LIKE the club’s owners 24 hours earlier, Melbourne Rebels players finally showed some fight last night.
And hopefully for the beleaguered Super Rugby club its off-field fight goes the same way as its on-field battle last night, as finally the Rebels broke their 2017 duck with a heart-stopping 19-17 win over the ACT Brumbies at AAMI Park.
The win keeps the Rebels in the mix for what would still be an unlikely finals appearance, considering the Australian conference-leading Brumbies have won just three games themselves so far this season.
Trailing 17-16 with seven minutes to go, Reece Hodge missed a chance to put the Rebels in front with a penalty from halfway.
But after the home team’s set piece proved to be a trump card on a rare occasion this season — winning a penalty from a scrum against the feed in the 77th minute — Hodge would not make the same mistake less than three minutes from time, nailing his fourth penalty of the night to give the Rebels a deserved victory.
Set against an edgy backdrop created by the uncertainty around the club’s future, you could see how much the win meant to the players and coaches alike, with both the decisive penalty and full-time whistle celebrated with gusto.
Likewise the small but passionate crowd on hand also roared as if they had won a grand final.
Suddenly tomorrow’s trip to South Africa for matches against the Sharks and Kings doesn’t seem as daunting as it might have, as the team’s season maintains its pulse.
The Rebels played with an aggression that has rarely been seen from them so far in 2017.
Rebels cop double yellow1:54
Super Rugby: Colby Faingaa and Lopeti Tomani have both been sent to the sin bin for separate infringements in the same ruck.
That aggression also cost them at times, as three separate players spent time in the sin bin throughout the night, with the Brumbies twice capitalising through the brilliant Henry Speight.
But Speight didn’t have too many support acts in Brumbies jerseys last night in what could only be described as a laboured performance by the visitors.
Melbourne had been the only winless team remaining in Super Rugby, so Stephen Larkham will see this as a missed opportunity for his side.
The Rebels only other score came from a Sefa Naivalu try early in the first half.
The 15th minute score was the first time the Rebels had truly executed what they had built so much of their pre-season plans around.
A prolonged period of possession led to NRL convert Marika Koroibete making a menacing run on the left wing, before a couple of phases later Naivalu decisively broke through two tackles on the opposite wing to score against the stretched ACT defence.
Another 13-phase build-up on the eve of half time almost led to Naivalu nabbing his second, only for a try-saving Tom Banks tackle to deny him at the death.
But it mattered nought in the long-run, as the Rebels finally got the win they had desperately craved.
MELBOURNE REBELS 19 def ACT BRUMBIES 17
At AAMI Park
REBELS (Naivalu try; Hodge conv, 4 pen) bt BRUMBIES (Speight 2, Butler tries; Hawera conv)
Originally published as Rebels down Brumbies to end Super Rugby drought
SOURCE: newsnow sport