Rebels vs Jaguares: Five things we learned

Super Rugby
by Sam Phillips

The Rebels fell three points short in their final match for 2017, in a match that aptly summed up their season.

They were so close yet so far.

Here's what we are talking about after the 32-29 loss.

1. Effort unquestionable

The Rebels gave it their all tonight. Photo: Getty ImagesThe Rebels left nothing out there tonight.

That's more than you could say for a deplorable Waratahs outfit that were embarrassed at Allianz Stadium last week.

Post match, outgoing coach Tony McGahan said as much and pointed to game management as the decisive factor in the second term.

The effort and desire to win is infallible, this young group just needs to turn close losses like this into close wins in 2018.

2. Mafi a must for 2018

Amanaki Mafi hasn't signed a contract for 2018 and securing his signature should be Melbourne's top priority.

His speed, combined with a genuine love of physicality and a powerful, 112kg frame makes him a force to be reckoned with that has dominated each and every game he has featured in this season.

He clearly loves playing here and understands he isn't far off signing on the dotted line for 2018.

Securing his services would be a massive boost for the club as they build towards bigger and better things next season.

3. Maddocks has potential aplenty

Jack Maddocks looks to have a big future ahead of him. Photo: Getty ImagesThe Rebels had huge wraps on Jack Maddocks coming into this season and it is easy to see why.

He has had injury struggles all season - which kept him from a regular spot in the starting XV and an Australian U20s campaign - but it is performances like tonight that will have Rebels fans dreaming of bigger and better things in the near future.

He is quick off the mark, has a potent right boot from the back and runs superb lines.

His support play is really impressive as well, which shows his attacking awareness is right on the money.

At such a young age, he is one to put on Wallaby watch in 2018.

4. Combinations lacking

Sione Tuipulotu is one of several young guns. Photo: Getty ImagesMaddocks isn't the only young gun with plenty of potential on the Rebels' books.

Jordan Uelese, Fereti Saaga, Sione Tuipulotu and Semisi Tupou all came off the bench tonight and all look to be more than capable of starting in 2018.

Uelese is a big, brawny hooker that punches over the gain line with every carry, Saaga is capable of the same, Tuipulotu has fantastic feet as he approaches the defensive line and Tupou, who debuted tonight, looks to have plenty of pace about him.

As promising as all four are, Melbourne looked disjointed when the "finishers" entered the fray.

There was too much one out running when they were desperately searching for a late try and the Jaguares are too good a defensive side to be fooled by that.

5. Stirzaker sums up mood

This match certainly didn't feel like it was the last the Rebels will play in Super Rugby.

Fans outside AAMI Park were optimistic and the mood at the ground was not akin to one of a team on its last legs.

There's no doubt Nic Stirzaker shares that same feeling, anyway.

When asked whether he thought this could be the last match he plays in Rebels colours, he offered a blunt response.

"No, I'd be pretty surprised if that was the case," he said.