Hodge penalty steals result for Rebels

Super Rugby
by Sam Phillips

A second-half Reece Hodge masterclass has kept Melbourne's finals hopes alive and all but killed ACT's in the process, as the Rebels claimed a thrilling 27-24 win in Canberra.

The visitors entered the match on a five-game losing streak and trailed 21-10 at the break but they looked a different outfit when Hodge replaced Jack Debreczeni at flyhalf in the 51st minute, outscoring the home side 17-3 in the second term.

Melbourne were rewarded for throwing the ball around from deep in their own territory with Hodge the marshall, crossing twice in five minutes through Jack Maddocks and Semisi Tupou to set up a grandstand finish, at 24-all with 15 to play.

It was a 78th-minute Hodge penalty from the left sideline that stole the win, keeping his side one point behind the Australian Conference leaders, the Waratahs, n the process.

Melbourne started the night on the front foot thanks to some tenacious Colby Faingaa breakdown work and it just took seven minutes for Tom English to draw first blood, largely thanks to an Angus Cottrell run from 60 out which shed the tackles of Henry Speight and Wharenui Hawera.Lachie McCaffrey and the Brumbies controlled play in the first half. Photo: Getty ImagesThe Brumbies responded when Tom Cusack crossed in the 16th minute as a reward for a ubiquitous first half and they made sure to add interest to the response when Amanaki Mafi was sent to the sin bin for a high shot on Scott Sio in the 23rd minute.

ACT added 14 points with Melbourne's star No. 8 in the bin, Faalelei Sione the beneficiary of a brilliant Cusack pop pass from the turf before Rob Valetini ran a sublime line to score- a bullet pass from Joe Powell putting him over.

That gave the home side a 21-5 lead with 35 on the clock but to their credit, Melbourne responded through English as the half time siren sounded, keeping in touch at the break.

The home side dominated both possession and territory for the first 15 minutes of the second term but resilient Rebels defence held firm, forcing Hawera to slot a shot a simple penalty which extended his side's lead to two converted tries.

That triggered the Rebels into action, who finally ran the ball from their own half rather than kicking it and reaped the rewards in the process, Jack Maddocks showing a sharp turn of foot to split the line from 30 out and score under the posts.

Melbourne found an extra gear with 20 minutes to go, showing new-found confidence to run the ball from deep within their own half.Marika Koroibete and the Rebels kicked things up a notch in the second half. Photo: Getty ImagesYoung gun Tupou sparked the next move downfield with a run down the right edge and as the clock ticked past the 65th minute, a dominant rolling maul turned into points after Ruru spotted Tupou unmarked.

A pinpoint shot at goal from the right sideline levelled things up at 24-all with 13 to play and once again, Melbourne made 50 metres by running the ball from their own quarter.

But the Brumbies responded, forcing a maul and winning the ball back.

A dubious Matt Philip penalty then handed Christian Lealiifano a chance to put the home side in front with five to play but he hooked it and Melbourne were on the charge again.

When Hodge had his chance to win it he stepped up and saluted, sending the fans at GIO Stadium home empty handed.

RESULT

Brumbies 24

Tries: Cusack, Sione, Valetini

Cons: Hawera 3

Pens: Hawera 

Rebels 27

Tries: English 2, Maddocks, Tupou

Cons: Hodge 2

Pens: Hodge