Rebels end season on a high

Date published: July 15 2016

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The Melbourne Rebels finished their season with a high-scoring 31-28 victory over the Reds in Brisbane on Friday.

With both sides out of contention for the play-offs, there was little to play for but they deserve credit for delivering an entertaining spectacle as they ran the ball at every opportunity and they were rewarded with four tries apiece. 

The result was a momentous one for the Rebels as it means they have equalled the club's record of winning seven matches during the league phase of the competition.

The visitors dominated the opening half and held a 24-7 lead at half-time but the Reds didn't surrender and fought back well after the interval and two quick tries – from Liam Gill and Samu Kerevi – after the restart, reduced the deficit to just three points, before the visitors struck back with a five-pointer from Nic Stirzaker which proved decisive in the end.

Rebels back-row Sean McMahon was his side's hero as he delivered a superb all-round performance. The Wallaby proved to be a handful with ball in hand, gaining 91 metres and he was rewarded with a brace of tries for his effort.

The Reds had their moments but a poor defensive effort and a plethora of handling errors, especially in the first, ultimately led to their desmise. 

The Rebels made a superb start when, two minutes after the kick off, McMahon tore the home side's defence to shreds with a telling break before drawing in a defender and offloading to Tom English, who had an easy run-in for the opening try.

Jack Debreczeni added the extras and made it 10-0 from the kicking tee in the 10th minute after several Reds forwards went off their feet at a ruck.

Three minutes later, the Reds narrowed the gap when Nick Frisby exploited space around the fringe of a ruck before diving over for his side's first try. 

There was little exciting to report during the next 15 minutes but the match came alive in the 28th minute when, midway between the Reds' 10-metre line and their 22, McMahon took on the home side's defence before beating three defenders on his way to his first try. 

Five minutes later, he crossed for his second try after spotting a gap at a ruck deep inside the Reds' 22 which meant the visitors were cruising when the teams changed sides at the interval.

The Reds were the dominant side during the first 10 minutes after the restart, and had 82 percent of the possession during this period. 

That dominance was rewarded in the 48th minute when Gill got over the whitewash from close quarters and five minutes later Kerevi ran onto an inside pass from Frisby before beating a couple of defenders on his way over the whitewash, which meant the Reds were back in the game with the score at 24-21 to the Rebels.

From the restart, the Reds were under pressure at a ruck inside their 22 and Stirzaker restored parity when he charged down Duncan Paia’aua's clearance kick and regathered the rebound before crossing for an easy try.

Although they were now trailing by 10 points, after Debreczeni slotted the conversion, that was a minor setback for the Reds as they continued to dominate.

They were eventually rewarded when Gill crossed for his second try, in similar fashion to his first from a ruck close to the Rebels' try-line, which meant the Rebels had a few nervous moments during the game's closing stages.

And although the Reds threw everything into their attack, in a bid to complete their fightback, the men from Melbourne held on during the last 10 minutes for a deserved victory.

The scorers:

For Reds:
Tries:
Gill 2, Frisby, Kerevi
Cons: Frisby 3, Taefu

For Rebels:
Tries:
McMahon 2, English, Stirzaker
Cons: Debreczeni 4
Pen: Debreczeni

Reds: 15 Tom Banks, 14 Chris Kuridrani, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Henry Taefu, 11 Eto Nabuli, 10 Duncan Paia’aua, 9 Nick Frisby, 8 Curtis Browning, 7 Liam Gill (c), 6 Hendrik Tui, 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Cadeyrn Neville, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 Andrew Ready, 1 Sef Fa’agase
Replacements: 16 Saia Fainga’a, 17 Ben Daley, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Lukhan Tui, 20 Michael Gunn, 21 James Tuttle, 22 Alex Gibbon, 23 Campbell Magnay

Rebels: 15 Paul Asquith, 14 Sefa Naivalu, 13 Mitch Inman, 12 Reece Hodge, 11 Tom English, 10 Jack Debreczeni, 9 Nic Stirzaker (c), 8 Colby Fainga’a, 7 Jordy Reid, 6 Sean McMahon, 5 Culum Retallick, 4 Luke Jones, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 James Hanson, 1 Toby Smith 
Replacements: 16 Pat Leafa, 17 Cruze Ah Nau, 18 Jamie Hagan, 19 Sam Jeffries, 20 Rob Leota, 21 Ben Meehan, 22 Sione Tuipulotu, 23 Jack Maddocks

Referee: Will Houston (Australia)
Assistant Referees: Andrew Lees (Australia), Amy Perrett (Australia)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)

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