Super Rugby AU

Rebels make history in thrilling win over Force

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The Melbourne Rebels beat the Western Force 34-30 in a thrilling Super Rugby AU Round 10 contest at Newcastle International Sports Centre, New South Wales.

Cabous Eloff scored in the last minute as the Rebels completed a thrilling fightback to book their place in the finals of Super Rugby AU – their first playoff appearance in their history.

Time looked to be over for the Melbourne team, but after having a couple of late scores ruled out by the officials, they got the job done against a spirited Western Force.

The Force, who end their Super Rugby AU campaign without a win, will feel they threw this game away after having mounted a big comeback after looking dead and buried.

Dave Wessels’ men knew what they had to do if they wanted to make history for the Melbourne franchise – win by four, and they would make the Super Rugby playoffs for the first time in their history.

The Rebels had two opportunities in the last couple of years to make the Super Rugby finals but squandered both by losing their final regular-season games.

But the winless Force did not make it easy for the Rebels, giving Wessels’ men a scare as the teams punched and counter-punched in a tense, thrilling seven-try affair.

The Force overturned a 12-point deficit, scoring 22 unanswered points, to take a 10-point lead in the third quarter of a see-sawing Australian derby in the Newcastle sunshine.

Two tries apiece from both teams saw the Rebels lead by seven at the interval.

Tom Pincus and Reece Hodge crossed for the Melbourne side. Henry Taefu and Andrew Ready, on the stroke of halftime, dotted down for the Force.

Matt To’omua kicked two penalties and converted both tries to keep his side ahead, while Ian Prior could only manage a lone penalty goal as he missed both his conversion attempts.

Ready’s second score came four minutes after the restart and again from a driving maul from close range as the Rebels were stunned.

Prior finally kicked a conversion to level the scores at 20-all.

Ready had his second soon after the break with a carbon-copy try.

Super Rugby AU Round 10 Video Highlights: Melbourne Rebels versus Western Force at Newcastle International Sports Centre, New South Wales

Prior landed a penalty soon after Pincus’ yellow card to make put Tim Sampson’s men ahead before Brynard Stander darted over for the Force.

Dane Haylett-Petty scored soon after to give the Victorians some hope.

Then Byron Ralston also saw yellow after some foul play to level the playing numbers with 20 minutes to play.

Marika Koroibete and Eloff both had tries ruled out, and Fergus Lee-Warner saw yellow in a dramatic ending to a game that had never-ending TMO interventions.

Eloff then crashed over in the final minute to in the game for his side.

To’omua took the minute to kick the vital conversion that puts the Rebels into the finals for the first time.

An entertaining first half saw both teams trade blows, but some poor kicking by the Force led to their downfall as the Rebels took advantage of their mistakes.

Prior opened the scoring from in front in the ninth minute.

The Rebels almost hit back immediately, but Michael Wells dropped a walkover try into touch with nobody in front of him from two metres out.

Melbourne did have a penalty advantage and decided to kick to touch – mainly because Jordan Uelese had the best lineout throw percentage of the tournament (87%).

The hooker, however, did not throw in straight, and the Force survived another scare.

In the 16th-minute, Jono Lance had his kick charged down by To’omua.

Jordan Uelese chased the bouncing ball, booting it forward before Jack McGregor kicked the ball out behind his goal-line for a Rebels five-metre scrum.

The Rebels scored from the first-phase ball off the scrum and some fantastic flyhalf play from To’omua, who sent Pincus, running a beautiful line, away with a deft pass to score under the posts.

The standoff converted. However, the Force struck after the restart.

McGregor did to To’omua what To’omua did to Hodge and Bill Meakes, standing him up with a deft pass for Taefu, who side-stepped Marika Koroibete to score.

To’omua added two penalties to extend the slender lead to 13-8 after Prior missed the easy conversion.

The Force struggled with the wind; they kicked out on the full, had three kicks charged down, and their clearance kicking was poor, costing them 20 points.

Hodge crashed over in the corner following a charge-down, busting through two defenders to dot down in the corner.

To’omua slotted the sideline conversion to open up a handy 12-point lead before the half-hour.

Cameron Orr crashed over five minutes before the break, but McGregor was obstructed by a Rebels’ player and the score got chalked off.

The Perth team, looking for their first win of the season, like the Crusaders, struck either side of the break from driving mauls to level.

It was a lucky let-off for the Perth side, who by now, started to look jaded. Yet, Sampson’s men summoned a final flurry in the shadows of halftime.

They won an attacking lineout after having just conceded a turnover at the breakdown inside the Rebels’ 22.

A poor clearance just before the hooter sounded allowed Sampson’s side an attacking lineout from about six metres out.

Ready flopped over the whitewash after the powerful driving maul dismantled the Melbourne pack. The Western Force needed that score.

Prior missed from wide, but his side was still in the contest.

Ready, after a long chat by the officials, was awarded his second try in the 44th minute. It came from another perfectly executed driving maul after Lance had kicked a penalty to touch.

Prior added the extras to level.

The Rebels came roaring back but could not cross the chalk.

Twice they went close but were held-up over the line. One came from a driving maul, the other when Meakes’ barnstorming run got stopped by Taefu for a line drop-out.

Isi Naisarani gave away two penalties in quick succession to offer three points to the opposition. Prior made no mistake, drilling the ball between the uprights as the Force took the lead in the 56th-minute.

The Rebels were reeling now.

Pincus got yellow carded a minute later, and Stander scored a minute later.

Stander, in his 50th Super Rugby game, barged over from close range from a pick-and-go.

Prior’s conversion snuck inside the left-hand post to open up a 10-point lead. It left the Rebels 14 points away from the playoffs.

It was tit for tat.

A superb counter-attack saw Haylett-Petty score after a one-two between Hodge and Koroibete before the winger put the fullback away.

To’omua’s conversion kept the Rebels within one goal from the finals.

Ralston was soon sent to the naughty step after taking out a man in the air to make it 14v14 on the hour mark.

Hodge missed an excellent chance for his team when he kicked a penalty over the goal-line, looking for the corner flag.

As time ticked down, the mistakes crept in. Wessels, up in the coaching booth, could not watch.

Koroibete had a try taken off the scoreboard because of a forward pass in the build-up with seven minutes remaining.

Lee-Warner got a yellow for cynical play before Eloff went close. However, he lost control of the ball centimetres from the try-line with less than four to play.

But the Rebels won possession from the resulting scrum. They went 10 phases before Matt Philip crashed over under the posts, however, the TMO could find conclusive evidence to award the try.

In the dying seconds, Eloff – after another lengthy check by the officials – was awarded the historic try, and To’omua did the rest.

Cue scenes.

Final Score: Rebels 34 (20) Force 30 (13)

Scorers

Rebels
Tries – Pincus, Hodge, Haylett-Petty, Eloff
Pen – To’omua (2)
Con – To’omua (4)
Drop –
Cards – Pincus (Yellow, 57′)

Force
Tries – Taefu, Ready (2)
Pen – Prior (2)
Con – Prior
Drop –
Cards – Ralston (Yellow, 60′), Lee-Warner (Yellow’ 75′)

Match Officials
Referee: Angus Gardner
Assistant Ref 1: Graham Cooper
Assistant Ref 2: Amy Perrett
TMO: James Leckie

Teams

Melbourne Rebels: 15 Dane Haylett-Petty (captain), 14 Tom Pincus, 13 Reece Hodge, 12 Bill Meakes, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Matt To’omua, 9 James Tuttle, 8 Isi Naisarani, 7 Richard Hardwick, 6 Michael Wells, 5 Trevor Hosea, 4 Matt Philip, 3 Jermaine Ainsley, 2 Jordan Uelese, 1 Cameron Orr

Replacements: 16 Efitusi Ma’afu, 17 Cabous Eloff, 18 Matt Gibbon, 19 Michael Stolberg, 20 Esei Ha’angana, 21 Frank Lomani, 22 Andrew Deegan, 23 Lachie Anderson

Western Force

15 Jack McGregor, 14 Byron Ralston, 13 Kyle Godwin, 12 Henry Taefu, 11 Marcel Brache, 10 Jono Lance, 9 Ian Prior (captain), 8 Henry Stowers, 7 Brynard Stander, 6 Fergus Lee-Warner, 5 Ollie Atkins, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Kieran Longbottom, 2 Andrew Ready, 1 Pek Cowan

Replacements: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Chris Heiberg, 18 Dominic Hardman, 19 Johan Bardoul, 20 Kane Koteka, 21 Nick Frisby, 22 Nick Jooste, 23 Jake Strachan

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