It was another difficult afternoon for the Rebels in Melbourne.
What did we learn from their clash with the Lions?
1.Rebels have heart
The Lions threatened to slice and dice the home side on Saturday afternoon but the Rebels simply didn’t let them. It was far from a perfect performance but that they were able to restrict the Lions when they South Africans were looking to go on a rampage, is a good sign. Lapses at crucial times, particularly towards the end of halves, made the scoreboard a bloodbath but the Rebels can take some respect from that.
2. Mafi the man
It’s been a horrific season for the Rebels but things would have been so much worse had it not been for the recruitment of Japan international Amanaki Mafi. The sight of him going off after a ninth-minute head clash would have sent shockwaves through the Rebels camp but he returned to have as influential a performance as anyone else.
3. Koroibete adding strings to his bow
He was recruited for his attacking prowess but on Saturday Marika Koroibete showed he’s been working on his defence. A try-saving tackle in the opening stages kept the Rebels on level pegging and the winger finished with nine tackles and a turnover at the end of the afternoon. If the Rebels could get him the ball, Koroibete might finally be able to live up to his reputation.
4. Casualty ward
For the second season in a row, the Rebels have been struck with a crippling injury toll, late changes coming almost every week. Saturday was no different, with in-form openside and their stand-in captain Colby Faingaa ruled out after the warmup. Rookie Will Miller stepped up in his absence but it was another blow the Rebels could do without. The good news is Faingaa is expected to be right for the Reds game next week.
5. Ks don’t count for Lions
The Lions made the Super Rugby final last year, and they’re proving they’re no flash in the pan. While they’re on the preferable side of the South African draw this year, facing no Kiwis, they’re dominating almost all comers. They had their way with the Waratahs and Reds at home and have now beaten the Force and the Rebels on the road. This was their highest score outside of South Africa and biggest win over an Australian team. The Lions are the real deal.