The Melbourne Rebels were victorious over the Reds in their final match of the season, but what did we learn from the match?
1. Farewell champions
The Reds are changing the guard in 2017 and tonight’s match was an opportunity for fans to farewell Queensland stalwarts Greg Holmes, Liam Gill, Saia Fainga’a, Ben Daley and Curtis Browning. It wasn’t the result they were looking for going down by three, but they all took a chance to wave goodbye to their home crowd in what was the end of an era for Queensland.
2. Sean McMahon on fire
Is there anything he can’t do? Friday night answered that with a conclusive 'No'.McMahon went into the break with two tries, 122 run metres and seven tackle busts as he stamped his authority on the match early to give the Rebels a 24-7 lead. While he was quelled somewhat in the second half, his game-defining start put the Rebels on track for their seventh win. The Reds fought back in the final 40, but McMahon’s efforts were enough to hold onto victory.
3. A look towards 2017
Both teams were out of finals contention heading into the match, but were able to blood some young talent as preparations start for 2017. Young Reds prop Taniela Tupou continued to have an influence off the bench, while young fullback Tom Banks impressed in his first Super Rugby start. The Rebels named young U20s star Jack Maddocks on the bench, and while he didn’t get any game time, he will be better for the experience heading into next season.
4. Too little, too late for the Rebels
It’s hard to imagine that the Rebels were top of the Australia conference just two months ago, but having lost five of their last six games, their season was effectively over a couple of weeks ago. Friday's victory was a franchise record-equalling seventh victory of the season but it was too late for the Melbourne-based side who will mark this season as a lost opportunity are they were eyeing off a finals spot at the start of the season.
5. Handling errors hurt
Both teams had their chances to take control of the match but simple handling errors that let everyone down. A whopping 18 chances were coughed up across the the two teams and that led to a sloppy game, particularly noticeable for the Reds in the dying minutes when they were desperately trying to steal a last-minute win.