Five things we learnt from Melbourne Rebels - Chiefs

Fri, May 17, 2024, 11:37 AM
Nathan Williamson
by Nathan Williamson

The Melbourne Rebels pushed the Chiefs all the way as the visitors held on for a 26-23 win in Melbourne.

It was an emotional night for the Rebels in what could be their final game, mounting the comeback before the class of Damian McKenzie and co proved the difference.

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So what did we learn?

1. Early finals test

The Chiefs proved they can close it out when it matters most.

They have blown away sides in the past fortnight but the mental fortitude shown to take the emotion out of the class and come away with the win was crucial for their season.

Games against the Blues and Hurricanes over the next fortnight will be the real test of where they sit in the title race.

Wins in either of those games will vault them straight into contention, whilst defeats could see a home quarter-final slip away.

2. For Melbourne

In what could be their final home game, the Rebels gave it all 

They nearly produced the magic when two late tries sparked the Melbourne faithful, only to be stopped by a quality Chiefs side.

The round of applause in the 14th minute was a nice touch to celebrate the history of the club and there seemed to be added excitement in the air as fans rode every tackle, carry and big hit from the hosts.

Whatever happens to the Rebels after this year is still up in the air but there’s still so much to play with a maiden finals appearance on the line only boosted by the bonus point.

3. Bledisloe preview

Both flyhalves stood up for their side as they entertained AAMI Park with their skill.

Damian McKenzie was lethal when he took the line on, constantly breaking tackles and looking a threat whenever he touched the ball. His goal-kicking also proved critical, making every shot in the tight win.

He was matched by Carter Gordon, who seemed freed by the lack of goal kicking responsibility. He picked the perfect moment to twice hit his fullback Jake Strachan to set up Lachie Anderson to give the Rebels hope.

The pair could potentially duel it out come Bledisloe time, although the fact Gordon is now a second-choice kicker remains a concern. 

4. Hello Mr Anderson

Lachie Anderson flies under the radar but his development over the past 12 months has been superb.

Anderson sparked them early with a nice break from his own half, showing off the pace. He copped a lot of criticism early in the year when he got burnt by Charlie Cale but don’t let that fool you: he’s one of the quickest in the competition.

He also kept his width perfectly to score twice in the corner to spark the comeback late.

Anderson was supported by fellow winger and late starter Glen Vaihu, another with rapid pace and excellent finishing abilities.

5. Walking wounded

Rebels coach Kevin Foote will be sweating on a number of casualties from a physical contest.

Before the match, they lost two of their brightest stars Isaac Kailea and Darby Lancaster, compounded after backrowers Vaiolini Ekuasi (hip) and Josh Kemeny (concussion) went off early in the first half, leaving them vastly different from the team that was named on Wednesday.

Carter Gordon looked set to join them after a nasty shot from Tupou Vaa’i but managed to pass his HIA before the break.

None are expected to be long term but with a spate of injuries last weekend, it’s a position the Rebels are becoming familiar with at the wrong end of the competition.