Rebels fall to Blues after win in creditors vote

Melissa Woods |

The Rebels’ off-field turmoil has been exacerbated by a heavy loss to the Blues.
The Rebels’ off-field turmoil has been exacerbated by a heavy loss to the Blues.

Melbourne’s drama-charged day has ended with a disappointing 38-11 defeat to the heavyweight Blues in their Super Rugby Pacific clash.

The Rebels hosted one of the title favourites at AAMI Park on Friday night, hours after a vote by creditors on the debt-ridden Melbourne side’s future.

Rather than liquidate the club, the creditors voted to accept a proposal for survival from a consortium of investors, but the Rebels’ place in the 2025 competition is still far from assured.

Melbourne’s players tried to put that aside to take on the second-placed Blues, who have only suffered one loss in nine games, while the Rebels went into the match fifth on the ladder.

But the class difference proved far greater than the standings might have suggested, with the Blues running in six tries to one, with All Black winger Mark Tele’a and reserve lock Sam Darry each grabbing a double.

Mark Tele'a.
Mark Tele’a scored a double in the Blues’ emphatic victory. (Scott Barbour/AAP PHOTOS)

For the most part the Rebels matched the Blues and judging by statistics midway through the second half, should have been on top.

But the visitors’ ability to take advantage of their opportunities, and some rock-solid defence, helped them secure an emphatic win in the end, helped by two late tries.

The home side only trailed by a point after an entertaining first half, soured by the Blues losing Test back Rieko Ioane to a head clash just before the break.

Melbourne lost both centres David Feliuai (head) and Matt Proctor (shoulder) at the same time, both leaving after 30 minutes.

The Rebels were behind 24-11 when Blues playmaker Harry Plummer was given a yellow card for a high tackle, but were unable to take advantage of the extra man.

While the Rebels repeatedly hammered the Blues’ tryline and came up empty-handed, the Aucklanders ran in four second half tries, with Darry’s double coming in the 74th and 77th minutes.

Rebels Players celebrating.
The Rebels’ joy over Ryan Louwrens’ first-half try would be short-lived as the Blues roared back. (Scott Barbour/AAP PHOTOS)

Melbourne coach Kevin Foote praised his team’s character after such a testing day for the club.

“It was huge … we keep hanging in and what happened in the vote was a really good result for the club, it’s been a stressful time,” Foote said.

“First half, I think possession and territory were 65 per cent to us and then second half they just got away from us.

“We didn’t score the points when we were in their 22 and it really hurt.

“When they had the card, that was the time that we had to go.”

Blues coach Vern Cotter said his team were “going backwards” in the first half and was delighted with how they made a second half statement.

“It was a tough game and the first half was an arm wrestle and we were probably lucky to be in front at half time.

“Second half we had better intentions around the game. I just felt our guys did really well through the yellow card period and had a bit more in the tank at the end of the game.”

After three successive wins the Rebels have now lost two straight after crashing to the Crusaders last round.

They face the Reds in Brisbane next Friday night while the Blues meet the Hurricanes in a top of the table clash.

Cotter said while Ioane had recovered well from the head knock he wouldn’t be available for match.

AAP