What did we learn from the Rebels' disappointing loss in Christchurch?
1. Rebels need some ring-ins
They barely had the numbers to field a side against the Crusaders and it’s not going to get much better for the Rebels in their final game. Mike Harris and Reece Hodge were forced off the ground, while Adam Thomson had a late concussion test and winger Tom English looked in some pain before battling on. They already have eight players ruled out for the year and some superstars left major holes in the side,the most obvious of which was the absence of Sean McMahon. They just have to make it through one more game but it looks there might be some even newer faces travelling up to Brisbane for the regular season curtain.
2. Mikey Mike the unlucky Rebel
We’ve already touched on the injury count but Mike Harris’s individual poor fortune needs a separate chapter. Harris has had a year to forget for the Rebels, but it’s not really his fault. The Rebels utility back was sitting on the bench before half-time in yet another match for Melbourne, continuing what has been a disastrous season for the former Wallaby with injury. With Harris off to Lyon at the end of the season, you’d be hoping fans won’t hold 2016 in their memory banks when thinking of the versatile veteran.
3. Crusaders keep Kiwi conference tight
While the trans-Tasman gap is more a gulf than anything, the New Zealanders’ battles with each other are as close as ever. The Crusaders’ bonus-point win keeps them just one point behind conference-leading Chiefs with one match to go. Canterbury faces the Hurricanes in their final match while the Chiefs have the Highlanders, with every match set to play a role in deciding who stays home and who heads to South Africa for a playoff match.
4. Offloads throwing Kiwis to the top
The Chiefs did it on Friday night and the Crusaders kept the ball alive to the Rebels’ agonising disappointment on Saturday night, with 23 offloads for the game. Offloads have become the bread and butter of New Zealand sides and the Aussies can’t cope with them. It’s not just the backs that get in on the action - front rower Mike Alaalatoa sent off a well-timed pass to set up a try in the mauling of the Rebels.
5. Records for days
A win would have put the Rebels on track for a club record tally of wins, but instead they found themselves on the end of some embarrassing records. Their widest losing margin (59) beat a previous record of 57 against the Sharks in 2015 and the 85 points tallied by the Crusaders was Melbourne’s most conceded since their 2011 inception, beating a previous high of 66 against the Hurricanes.