The Melbourne Rebels maintained their stranglehold over the Western Force in Vodacom Super Rugby by scoring an entertaining 30-23 win in Perth on Saturday.
The Rebels have become a hoodoo team for the Force, who were outplayed early and then came back strongly before eventually losing it to a Jason Woodward try with 10 minutes to go. Woodward chased down his own chip to dot down to break a 23-all deadlock.
The Force were never ahead in the match, but had their opportunities, with Sias Ebersohn missing two regulation penalty kicks that could have made all the difference, while a conversion of the Patrick Dellit try that drew the teams level with 14 minutes to go was also missed, this time by Kyle Godwin after Ebersohn had gone off the field injured.
It never looked like being close in the first quarter, with the Rebels powering into a 15-0 lead in not that many more minutes. Lock Hugh Pyle scored the first try as he powered down the left flank in the space left for him by the defenders’ pre-occupation with the Rebels’ dangerous winger Richard Kingi, and while James O’Connor missed the conversion he was on target with a penalty a few minutes later.
The second try came straight after Ebersohn’s first penalty miss, Woodward delivering a telling psychological blow against the posts by scoring the first of two tries that he scored by chasing chip kicks. This time O’Connor got the conversion spot on, and the Rebels were in control.
However the Force dominated the rest of the half, scoring 11 points in the remaining minutes to make it 15-11 at the break. All those points came in the last seven minutes of the opening period, with Winston Stanley going over in the 33rd minute as the Rebels just ran out of defenders after the Force took a tap penalty in a kickable position.
Ebersohn kicked two penalties within a minute of each other on the stroke of halftime, one of them a long range attempt, and it enabled the Force to arguably go into the shed at the break with a psychological advantage. A
And they may well have drummed that psychological advantage home had Ebersohn not missed a 45th minute penalty from nearly in front that would have made it a one point game. Instead, as they had after an earlier Ebersohn miss, the Rebels made the Force pay for the miss by striking immediately, with a brilliant pass from O’Connor presenting Kingi with the space he needed to scorch through for a try that regained the Rebels a bit of their previous buffer.
That advantage was extended to 12 points by the 59th minute as O’Connor kicked a penalty, but then came the Force fightback as they struck back with five pointers from Will Tupou and Dellit. As they had against the Cheetahs a fortnight previously, however, the Force fluffed the platform they had created to strike for victory, and instead it was the Rebels who came through to repeat their win in Melbourne earlier in the season and ensure they remain unbeaten in Super Rugby in Perth.
WESTERN FORCE – Tries: Winston Stanley, Will Tupou, Patrick Dellit. Conversion: Kyle Godwin. Penalties: Sias Ebersohn 2.
MELBOURNE REBELS – Tries: Hugh Pyle, Jason Woodward 2 and Richard Kingi. Conversions: James O’Connor 2. Penalties: James O’Connor 2.