On a balmy Autumn evening in Melbourne, the Rebels came up against the perpetual darlings of Aussie provincial rugby.
The Rebels came in keen to prove consolidate a great start to the season and take honours against the ACT for the home and away season. Wessels, ever the tweaker of lineups, named Prop Matt Gibbon, hooker Robbie Abel and Rob Leota at blindside for their first starts for the Rebels. Adam Coleman also made the starting lineup with foundation Rebel Luke Jones moving to the bench.
Ever the favourites with journalists and fans alike, living off the memories of the flowing rugby from the days of yore, the Brumbies were a shadow of the most successful Aussie franchise. The first half was a typically slow affair, punctured by much crowd frustration and the Rebels getting sucked in to Rugby reminiscent of an old boys vs masters match. The way they play nowadays this rugger blogger wouldn’t be surprised if their playbook includes an “attacking” rolling maul try from their 5m line.
The Brumbies much more experienced all-Wallaby front row hardly got a look in against the sprightly Rebel bunch, but it was the visitors who led at half time, 3 – 13. Not sure what happened, didnt really see much as the jam donuts and merchandise shop were far more interesting. Scored myself one of those brilliant new pink training tees. Love it. I just wish the chicken tenders came with proper chips not those ridiculous potato whatevers.
The 2nd half was a much more exciting and the Rebels came out and played their own style. Holding on to the ball far more, kicking for territory more clinically and building off the ascendent packs momentum to unleash some explosive backline play.
The stats showed it was a fairly even contest across the board, however it could be said the weight of ref decisions (not the count), was in favour of the Brumbies and the better scoring opportunities fell to the Rebels.
Ultimately, the Rebels new front row prevailed over the Wallabies front row and once the Rebels stopped falling for the Brumbies game and started playing their own, they looked more like the Brumbies people talk about and more like the new hope for Aussie provincial rugger.
With players like Hodge, Rangi and Jones on the bench, Uelese on the long term injured list and the up and coming Rob Leota packing at blindside or 8, there is a hell of a lot to get excited about for Rugby in Melbourne.
Onto Africa now and one more hoodoo to break before we can truly get excited.
If you chip it, you gotta chase.