Thirteen-man Rebels keep Tahs winless
The Melbourne Rebels have consigned the Waratahs to an unprecedented winless Super Rugby AU season with a 36-25 victory in the battle of the competition’s two also-rans.
The Rebels overcame two red cards to humiliate the Waratahs one last time on Saturday.
While only a truncated competition, Saturday’s defeat marks the first time an Australian team has finished a Super Rugby campaign without a win.
The Western Force’s shock victory over the previously unbeaten Reds on Friday eliminated the Rebels from the play-off race and only time will tell if their consolation win saves embattled coach Dave Wessels from the sack.
Wessels is under extreme pressure to keep his job after four years of under-achieving from the Rebels under his tenure.
“The elephant in the room is we’re out now,” said Rebels captain Matt Toomua.
The Rebels’ 2021 record reads three wins from eight, having painfully lost four contests on the final play of the match.
That’s significantly better than the Waratahs’ none-from-eight, after the NSW board dispensed with coach Rob Penney following the side’s first five defeats.
With little more than pride and the Weary Dunlop Shield to play for, the Rebels – having managed to score only 10 tries in seven previous games – crossed after only 40 seconds on Saturday through centre Stacey Ili.
Wessels’ men ended an eventful point-a-minute first half with a 21-18 lead despite having Wallabies No.8 Isi Naisarani sent off for high tackle on Waratahs lock Max Douglas in the 19th minute.
Naisarani was making his first appearance of the year following off-season knee surgery and only minutes earlier set up the Rebels’ second try from the back of a scrum for Michael Wells.
But his mistimed tackle on Douglas sparked a melee and also seemed to jolt the Waratahs into action.
Trailing 6-15 before Naisarani saw red card, the Waratahs cut the half-time deficit to three points with two tries in eight minutes before the break, to Mark Nawaqanitawase and Jack Maddocks.
But that was as close as the home side got, with second-half tries to Robert Leota and Matt Gibbon sealing the Waratahs’ fate, after Rebels prop Pone Faamausili was red-carded three minutes from full-time, also for a high tackle on Douglas.
One shining light for the Waratahs was another outstanding performance from powerhouse centre Izaia Perese, who has emerged as a genuine Wallabies prospect with his eye-catching form over the past month.
For the Waratahs
Tries: Nawaqanitawase, Maddocks, Tizzano
Cons: Donaldson 2
Pens: Donaldson 2
For the Melbourne Rebels
Tries: Ili, Wells, Leota, Gibbon
Cons: Toomua 2
Pens: Toomua 4
Red cards: Isi Naisarani (Melbourne Rebels, 20 – foul play, high tackle and punching), Pone Faamausili (Melbourne Rebels, 77 – foul play, high tackle)
Yellow card: James Hanson (Melbourne Rebels, 75 – repeated infringements, killing the ball at the ruck)
Waratahs: 15 Jack Maddocks, 14 Alex Newsome, 13 Izaia Perese, 12 Lalakai Foketi, 11 James Ramm, 10 Ben Donaldson, 9 Jake Gordon (captain), 8 Will Harris, 7 Carlo Tizzano, 6 Lachlan Swinton, 5 Max Douglas, 4 Hugh Sinclair, 3 Harry Johnson-Holmes, 2 David Porecki, 1 Angus Bell.
Replacements: 16 Joe Cotton, 17 Te Tera Faulkner, 18 Darcy Breen, 19 Jeremy Williams, 20 Michael Wood, 21 Charlie Gamble, 22 Jack Grant, 23 Tane Edmed.
Melbourne Rebels: 15 Tom Pincus, 14 Frank Lomani, 13 Stacey Ili, 12 Campbell Magnay, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Matt To’omua (captain), 9 Joe Powell, 8 Isi Naisarani, 7 Brad Wilkin, 6 Michael Wells, 5 Ross Haylett- Petty, 4 Robert Leota, 3 Cabous Eloff, 2 Jordan Uelese, 1 Cameron Orr.
Replacements: 16 James Hanson, 17 Matt Gibbon, 18 Pone Faamausili, 19 Steve Cummins, 20 Richard Hardwick, 21 Joshua Kemeny, 22 Carter Gordon, 23 George Worth.
Referee: Nic Berry
Assistant referees: Amy Perrett, Brett Cronan
TMO: James Leckie