Rebels left to rue another finals near-miss after Chiefs defeat

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman in Japan

UPDATE: Rebels captain Dane Haylett-Petty says the side doesn't "deserve" a finals spot after a 59-8 loss to the Chiefs sealed the sides' decline in the second half of the season.

Friday night's defeat ended their playoffs chances and sealed a fall from a 5-3 start to a 7-9 finish, leaving them well out of the eight.

Asked about that second-half fadeout, Haylett-Petty said it was something they would need to reflect upon for 2020.

"I think it probably shows we didn't deserve to be in the finals with the way we finished the season," he said to FOX SPORTS.

"So, we go back to the drawing board, reflect and come back better next year."

Melbourne needed just a win over the Chiefs to secure their maiden finals berth, but they were never able to generate dominance for long enough on Friday night.

A bonus-point loss could also have kept their pulse just faintly beating but a potent Chiefs attack, headlined by a Shaun Stevenson hat-trick, ensured that was well out of reach.

The result was a best-case scenario for the Chiefs, who needed a bonus-point win by more than 46 points to put themselves in sixth and set up a possible quarter-final in Canberra next weekend.


This year's was a journey that mirrored their 2018 trajectory, where they finished in ninth after a tight final round loss to the Highlanders in New Zealand, having burst out of the blocks early in the season.

Coach Dave Wessels said he was "devastated" with the way the season had unfolded and took on much of the responsibility for the failings of recent weeks.

"I haven't done my job in the past couple of weeks and I think there are people out there that should be angry, that are angry about that and they should be," he said.

While there will be months for the team to review its disappointing finish, Wessels said there was an emerging "softness" in the group.

"I think we've done a hell of a lot of good things this year, I think we ran a better program than we did last year and I think there's a lot of guys who can put their hand up and be pretty proud," he said.

"At the same time, there's a softness that exists within us that's unacceptable so I have to change tact a little bit, Dane has to support me in that and we have to keep pushing forward and then we have to start thinking about do we have the right people in the mix."

The Chiefs had plenty of reasons to celebrate on Friday night. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart WalmsleyHaylett-Petty said the blame couldn't be placed solely on Wessels, though the coach might be trying to point the finger back on himself.

"It's all of us," he said.

"We all had a role to play in letting that season slip away.

"Everyone from the coach down is heartbroken and disappointed and frustrated. There's plenty of lessons there for us to learn."

After a week of building up what shaped as an historic opportunity for the Rebels, they never really went within reach of that slice of history against the Chiefs.

The Rebels were never able to stitch together any consistent momentum, with three errors leading directly to tries in the opening half and a reliance on kicking hurting them early.

Though they went into the second half with a view to holding the ball more, the Chiefs found their own groove to score six second-half tries and hammer the nails into the Rebels’ coffin..

The Chiefs built the early momentum with a dominant scrum from Angus Ta’avao and a quickfire lineout play that looked dangerous before a knock on snuffed out that threat.

Melbourne looked to deliver the flat attack that brought them early-season success with a number of no-look passes generating some rapid gains.

Rebels winger Marika Koroibete had an early exit from the match with a nasty head knock, leaving an already depleted back three without their most potent scorer.

The Chiefs were the first to get on the scoreboard with Jack Debreczeni gathering a sloppy Quade Cooper kick and sparking a long-range attacking chain that finished in Sam Cane’s hands.

Marika Koroibete came off with concussion. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart WalmsleyMelbourne hit back in the 19th minute with Reece Hodge penalty as they tried to snatch back the momentum.

It was another kicking error that led to the Chiefs’ second try, with Stevenson charging down a left-foot Cooper attempt and sprinting 50 metres to stretch their lead.

Just as it looked like the Rebels were building some momentum and holding the ball a too-flat Reece Hodge pass bounced into Stevenson’s hands.

Cooper managed to drag Stevenson down short of the line but the back found Lachlan Boshier in support to add their third just on half-time.

Brodie Retallick made his return from injury in the clash. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart WalmsleyThe Rebels came out after half-time with an edict to hold the ball but it was the Chiefs who manufactured the first try in the second 40, finished off by Sean Wainui.

Where Melbourne had their attacking errors to blame for some of the Chiefs’ opening half tries, their defensive errors became more of a problem in the second.

Chiefs centre Anton Lienert-Brown had a superb game and capped off a strong outing with a 49th minute try.

Stevenson had his second in the 51st minute, after a lateral chip kick from Tumua Manu opened up a huge gap on the run and one offload later Stevenson had scored.

Chiefs halfback Brad Weber turned on the afterburners to give Debreczeni a chance to pile some pain on his former team with the Chiefs’ sixth.

It took a dummy from lock Matt Philip to create the Rebels’ first try of the match after a frantic lead-up, started by a low-percentage Isi Naisarani kick.

That score was all but snuffed out as the Chiefs sealed the margin with a try for Marty McKenzie in the 74th minute.

Stevenson ran his third try in with three minutes to go and by then what had seemed so unlikely for the Chiefs was really coming to fruition.

While the Rebels’ finals hopes are gone, the Chiefs could be off to face the Brumbies in Canberra depending on how the rest of the weekend’s matches pan out.

RESULT

Rebels 8

Tries: Philip 

Pens: Hodge

Chiefs 59

Tries: Stevenson 3, Cane, Boshier, Lienert-Brown, Debreczeni, McKenzie

Cons: Debreczeni 6, McKenzie