Rebels vs Waratahs: Five things we learned

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The Rebels took a confidence-boosting victory over the Waratahs on Friday night in Melbourne.

Melbourne finished strongly to take a 24-10 win over NSW and get on the board in 2020.

What are we talking about after that one?

1. Rebels lift early season weight

To say the Rebels needed Friday night’s win would be an understatement. After two disappointing opening rounds on top of the departure of some of their biggest stars in the off season, the pressure was well and truly on.

To hang on in wet conditions and finish strongly for their first 2020 win will have plenty of people breathing a sigh of relief.

It was a special night for the Rebels as well, marking a decade since their first Super Rugby match also against the Waratahs.

They’ve had some stumbles along the way but a win against NSW at home, their first since 2013 in fact, will inject some confidence into the Rebels going forward.

2. Waratahs with some soul searching to do

The Waratahs have some work to do. Photo: Getty ImagesThe Rebels weren’t the only team that really needed a victory on Friday. A 0-3 start to a season is the Waratahs’ worst ever and they could be staring down the barrel of an even worse return. NSW has a bye this week before clashes against the Lions, Chiefs, Brumbies and Bulls.

Though all of those games are winnable, they could also very well find themselves in a deeper hole than they are now.

Coach Rob Penney was confident they could make some strides ahead of their next match but they certainly have plenty to do.

3. Forgotten men putting hand up for higher honours

Rebels duo Matt Philip and Billy Meakes have been among the forgotten men of Super Rugby in recent years, when it comes to Wallabies prospects.

Both have been in and around the national environment and Philip earned a cap in 2018 but neither ever had a serious opportunity to stake a claim on a Test spot.

Both, in admittedly very different roles, stepped up on Friday night and if they can continue that form, they will surely earn a second look from Wallabies coach Dave Rennie when he picks his July squads.

4. Rebels halves step up

Ryan Louwrens was impressive for the Rebels. Photo: Getty ImagesMatt To’omua has copped some criticism in recent weeks for some lacklustre showings but he stepped up for the Rebels on Friday night.

Both he and new halfback starter Ryan Louwrens managed the game well in tricky conditions.

The clash served as a reminder of why To’omua is considered the primary contender for the Wallabies 10 spot. In direct contrast to NSW rookie Will Harrison,

To’omua was able to make the right choices in a tight game and add fairly accurate goalkicking to the mix and he was pivotal. Louwrens will be hard to shift from a starting spot next week after his performance at nine as well.

The former Force player added plenty of zip in attack and set up the only try of the first half. These two could build a formidable partnership if they can continue to produce these performances moving forward.

5. Penney for your selection thoughts

New Waratahs coach Rob Penney was bullish in preseason about putting his faith in youngsters and riding the bumpy road that comes with that.

That stance will be put to the ultimate test in coming weeks after NSW’s dismal start to the year.

Flyhalf Will Harrison has carried the weight on his shoulder admirably but Penney and his staff would surely have to be contemplating how they can arrest their slow start to the season.

Australian sides have chewed up, spat out and mismanaged a number of emerging 10s in recent years and the way Penney approaches Harrison’s journey will be pivotal for the Waratahs’ hopes.