Rebels break Force's hearts in Super time
MATCH REPORT: Melbourne made no mistake with their second crack at Super Time, edging the Western Force 25-20 in their grudge match at Leichhardt Oval on Friday.
Wallabies No.8 Isi Naisarani, playing his first game in Super Rugby AU following a hamstring injury, scored the match-winning try in the second minute of extra time.
*As it happened: Force v Rebels
The Rebels had already had a taste of extra time, drawing with the Reds in round two.
The last time the teams met in 2017 they were fighting for Super Rugby survival, with the Force winning that match and the Rebels the battle to stay in the competition.
But they again broke Force hearts, leaving them winless after four games.
Both teams had the chance to break the 20-20 deadlock a penalty kick by Force five-eighth Jono Lance going wide before a 60m strike by Rebels fullback Reece Hodge after the fulltime hooter fell short.
For a third time in four matches the Force built an early lead, only to allow their opposition back into the game.
The match was stalled for more than five minutes early on with Force flanker Tevin Ferris stretchered off with a suspected neck injury after an awkward tackle, leaving his teammates looking rattled.
It was a scrappy first half, with referee Angus Gardner blowing 18 penalties including 11 conceded by the Rebels as well as a yellow card for Naisarani.
The final penalty count was 16-12.
There was plenty of feeling in the match, with the teams involved in a scuffle midway through the half with Gardner telling the captains: “I understand there’s some history between the two teams so let’s put that down to getting it out of the system”.
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The Force looked like they would take the lead into the main break until Hodge managed to nail a penalty from 45m out two minutes after the hooter.
The teams traded tries and penalties in an upbeat second half, while Force skipper Jeremy Thrush was also hit with a yellow card for a ruck infringement.
Lance levelled the score after 63 minutes but neither side could find the winning points, pushing the game into extra time.
The Force spilt the ball from the kick-off and Rebels, through Naisarani, rumbled over.
Man of the match: Aside from missing a crucial penalty kick and a wayward pass, Western Force flyhalf Jono Lance was one of the standout performers for his side. However, our nod goes to Rebels duo Marika Koroibete and Jordan Uelese. The wing made some noteworthy runs, while the hooker was vital upfront with his powerful drives
For Western Force:
Tries: Lee-Warner, Ralston
Cons: Lance 2
Pens: Lance 2
For Melbourne Rebels
Tries: Uelese, Philip, Naisarani
Cons: Toomua 2
Pens: Hodge, Toomua
Yellow cards: Isi Naisarani (Rebels, 24 – Not rolling away), Jeremy Thrush (Force, 50 – Cynical foul)
Western Force: 15 Jack McGregor, 14 Byron Ralston, 13 Kyle Godwin, 12 Richard Kahui, 11 Marcel Brache, 10 Jono Lance, 9 Ian Prior (captain), 8 Brynard Stander, 7 Tevin Ferris, 6 Henry Stowers, 5 Fergus Lee-Warner, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Kieran Longbottom, 2 Feleti Kaitu’u, 1 Chris Heiberg.
Replacements: 16 Andrew Ready, 17 Pek Cowan, 18 Tom Sheminant, 19 Johan Bardoul, 20 Ollie Callan, 21 Nick Frisby, 22 Henry Taefu, 23 Brad Lacey.
Melbourne Rebels: 15 Reece Hodge (co-captain), 14 Tom Pincus, 13 Andrew Kellaway, 12 Billy Meakes, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Matt Toomua (co-captain), 9 Ryan Louwrens, 8 Isi Naisarani, 7 Richard Hardwick, 6 Michael Wells, 5 Trevor Hosea, 4 Esei Haangana, 3 Jermaine Ainsley, 2 Jordan Uelese, 1 Cameron Orr.
Replacements: 16 Efitusi Ma’afu, 17 Cabous Eloff, 18 Pone Fa’amaluli, 19 Matt Philip, 20 Rob Leota, 21 Brad Wilkin, 22 Frank Lomani, 23 Andrew Deegan.
Referee: Angus Gardner
Assistant referees: Amy Perrett, Reuben Keane
TMO: James Leckie