South African's try help Rebels survive Force scare
MATCH REPORT: The Melbourne Rebels left it late to claim a hard-fought 34-30 win over Western Force in Newcastle.
The Western Force were on the brink of their first Super Rugby AU win, however, a 79th minute try by Cabous Eloff spoiled their celebration.
*As it happened: Rebels v Force
The Rebels needed to beat the Force by at least four points to earn a play-off berth ahead of the NSW Waratahs and Matt Toomua calmly slotted the conversion after Eloff’s match-winning try .
In a heart-stopping final minute it appeared Melbourne’s reserve hooker Efi Ma’afu had scored but referee Angus Gardner said he had no clear vision with the TMO ruling the ball had been spilt backwards.
However, play had continued with Cabous Eloff picking up the ball and planting it next to the post, with the TMO awarding that effort.
That gave the Rebels a 32-30 lead, however, a win wasn’t enough, with Toomua’s conversion required to seal their maiden finals appearance.
“A little bit of relief and just really proud of the boys, we stuck at it there,” Rebels captain Dane Haylett-Petty said.
“Credit to the Force, for a long period of the game there they were on top of us and yeah, it was a great effort to fight back and score that try.”
It was an action-packed match with three players given yellow cards and the teams going toe-to-toe for the full 80 minutes.
Matt Philip looked liked he’d scored in the 78th minute but again there was no clear view of the grounding.
The Rebels will meet the Queensland Reds in the qualifying final next Saturday.
The winner of that will meet the Brumbies in Canberra on September 19.
It’s the third year in a row that Melbourne’s hopes of a finals berth have hung on a final-round result, and it looked like 2020 would continue their form of falling short.
The match on Saturday came three years to the day that the Perth-based Force were sensationally axed from Super Rugby – with Melbourne keeping their place instead.
Force hooker Andrew Ready looked to have been the the unlikely hero, scoring a try either side of halftime from a driving maul.
Before that Melbourne looked in control, leading 20-8, with tries to Tom Pincus and Reece Hodge, while the Force’s early five-pointer was scored by centre Henry Taefua.
The Rebels took a 20-13 lead into the second half but the Force showed their never-say-die attitude to claw their way back and set up the sensational finish.
Man of the match: Aside from scoring two tries, this player was simply impeccable with his big hits, powerful scrum and couple of steals our man of the match goes to Western Force hooker Andrew Ready.
For Melbourne Rebels:
Tries: Pincus, Hodge, Haylett-Petty, Eloff
Cons: To’omua 4
Pens: To’omua 2
For Western Force:
Tries: Taefu, Ready 2, Stander
Cons: Prior 2
Pens: Prior 2
Yellow cards: Tom Pincus (Melbourne Rebels, 54 – Deliberate knock down), Byron Ralston (Western Force, 60 – dangerous tackle), Lee-Warner (Western Force, 74 – Foul play)
Western Force: 15 Jack McGregor, 14 Byron Ralston, 13 Kyle Godwin, 12 Henry Taefu, 11 Marcel Brache, 10 Jono Lance, 9 Ian Prior (captain), 8 Henry Stowers, 7 Brynard Stander, 6 Fergus Lee Warner, 5 Ollie Atkins, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Kieran Longbottom, 2 Andrew Ready, 1 Pek Cowan.
Replacements: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Chris Heiberg, 18 Dominic Hardman, 19 Johan Bardoul, 20 Kane Koteka, 21 Nick Frisby, 22 Nick Jooste, 23 Jake Strachan
Melbourne Rebels: 15 Dane Haylett-Petty (captain), 14 Tom Pincus, 13 Reece Hodge, 12 Bill Meakes, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Matt To’omua, 9 James Tuttle, 8 Isi Naisarani, 7 Richard Hardwick, 6 Michael Wells, 5 Trevor Hosea, 4 Matt Philip, 3 Jermaine Ainsley, 2 Jordan Uelese, 1 Cameron Orr.
Replacements: 16 Efitusi Ma’afu, 17 Cabous Eloff, 18 Matt Gibbon, 19 Michael Stolberg, 20 Brad Wilkin, 21 Frank Lomani, 22 Andrew Deegan, 23 Lachie Anderson
Referee: Angus Gardner
Assistant referees: Graham Cooper & Amy Perrett
TMO: James Leckie