did not last as Hodge added his second penalty, to give his team a one-point halftime lead.
It was the visitors who struck an early second half blow when Speight scored his second try four minutes in.
From a scrum on the Rebels’ 5-metre line, scrum-half Joe Powell broke to the blindside drawing Marika Koroibete, who came in from his wing.
Powell waited until Speight was open and shifted a pass to the wing, who scored his sixth try of the season.
Hawera was having a poor night from the kicking tee and he could not add the extras; 17-13 to the Brumbies.
The two teams cancelled each other out as the game was played between the 22s. Robbie Abel was having a nightmare at the lineout, consistently missing his jumpers and giving the ball to the Rebels.
On 59 minutes Hodge kicked a third penalty and reduced the gap to a single point going into the last 20 minutes.
The Rebels somehow managed to stay within touching distance of the Brumbies. Where usually, they run out of gas in the final 20 minutes, they found some resolve.
The fullback missed a penalty from 51 metres out with seven minutes remaining. There was groaning from the home support as they felt they had missed the opportunity to get a win over their fellow countryman.
The Brumbies had their chances to close the game out but some ill-discipline cost them when they afforded Hodge another chance to win the game.
This time he did, kicking an easy penalty from in front to give his team the victory.
Final score: Rebels 19 (13) Brumbies 17 (12)
Tries – Naivalu
Pen – Hodge (4)
Con – Hodge
Cards – Fainga’a (Yellow, 17th minute), Timani (Yellow, 17th minute), Sa’aga (Yellow, 44th minute)
Tries – Speight (2), Butler
Con – Hawera
Referee: Glen Jackson
Assistant Ref 1: Brendon Pickerill
Assistant Ref 2: Rohan Hoffmann
TMO: George Ayoub
15 Reece Hodge, 14 Sefa Naivalu, 13 Tom English, 12 Mitch Inman, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Jack Debreczeni, 9 Nic Stirzaker (captain), 8 Amanaki Mafi, 7 Colby Fainga’a, 6 Lopeti Timani, 5 Dominic Day, 4 Steve Cummins, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 James Hanson, 1 Fereti Sa’aga.
Replacements: 16 Siliva Siliva, 17 Tom Moloney, 18 Tyrel Lomax, 19 Culum Retallick, 20 Hugh Sinclair^*, 21 Mick Snowden, 22 Jackson Garden-Bachop, 23 Ben Volavola.
^Super Rugby debut
15 Aidan Toua, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Andrew Smith, 11 Tom Banks, 10 Wharenui Hawera, 9 Joe Powell, 8 Jarrad Butler, 7 Chris Alcock, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Sam Carter (captain), 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Robbie Abel, 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 Saia Fainga’a, 17 Nic Mayhew, 18 Ben Alexander, 19 Blake Enever, 20 Tom Staniforth, 21 Tom Cusack, 22 De Wet Roos, 23 Jordan Jackson-Hope.