Super Rugby

Force fight back to down rudderless Rebels

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The Western Force edged the Melbourne Rebels 15-16 in a dull Super Rugby AU Round Eight contest at AAMI Park, Melbourne.

Tim Anstee scored at the death as the Western Force came from behind to win a dire Australian derby under the lights in Victoria. The win is the Western Australian side’s first in Melbourne since 2015.

To put the performance of both teams into context, they only entered the opposition’s 22 on 10 occasions, the Rebels eight times, and the Force twice in a game that had one try.

A crazy denouement ended with a charged-down clearance to win the game that led to two attempted match-winning drop-kicks by Reece Hodge.

Hodge could not land any of them and left the field in agony after try-scorer Anstee dived into the fullback’s leg, hyperextending the knee in what was a late, dirty shot.

Referee Damon Murphy must have missed the indiscretion because he blew the final whistle instead of awarding the Rebels a penalty that could have won Dave Wessels’ side the match.

This is the second bore-fest dished up by these two teams, this season. The sides played out a dire 7-10 Super Rugby AU Round Four match in Perth, but at least that game saw three tries.

Marika Koroibete is still without a try in Super Rugby this season, which perhaps perfectly sums up the bluntness of Wessels’ side.

Domingo Miotti, starting at stand-off for the first time for the Force, kicked three penalties and converted Anstee’s 77th-minute try for 11 points.

Matt To’omua kicked for penalties but missed one, which proved crucial at the end. Hodge also kicked a long-range effort but did shank an important late drop-kick from in front.

For two teams fighting it out for the coveted third-placed finish on the log to make the Super Rugby AU Qualifier, this was terrible.

It calls into question playing a one-off playoff game when the Brumbies and Queensland Reds are so far ahead of the other Australian franchises.

The Rebels took a slender, mistake-ridden six-point first-half lead

Hodge, To’omua, and Miotti all kicked penalties in the opening quarter of an error-strewn Super Rugby game as the Rebels led 6-3.

The Rebels enjoyed 74% possession and 88% territory inside 25 minutes but could make any of their dominance count. Both teams’ lineouts were a mess, and the penalties and turnovers mounted.

Each team lost multiple lineouts, the Rebels lost three, while the Force lost four; an amazing stat at this level of rugby. The Force also had to make more than double the amount of tackles.

Byron Ralston left the field on a stretcher in the 21st-minute after hitting his head on Lewis Holland’s hip.

By then, the visitors had only made 21 run metres with eight runs and completed nine passes – Tim Sampson’s side ended the half with 70 metres.

Kane Koteka was sent to the sin-bin for a dangerous no-arms tackle on Michael Wells before the half-hour. To’omua and Miotti traded penalties before the break.

The Rebels could not capitalise on their one-man advantage due to the increasing turnovers and penalty count, giving up nine turnovers and six penalties by halftime.

The penalty count continued to dominate the second stanza and the handling errors continued to blight the game

Miotti cut the gap to three, 12 minutes after the interval, but To’omua added his fourth penalty goal of the night, 11 minutes later to reopen the six-point lead for the hosts.

Possession and territory dropped as low as 33% and 19% respectively for the Perth men as they struggled to put any multi-phase attacks together that would last longer than 20 seconds.

Wessels’ men continued to lose lineouts, gifting away the precious little possession his side enjoyed. Miotti had a chance to cut the deficit in the 71st-minute, but he pushed his kick wide.

Three minutes later, however, the Argentina playmaker had a chance at another shot at goal. But Sampson’s men went for the dreaded lineout.

The home team infringed, and they decided to go again. This time the lineout and driving maul worked expertly as Anstee crashed over from close range.

Miotti took his time but landed the conversion to put his team ahead for the first time in the game, with only three minutes to play.

For all their lack of territory and possession – which ended more than two-thirds in favour of the Rebels – the visitors managed to find a way to win.

There was still time for the Rebels to come back, going through a five-minute final attack, which included the Force having the game-clinching clearance kick charged down to ignite another attack after the hooter sounded.

The last few minutes were carnage. Hodge attempted a drop goal but slipped before dropping back into the pocket and trying from further out.

The fullback’s kick, however, had no juice, dropping well short of the poles to seal the unlikely Force victory.

Final Score: Melbourne Rebels 15 (12) Western Force 16 (6)

Scorers

Melbourne Rebels
Tries –
Pen – Hodge, To’omua (4)
Con –
Drop –
Cards –

Western Force
Tries – Anstee
Pen – Miotti (3)
Con – Miotti
Drop –
Cards – Koteka (Yellow, 29′)

Match Officials
Referee: Damon Murphy
Assistant Ref 1: Amy Perrett
Assistant Ref 2: James Quinn
TMO: James Leckie

Teams

Melbourne Rebels

15 Reece Hodge, 14 Frank Lomani, 13 Stacey Ili, 12 Lewis Holland, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Matt To’omua (captain), 9 Joe Powell, 8 Michael Wells, 7 Richard Hardwick, 6 Josh Kemeny, 5 Trevor Hosea, 4 Robert Leota, 3 Pone Fa’amausili, 2 James Hanson, 1 Cabous Eloff

Replacements:
 16 Jordan Uelese, 17 Matt Gibbon, 18 Lucio Sordoni, 19 Steven Cummins, 20 Brad Wilkin, 21 James Tuttle, 22 Tom Pincus, 23 Jeral Skelton

Western Force

15 Jack McGregor, 14 Byron Ralston, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Kyle Godwin (captain), 11 Jordan Olowofela, 10 Domingo Miotti, 9 Tomás Cubelli, 8 Tomás Lezana, 7 Kane Koteka, 6 Fergus Lee-Warner, 5 Sitaleki Timani, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Santiago Medrano, 2 Feleti Kaitu’u, 1 Tom Robertson

Replacements:
 16 Andrew Ready, 17 Angus Wagner, 18 Kieran Longbottom, 19 Ryan McCauley, 20 Tim Anstee, 21 Brynard Stander, 22 Ian Prior, 23 Richard Kahui

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