Rebels break 2017 drought in heart-stopper

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

A win was what the Rebels so desperately wanted and needed after an unprecedentedly emotional week, and after seven long weeks, it was a win that they finally got.

Ending the Brumbies’ 10-game winning streak over Australian conferences and finally clinching their first 2017 win, after a week where they have found themselves having to justify their existence in the Super Rugby competition.

Having let an early 10-point lead slip, and coughing up three yellow cards in the process, the Rebels clawed their way back to a one-point margin with 20 minutes to go, before a crucial scrum penalty went their way,with a young front row packing down.

Sefa Naivalu was back to some of his damaging best on Saturday night. Photo: WalmsleyRelief was written across captain Nic Stirzaker's face as he spoke of the 'dark places' the side had found itself in, speaking to FOX SPORTS after the match.

"I think you saw how the boys are celebrating, it’s probably a reflection of where we’ve been," he said.

"It’s been a pretty dark place not just on the field but off the field as well, so we’re really pleased with the effort, the boys showed a lot of heart tonight. 

"Fitting this week that we had loosehead prop Fereti Saaga through the Melbourne system out there winning us a penalty to get the game."

It was a basic boot for Hodge, who found himself asked to slot far more difficult kicks all night, but none with as much riding on them as the three-pointer that put them in front.

And in contrast to their late lead against the Waratahs a fortnight ago, the Rebels clung on as the clock ticked down, not letting the conference-leading Brumbies break their hearts.

The Rebels tried to bank points where the Brumbies went for touch and it was Reece Hodge who gleaned the first penalty 10 minutes in.

Henry Speight and Marika Koroibete went head-to-head. Photo: Naivalu’s return paid dividends for the Rebels just five minutes later, as the powerful winger slipped through the Brumbies’ grasps to score his first 2017 try.

Their early momentum was unwound in the 17th minute as Colby Faingaa and Lopeti Timani  were sent to the bin, Faingaa for a lifting tackle and Timani for attempting to knee Rory Arnold in the head.

The Brumbies found the line through Henry Speight three minutes later, though their kicking tactics nearly let the Rebels off the hook handing possession back to the home side.

It was the visitors who piled on the pressure as the half ticked on, opting for repeated scrums deep in attack before Jarrad Butler crashed over in the 32nd minute to give the Brumbies their first lead of the night.

A late Hodge penalty stemmed the bleeding as referee Glen Jackson warned both sides to keep their fiery instincts at bay after some intense to-and-fros.

Sefa Naivalu was robbed of a second try in the shadows of half-time, with his opposite number Tom Banks dragging him into touch.

Fereti Saaga was the third Rebel sin binned, carded for a deliberate knock down in the 42nd minute, with Speight pouncing for his second less than a minute later, outwitting Marika Koroibete.

The Rebels narrowed the gap to one point through Hodge’s fourth penalty, leaving them 20 minutes to snatch their first win.

Melbourne’s Faingaa made amends for his early yellow, inflicting damage at the breakdown and giving Hodge a chance at the match-winning kick, which the fullback slotted.

The Brumbies had a final slice of possession after Hodge missed a penalty kick after full-time, but the visitors lost the ball and the Rebels wrapped proceedings up.

Brumbies captain Sam Carter lamented their set piece failings after their match, a sentiment few and far between for a side that is normally unshakable in the lineout and scrum.

"It’s something we pride ourselves on and it wasn’t up to standard," he aid.

"We made too many mistakes at set piece, brought them into the game and we paid for it."


Rebels 19

Tries: Naivalu

Pens: Hodge 5

Yellow cards: Faingaa (17’), Timani (17’), Saaga (43’)

Brumbies 17

Tries: Speight 2, Butler

Cons: Hawera