The Reds will face the Brumbies in the Super Rugby AU final next week after beating the Rebels 25-13 in Saturday’s qualifier playoff in Brisbane.
This was one of those games that won’t particularly live long in the memory, but it wasn’t bad either. In summary, the Rebels, playing in their first-ever knockout match, started well but didn’t make it count; the Reds absorbed all the early pressure and when scoring opportunities came, they took it.
The result, which was the Reds’ first fourth straight Aussie derby win since 2011, will have coach Brad Thorn’s men square off in the Super Rugby AU title decider against the Brumbies in Canberra next week.
In a national context, the one big concern from this match for Wallabies coach Dave Rennie ahead of the Bledisloe Cup series and Rugby Championship, is the injuries to key Test players. Reds duo Jordan Petaia and Chris Feauai-Sautia and Rebels trio Dane Haylett-Petty, Matt Toomua and Jordan Uelese all succumbed to injury early in the game.
The Rebels had all the early momentum, but the Reds defended well and were rewarded with a try against the run of play when centre Jordan Petaia plucked a wild pass out of the air and sprinted away to score at the other end.
Wallabies playmakers Matt Toomua and James O’Connor then traded penalties as the Reds reinstated their seven-point advantage. It could’ve been a different scoreline and story altogether had the Rebels not have a try ruled out because wing Andrew Kellaway touched the in-goalline before dotting down.
Be that as it may, the Reds failed to extend their lead and on the stroke of half time the Rebels would eventually get that much sought-after try when wing Marika Koroibete touched down to level the scores at 10-10.
The Reds’ scrum were under pressure throughout the first half, but they asserted dominance at the set piece in the second stanza and it helped them seize control of the contest.
The hosts outscored the Rebels 10 points to three in the 20 minutes after the restart. With all the injury disruptions, the match morphed into an uneventful affair in the final quarter. But with just one score separating the sides, the Reds needed to seal the deal and it came in the form of a try from wing Filipo Daugunu with around five minutes remaining.
Reds – Tries: Jordan Petaia, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Filipo Daugunu. Conversions: James O’Connor (2). Penalties: O’Connor (2).
Rebels – Try: Marika Koroibete. Conversion: Matt Toomua. Penalties: Toomua, Reece Hodge.
Reds – 15 Jock Campbell, 14 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 13 Jordan Petaia, 12 Hamish Stewart, 11 Filipo Daugunu, 10 James O’Connor, 9 Tate McDermott, 8 Harry Wilson, 7 Fraser McReight, 6 Liam Wright (c), 5 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 4 Angus Blyth, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 1 Harry Hoopert.
Subs: 16 Alex Mafi, 17 JP Smith, 18 Jack Straker, 19 Tuaina Taii Tualima, 20 Angus Scott-Young, 21 Moses Sorovi, 22 Bryce Hegarty, 23 Hunter Paisami.
Rebels – 15 Dane Haylett-Petty (c), 14 Andrew Kellaway, 13 Reece Hodge, 12 Billy Meakes, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Frank Lomani, 8 Isi Naisarani, 7 Richard Hardwick, 6 Brad Wilkin, 5 Trevor Hosea, 4 Matt Philip, 3 Jermaine Ainsley, 2 Jordan Uelese, 1 Cameron Orr.
Subs: 16 Efitusi Ma’afu, 17 Cabous Eloff, 18 Matt Gibbon, 19 Michael Stolberg, 20 Rob Leota, 21 Theo Strang, 22 Andrew Deegan, 23 Campbell Magnay.