The Rebels broke their duck on Saturday night, with a 19-17 win over the Brumbies in Melbourne.
What did we learn from the drought-breaking victory?
1. Rebels finally notch a win
Five games without a win, seven weeks all up in 2017, and a week of intense speculation about their position in Super Rugby going forward. It was a peculiar package of pressure that was set to galvanise or destroy the Rebels in their second Australian derby. To their credit, it was the former, with the Melbourne side pouncing on the Brumbies for their first win of the season. The Rebels’ first signing, Laurie Weeks, played his 100th match on Saturday night and you'd be hard-pressed to find someone who wasn't happy for the milestone man.
2. Speight and Sefa’s scintillating battle
There’s plenty of, rightful, concerns about the lack of depth in some positions in Australian rugby but wing needn’t be one of them after another scintillating battle on the edges on Saturday night. Sefa Naivalu’s power and speed make him incredibly dangerous, and he used both to great effect to score the opening try and go just centimetres off a second in the first half. Henry Speight’s 2017 is becoming evocative of the 2014 year that was his making, with a double in Melbourne as the 28-year-old sparked the Brumbies’ attack.
3. Not-so-mellow yellow
Two yellow cards were nearly the undoing for the Rebels, as Colby Fainga'a and Lopeti Timani found themselves in the bin together in the 17th minute, before Fereti Saaga was off for a deliberate knockdown in the 43rd minute. Fainga'a's marginal lifting tackle could have been forgiven, while Saaga found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, but Timani might want to check his on-field actions after kneeing Rory Arnold in the head. The backrower could have been in more trouble had he hit his target flush, even with his defence that Arnold 'pushed me first'. Referee Glen Jackson certainly didn't buy that one.
4. Rebels beat the Brumbies at their own game
That the Brumbies will dominate in the set piece is normally a given in their Australian conference derbies. Well, nobody told the Rebels on Saturday night, with the Melbourne side well and truly taking the bragging rights at scrum and lineout. A crucial scrum penalty gave the Rebels the match-winning shot, a huge boost of confidence for a young front row. Earlier in the piece, though, the Brumbies found their own troubles in the lineout, that let the Rebels off the hook.
5. Australian conference wide open
The Brumbies could have stretched their conference lead to three games with an 11th straight derby win on Saturday night but the loss keeps the pack in touch with the ACT franchise. The Reds are just seven points shy of the Brumbies with nine regular season rounds still to come. The Canberra side have just one more win than the Reds, Force and Waratahs, but their five bonus points and the only positive points difference in the Australian conference are handy buffers as well.