Rebels ready for finals hurrah against Hurricanes

Melissa Woods |

Carter Gordon is one of two big inclusions for the Rebels’ finals clash against the Hurricanes.
Carter Gordon is one of two big inclusions for the Rebels’ finals clash against the Hurricanes.

Melbourne’s hopes of pulling off a massive upset in their Super Rugby Pacific quarter-final against the high-flying Hurricanes have been boosted by the availability of star playmaker Carter Gordon and skipper Rob Leota.

Playing in their first- and last – Super finals campaign after being told last week the club will be shuttered at the end of the season, the eighth-placed Rebels face a daunting task against the top-ranked Wellington outfit on Saturday.

No Australian side has beaten a New Zealand Super Rugby team in a play-off in the competition’s 28-year history, while the Rebels were humbled by the Hurricanes 54-28 in their last meeting in round five.

Melbourne’s Gordon is set to return after two weeks sidelined through concussion symptoms while big No.8 Leota has passed HIA protocols after a couple of heavy knocks in their 40-19 loss to Fijian Drua last round.

“They’ve trained today so they’re all fully fit and hopefully they’ll get on the flight depending on how we come up after training,” said Rebels coach Kevin Foote.

“Carter’s done really well, Robbie’s fine and everyone else is good to go.”

The Rebels had to fly to Fiji just hours after Rugby Australia delivered the shattering news about the financially-stricken club’s future.

Phil Waugh and Dan Herbert.
RA CEO Phil Waugh (L) and chairman Dan Herbert (R) deliver the news the Rebels have been kicked out. (Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS)

Foote said it had been a tough period but the players and coaching staff at least had clarity and were determined to leave the competition on a high.

“Controlling what you can control has been our mantra from the get-go and when we do leave we want to leave with our heads held high,” the coach said.

“My job is to control their emotions as best I can … but it’s quarter-finals, and it’s something special for us and there’s a lot of excitement around that.

“I understand that the history tells you that the Australian teams haven’t done well but you’re only one result away from doing something special so you can’t worry about that.”

Melbourne trailed the Hurricanes 33-7 by halftime in the Palmerston North meeting and Foote said his side needed a fast start to put the home side on the back foot.

“They were excellent to start the game, they executed really, really well and put us under a lot of pressure,” he said.

“They’ve played some stunning rugby this year so we understand that the start of the game is very important, especially in finals, and controlling their tempo and understanding how we compete is going to be paramount to us getting a result.”

In other Super news, Queensland, who will take on the Chiefs in Hamilton on Friday night, announced the re-signing of centre Josh Flook and lock Ryan Smith.

The pair have been key to the Reds’ resurgence this season under new coach Les Kiss.