The Melbourne Rebels have consigned the NSW Waratahs to an unprecedented winless Super Rugby AU season with a 36-25 victory in the battle of the competition’s two also-rans.
The Rebels overcame two red cards to humiliate the Waratahs one last time at Bankwest Stadium on Saturday night.
While only a truncated competition, Saturday night’s defeat marks the first time any Australian team has finished a Super Rugby campaign without a win.
The Western Force’s shock victory over the previously-unbeaten Queensland Reds on Friday night eliminated the Rebels from the finals race and only time will tell if their consolation win saves embattled coach Dave Wessels from the sack.
Wessels is under extreme pressure to keep his job after four years of under-achieving from the Rebels under his tenure.
Naisarani puts on a high shot then throws hands with Lachie Swinton ?
— StanSportAU (@StanSportAU) April 24, 2021
“The elephant in the room is we’re out now,” said Rebels captain Matt Toomua.
The Rebels’ 2021 record reads three wins from eight, having painfully lost four contests on the final play of the match.
That’s significantly better than the Waratahs’ none-from-eight, after the NSW board dispensed with coach Rob Penney following the side’s first five defeats.
With little more than pride and the Weary Dunlop Shield to play for, the Rebels – having managed to score only 10 tries in seven previous games – crossed after only 40 seconds on Saturday through centre Stacey Ili.
130kg + Pone Fa'amausili was sent off for this brutal head shot, the Rebels' second red card of the day #WARvREB
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) April 24, 2021
Wessels’ men ended an eventful point-a-minute first half with a 21-18 lead despite having Wallabies No.8 Isi Naisarani sent off for high tackle on Waratahs lock Max Douglas in the 19th minute.
Naisarani was making his first appearance of the year following off-season knee surgery and only minutes earlier set up the Rebels’ second try from the back of a scrum for Michael Wells.
But his mis-timed tackle on Douglas sparked a melee and also seemed to jolt the Waratahs into action.
Trailing 15-6 before Naisarani s aw red card, the Waratahs cut the halftime defict to three points with two tries in eight minutes before the break, to Mark Naraqanitawase and Jack Mad docks.
But that was as close as the home side got, with second-half tries to Robert Leota and Matt Gibbon sealing the Waratahs’ fate, after Rebels prop Pone Faamausili was red-carded three minutes from fulltime, also for a high tackle on Douglas.
One shining light for the Waratahs was another outstanding performance from powerhouse centre Izaia Perese, who has emerged as a genuine Wallabies prospect with his eye-catching form over the past month.
REBELS 36 (Matt Gibbon, Stacey Ili, Rob Leota, Michael Wells tries Matt To’omua 2 cons 4 pens) bt NSW WARATAHS 25 (Jack Maddocks, Mark Nawaqanitawase, Carlo Tizzano tries Ben Donaldson 2 cons 2 pens) at Bankwest Stadium. Referee: Nic Berry.
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