The Melbourne Rebels fought back to beat the Brumbies 29-26, overturning a 16-point first-half deficit at AAMI Park, Melbourne.
Jack Maddocks grabbed another brace against the Brumbies, to go with the one in the away victory in the opening week. Will Genia’s performance and some hard running (and finishing) by Marika Koroibete inspired the comeback.
The Brumbies must be sick of Maddocks and his Rebels, who continue to get the better of their countrymen. The flyer has two doubles in two derbies in a month against the Canberra side.
The Brumbies‘ forwards dominated the first half winning a penalty try and scoring through Folau Fainga’a, both from driving mauls.
Fainga’a became the first Brumbies’ forward to score four tries in consecutive matches for the ACT franchise when he flopped over the whitewash following another destructive maul.
Henry Speight added to the Rebels’ woes as the hosts had Adam Coleman and Matt Gibbon yellow carded before the break for repeated infringements in the red zone.
It was as bad as it could get for the home team buckling under the pressure of the Brumbies’ pack and their ill-discipline.
Genia leads by example
Whatever Dave Wessels said at the break, it worked. The South African-born coach sent his team out early after the dismal first 40 minutes.
Rob Valetini scored in the final quarter to extend the visitor’s lead to 11 before Genia and Maddocks took the game away.
They proceeded to score four tries as Genia took the game by the scruff of the neck, scoring once and setting up Maddocks’ second.
The scrumhalf, who scored his 20th Super Rugby try, was apoplectic with his forwards after they squandered a rare chance to score a try before the interval.
The Rebels came out of the gate, led by their skipper, Koroibete and the mercurial Quade Cooper to stun their fellow countrymen with a clinical, high-tempo second half display, rocking David Pocock and Co.
Rebels all at sea after an insipid first half
The Melbourne side won a close derby in Round One and have become the former two-times champions bogey side, winning three previous matches and seven of the 16 games they have contested in Super rugby.
Things got off to an inauspicious start with both teams making too many silly handling errors for this level of rugby in a stop-start half-hour.
Christian Lealiifano kicked the ball into touch on the full, killing an eight-phase series by his side. The Rebels lost their first throw into a lineout while handling mistakes disrupted the game’s flow.
Tom Banks was halted before the line. He should have played Speight on his inside, but he went for glory.
The Brumbies did get on the board, though. Joe Powell, for the third time, went wide to the right. The ball was shifted quickly to Speight, who dived for the corner.
Koroibete got across to make the tackle and almost knocked Speight into touch, but after a TMO review and no evidence to overturn the on-field call, referee AJ Jacobs awarded the try.
Cooper kicked a penalty after the restart. Then the Rebels began to unravel as the visitors camped inside their 22.
Robbie Abel and Koroibete were both caught offsides after a series of repeated infringements. Mr Jacobs had had enough, sending lock Coleman to the sin-bin.
The Brumbies’ driving maul has been the best in the competition, using the set-piece to devastating effect; however, they had opted for a series of scrums.
Who could blame Dan McKeller’s team; they were giving Gibbon a working over in the front row.
They did, eventually, go to the lineout and at their first attempt, scored when the Rebels’ forwards disintegrated. Fainga’a got up with the ball, smiles and all.
Another series of penalties resulted in a penalty try which saw Gibbon join Coleman on the naughty step after enduring a torrid time.
Melbourne did have an opportunity before the break. The Canberra side stole a Rebels’ lineout throw and also won the penalty.
Genia was enraged, shouting at his forwards for ruining the scoring opportunity.
Second half turnaround haunts Brumbies again
You would think the visitors had learned from the teams’ previous encounter and not give up another lead, but right from the restart, they cracked.
Koroibete powered through several tackles to get his team an early strike. It was the Brumbies making the errors, now. Speight lost a ball into touch, and you could sense the momentum shifting.
Ah, momentum. That great intangible. Like a spring tide, gravity pushes and pulls, leaving one bewildered by Mother Nature’s force.
But this was not anything natural, rather self-inflicted. A tighthead held the Rebels at bay, but it was a red herring.
Koroibete, the one-man wrecking ball, slipped two tackles and charged up the field before breaking another attempt to bring him down, but he threw a ‘miracle’ ball into touch.
The warning signs were there. Another big scrum, this time by the hosts, led to Maddocks’ first.
Dane Haylett-Petty took the ball up to the gain line, beat Lealiifano and drove Powell and Tom Wright backwards.
The ball, recycled quickly to Cooper, who spotted Maddocks on the wing and sent him away with a classic flat pass. Glorious.
Maddocks is becoming a finisher of some repute, always in the right place, biding his time before he strikes.
The 22-year-old was on the scoresheet for the third game in four and halfway to another derby double.
Pete Samu came off the bench and ran over Cooper to set up Valetini’s try, but the Rebels marched back into the opposition’s 22 after the kickoff.
Video Highlights: Melbourne Rebels v Brumbies
The home team’s scrum continued to have the upper hand, winning another series of penalties. Genia, sensing the opponents switching off caught hem off-guard with a quick-tap.
He burst around the broken scrum and darted between the posts, beating Lealiifano’s tackle for his 20th Super Rugby try. Cooper’s conversion took the game to within a score.
Genia had taken control of the game, reminiscent of his 2011 title-winning season with the Reds.
The 31-year-old turned back the clock, breaking into the opposition’s half with another weaving run.
A minute later, he had thrown a lovely pass to Maddocks, once again alone on the touchline, to walk over and put the Melbourne team ahead with the match-winning score.
Final Score: Rebels 29 (3) Brumbies 26 (19)
Tries – Koroibete, Maddocks (2), Genia
Pen – Cooper
Con – Cooper (3)
Cards – Adam Coleman (Yellow, 33′), Gibbon (Yellow, 42′)
Tries – Speight, Fainga’a, Penalty try, Valetini
Con – Lealiifano (2)
Referee: AJ Jacobs
Assistant Ref 1: Glen Jackson
Assistant Ref 2: Graham Cooper
TMO: Ian Smith
Melbourne Rebels: 15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Jack Maddocks, 13 Tom English, 12 Billy Meakes, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Isi Naisarani, 7 Brad Wilkin, 6 Rob Leota, 5 Matt Philip, 4 Adam Coleman, 3 Sam Talakai, 2 Robbie Abel, 1 Matt Gibbon.
Replacements: 16 Anaru Rangi, 17 Tetera Faulkner, 18 Jermaine Ainsley, 19 Luke Jones, 20 Ross Haylett-Petty, 21 Richard Hardwick, 22 Michael Ruru, 23 Reece Hodge.
Brumbies: 15 Tom Banks, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Tom Wright, 11 Andy Muirhead, 10 Christian Lealiifano, 9 Joe Powell, 8 Tom Cusack, 7 David Pocock, 6 Rob Valetini, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Folau Fainga’a, 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 Josh Mann-Rea, 17 James Slipper, 18 Leslie Leuluaialii-Makin, 19 Murray Douglas, 20 Pete Samu, 21 Ryan Lonergan, 22 Wharenui Hawera, 23 Chance Peni.