The Roar
The Roar


Bolstered Rebels are serious contenders

(Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)
Roar Guru
4th March, 2018
1185 Reads

It’s early days, but the Melbourne Rebels look like serious contenders to at least top the Aussie conference in Super Rugby 2018.

Essentially a merged entity that’s taken all the best bits from the defunct Western Force, including captain Adam Coleman and coach David Wessels, Melbourne are playing with an organised, composed muscularity that they’ve simply not had before.

It’s not so much that they’ve achieved two bonus-point wins from their opening two games, it’s the manner that they’ve done so that suggests Victorians might need to squeeze in another oval-ball code to get excited about this year.

Twelve tries and 82 points for, versus five tries and 36 points against, is a dominant start in anyone’s language.

But before we get too carried away there are mitigating factors to address.

The opening game, at home against the Reds, was cruelled as a contest ten minutes after it started courtesy of the red card dished out to Queensland skipper Scott Higginbotham for a high tackle.

The Rebels had the numbers further stacked in their favour when Reds second rower Lukhan Tui was sin binned for a tip tackle.

This did rather take the gloss off the seven tries the Rebels mustered, a record for the franchise. However, those tries don’t score themselves and there were some real pearlers among them off a well-laid platform.


It’s hard to see the Reds changing the result of that match had they kept their full complement on the park.

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Their win on Saturday was against the lowly Sunwolves, albeit away in Tokyo. Despite all their pluck, courage, fitness and skill, the Japanese team still struggles to get the fundamentals, like lineouts, right often enough to be a consistent threat.

Despite this and a growing injury crisis, the Sunwolves delighted their home fans by keeping the Rebels to 10-all at halftime. Sadly for the crowd, three quick-fire tries in the minutes following the resumption put the game beyond doubt.

It’s worth remembering here that the Brumbies only just managed to subdue the Sunwolves a week earlier.

Of all the stellar off-season signings, Will Genia demonstrated on Saturday why his signature is the most important for the Rebels, with a display that showed he’s picking up from where he left off for the Wallabies last year, and is back to his world-class best.

Revelling in the set-piece dominance, the No. 9 was cutting capers all over the place, was instrumental in Sefa Naivalu’s try and all three of the highly impressive Jack Maddoks’.


Big, fast, direct and possessing a nose for the tryline, Maddocks has a touch of a young Joe Roff about him.

Good teams are built around strong spines and when you look at the backbone of this Rebels outfit, it’s hard to argue there’s any stronger in the Aussie conference.

From freshly minted Wallabies hooker Jordan Uelese to Coleman to the immense Amanaki Mafi at No.8, to Genia, to a growing-in-confidence Jack Debreczeni at 10, to Reece Hodge outside of him, to Dane Haylett-Petty at the back, there’s quality everywhere.

Throw in the bruising Lopeti Timani at blindside, the said two flyers out wide, reserve midfielder Billy Meakes, former British and Irish Lions lock Geoff Parling and Wallabies winger Marika Koroibete, due back from injury this week, and you’re talking serious cattle.

Marika Koroibete Australia Rugby Union Wallabies 2017

Marika Koroibete (Photo by Johan Pretorius/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

The subtext to Saturday’s game was Super Rugby truncation (the concentration of talent from two franchises into one) represented by the Rebels vs Super Rugby expansion represented by the Sunwolves.

The Rebels’ early success will be viewed by Rugby Australia as vindication for its bombshell decision to axe the Force late last year.


True vindication will only be achieved if the Rebels continue on their merry winning way and claim the odd inter-conference scalp to still be in contention at the pointy end of the season.

With four of their next five fixtures at home, there’s every chance Cameron Clyne and his buddies could be breathing easy for a while yet.