Rebels squeak home
The Melbourne Rebels finally broke their 12-game losing streak as they survived a late comeback against the Western Force to sneak home 30-29 in Melbourne Friday.
The victory in the derby was a welcome relief for the Rebels, who lost in the dying seconds last weekend and almost suffered the same fate this week as the Force came back from 19-0 down to secure two bonus points in the process.
In a game which was surprisingly entertaining given both sides are in the bottom half of the league table, the Rebels started off excellently by opening up the big lead early but then watched as the Force clawed their way back into the game.
It must be said that the Rebels suffered a setback before the game when their halfback combination of James O’Connor and Richard Kingi both pulled out with hamstring strains before the game.
Even though they lost one playmaker before the game, the Rebels were first on the scoreboard as Danny Cipriani, who signed for the Sale Sharks this week, threw a great pass to Lachie Mitchell who stepped past one defender to go over and score.
Lloyd Johannson went over seven minutes later as the Force defence was unable to hold out on their own line, before Cipriani scored the try of the match shortly afterwards to ensure the big lead early on.
A turnover on their own line was sent wide, with Marc Gerrard doing some excellent work, throwing a perfect dummy before passing inside to a flying Cipriani, who wouldn’t be stopped on his way to the line.
The Force brought themselves back into the game after a bit of fortune went their way, as a ripped ball from their driving maul hit a Rebels foot and went towards the tryline, with David Pocock pouncing on it to score the try.
Julian Huxley stretched the lead with a penalty but it was the Force who announced they were back in the game, as after a good period of play, Brett Sheehan sent a massive long pass out to Winston Stanley on the blind side, and the midfielder had enough power to crash over the line.
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At 24-12 up at the break, the Rebels would have felt relatively safe, but were probably not prepared for the onslaught that the Force would throw their way in the second half.
The first response from the Force came as early as the fourth minute of the second half, when Alfi Mafi sliced through the defence to score his side’s third try, with David Harvey’s conversion and penalty a few minutes later bringing the visitors within two points of the Rebels.
A Huxley penalty took the lead back to five, but the Force took the lead through a great angled run by Nic Cummins, who hit the line at pace and scored the crucial try to put them ahead.
With both sides attacking desperately, it was the Force who finally blinked, as fetcher David Pocock was pinned at the breakdown for not supporting his body weight and Huxley got the Rebels back in front.
A tense last eight minutes saw the Force throw everything they could into attack, but the Rebels held on, even though it was by the skin of their teeth.
By one point or more, the Rebels have waited long for this victory and will be celebrating it in style tonight.
Melbourne Rebels – Tries: Lachlan Mitchell, Lloyd Johansson, Daniel Cipriani. Conversions: Cipriani (3). Penalties: Julien Huxley (2), Mark Gerrard.
Western Force – Tries: David Pocock, Winston Stanley, Alfi Mafi, Nick Cummins. Conversions: David Harvey (3). Penalty: Harvey