Desperate Rebels felled by Jaguares

Super Rugby
by Sam Phillips

They played as though their Super Rugby life depended on it but the Rebels have fallen short, the Jaguares spoiling their 2017 finale with a resilient 32-29 win.

This was no ordinary match for the Rebels.

While the club is confident they will be playing Super Rugby in 2018, the fact remains they are yet to be guaranteed survival.

Add that to the departure of coach Tony McGahan along with several players and there couldn't have been more to play for.

There was a clear sense of determination and grit about this performance from the outset, matching an AAMI Park crowd that were similarly optimistic.Mitch Inman was superb in his Super Rugby finale. Photo: Getty ImagesRUGBY.com.au spoke to several fans as they entered the ground and there was no sense of doom and gloom, even with the ARU's axe hovering over their heads.

The playing group have steered clear of the matter this week as well, preferring to focus on the job at hand.

They certainly got on with the job in the first half with organised, physical defensive work, dominance at the breakdown and some of the best attacking sets they have stringed together this year.

It may actually have been the best half of football this team has played in 2017, though clearing that bar isn't any sort of significant feat.

They applied themselves with similar vigour in the second term but the Jaguares lifted a level and the Rebels couldn't go with them, a pair of soft tries in the final quarter proving the difference.

While they fell short, the usual suspects were enormous tonight.

Lopeti Timani was destructive on both sides of the ball, leaving several Argentinians flailing on the turf after copping a hit to the ribs.

Amanaki Mafi was similarly explosive.Amanaki Mafi was at his destructive best tonight. Photo: Getty ImagesWhen he hit top gear on kick returns, there wasn't a Jaguares player in sight keen to take him on.

It was another outstanding performance from the star No. 8, who was treated to a standing ovation when he was taken off with 20 to play.

Colby Faingaa was at his best come breakdown time, pinching a pair of pilfers in the first term.

Sean McMahon tackled like a man possessed, while Mitch Inman was at his busy best in his 100th Super Rugby match, popping up every time the Jaguares looked a chance of a line break.

Jack Maddocks also looks a serious talent, running superb lines and supporting each and every line break.Jack Maddocks is destined for bigger and better things. Photo: Getty ImagesBut it was Reece Hodge that stole the show.

He was responsible for all 19 Rebels points at the break, slotting four penalties and converting his own try.

That try was one of the best the Rebels have scored all year.

A solid scrum was followed by a slick, if not forward, inside ball from Hodge to impressive youngster Jack Maddocks, Hodge backing up to reap the rewards his sleight of hand created.

That left the score at 16-3 with 25 gone but the Jaguares hit back off the back of their own sturdy scrum.Santiago Cordero notched a double at AAMI Park. Photo: Getty ImagesNo. 8 Leonardo Senatore peeling off the back and finding Martin Landajo, who drew a nervous Marika Koroibete, leaving Santiago Cordero unmarked in the right hand corner.

A Hodge penalty in the 37th minute would be the final scoring act of the first term, as the Rebels took a 19-10 lead into the break.

Nicolas Sanchez narrowed the gap to six early in the second term before Hodge kicked his fifth penalty of the night.

This one was from 55 out and hit the cross bar on the way over, much to the delight of the vocal crowd.

But the home side got too cute and five minutes later, a wayward Toby Smith pass was cleaned up by Sanchez, who popped a flick pass to Guido Petti for a big try against the run of play.


That was followed by the softest of tries to reserve halfback Gonzalo Bertranou, who slipped a Nic Stirzaker tackle from five out to canter over and give the visitors their first lead of the night at 25-22.

Melbourne were out on their feet at that point and a beautiful cross field kick from Juan Martin Hernandez gifted Cordero his second, the final nail in the coffin of the one-win Rebels, who crossed through a Steve Cummins consolation try on the siren.

RESULT

Rebels 29

Tries: Hodge, Cummins

Cons: Hodge, Meehan

Pens: Hodge 5

Jaguares 32

Tries: Cordero 2, Petti, Bertranou

Cons: Sanchez 2, Hernandez

Pens: Sanchez 2

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