Rebels vs Highlanders: Five things we learned

Super Rugby
by Emma Greenwood

The Rebels have held on for a drought-breaking 24-19 win against the Highlanders in Melbourne, their first home win against a Kiwi side since 2015.

What are we talking about after the match?

1. Isi Nasairani Wallaby in waiting

The Fijian product will officially become eligible for the Wallabies next month and is likely to be brought straight into the fold on the basis of his early-season form. Naisarani's size and strong running make him a real handful and he was a wall in defence early on as the Highlanders pressured the Rebels' line while having a glut of ball. Is flourishing having come under the guidance of Dave Wessels once again.

2. Injured stars return

As pleasing as the win was, the highlight for the Rebels may have been the successful return of Adam Coleman and Reece Hodge from injury. While Coleman missed only the season-opener after picking up a calf injury in Wallabies camp in January, Hodge returned from a broken ankle and extended sideline stint. Hodge would not have been pleased with his missed penalty attempt shortly after he took the field but he will be better for the run.

3. Koroibete stands up

The league convert had an unhappy night early, with handling errors cruelling the Rebels attacking chances on a couple of occasions. His five turnovers for the match are too high but Koroibete made up for it late in the match when he scurried back to prevent a Highlanders try and held his ground while waiting for the cavalry arrived, saving the Rebels' skin late in the game. Continues his learning curve in a new code but will be under pressure to earn a World Cup spot.

 

4. Cooper still finetuning

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika revealed Cooper was under his microscope and could be in line for a recall to the national squad if he continued to lead his team around the park as he has in the early rounds. Cooper again showed sublime touches -- as he did in putting on tries for Jack Maddocks and Billy Meakes -- but he remains guilty of pushing passes at times and kicking without purpose with the game in the balance.

 

Players are seen in the scrum during the round three Super Rugby match between the Rebels and the Highlanders at AAMI Park on March 1, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Mike Owen/Getty Images)

5. Rebels can be contenders

It's far too early to call their season a success but just two matches in, the Rebels are showing they will be no pushovers in the Australian conference. Their flat attacking style is already showing results with Will Genia and Quade Cooper showing signs of the mojo that led the Reds to a Super Rugby title in 2011. Arresting their losing streak to New Zealand sides also gives their campaign a timely boost.