The Rebels claimed a 31-28 victory over the Reds in Brisbane on Friday, writes MARIETTE ADAMS.
With nothing riding on the result, this match turned out to be a dreary and at times unwatchable affair. Yet the Rebels, coming off the back of a 13-try drubbing from the Crusaders, were just too strong for the embattled Reds.
There wasn't much skill involved in this all-Aussie contest and with the exception of a few moments of individual brilliance, there wasn't much separating these sides at the final whistle. But for not-so-Super Rugby teams like these, any win will do and the Rebels celebrated accordingly.
The hosts were waving goodbye to a number of the franchise's stalwarts and would have wanted to give them a fitting send-off at Suncorp Stadium, but the Rebels' strong start put them on the back foot and they never fully recovered despite a dominant scrum and accurate lineout.
Referee Will Houston had his work cut out in a game filled with basic errors and poor – touching on comical – handling. There were a combined 24 penalties conceded, 27 handling errors, 29 turnovers and 46 missed tackles.
The Rebels welcomed back Sean McMahon from injury and the Wallabies flanker made his presence felt with a standout performance to guide his team to a commanding 24-7 lead at the break. Though the Reds staged a mini-fightback after the restart to twice come within three points, the target proved just out of reach.
McMahon made a telling break in the second minute to set up Tom English's opening try. Moments later, Jordy Reid won a breakdown penalty and flyhalf Jack Debreczeni converted for a 10-point lead.
Both sides continued to concede unnecessary penalties and when the Reds received one, 15 minutes into the game, Nick Frisby took a quick tap to get within scoring distance. They recycled the ball for a couple of phases before Frisby sniped around the ruck to score a converted effort.
But just as it started to look promising for the Reds, McMahon struck twice before the break. With his team struggling to carry the ball over the gainline, McMahon powered past two tacklers in midfield, before beating the fullback on the outside to score a brilliant solo effort. Five minutes later they cantered in again, this time bulldozing over from close range as the Rebels went into the sheds 17 points to the good.
The loose structure of the game didn't change in the second half, but the Reds' ball protection did improve and they were rewarded with tries by outgoing captain Liam Gill and Samu Kerevi for a 24-21 scoreline. However, Rebels captain Nick Stirzaker took the game away from them once again when he partially charged down Duncan Paia’aua's clearance kick to score.
The Reds didn't give up and worked their way into Rebels territory before Gill barged over for his second, but that was their last score as the Rebels held on to complete the double over the Queenslanders and end their indifferent campaign on a high.
Reds – Tries: Nick Frisby, Liam Gill (2), Samu Kerevi. Conversions: Henry Taefu (2), Frisby (2).
Rebels – Tries: Tom English, Sean McMahon (2), Nic Stirzaker. Conversions: Jack Debreczeni (4). Penalty: 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.
Subs: 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.
Subs: 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.
Photo: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images