They say there’s no place like home, but Melbourne Rebels captain Matt Toomua says his team won’t be naive by simply assuming their long-awaited return to Melbourne will translate into more wins.
The Rebels ended their month-long road trip with a brave 10-7 win over the Western Force in Perth on Friday night.
The win – achieved while playing with just 14 men for the final 11 minutes of the match – came after they’d suffered heartbreaking losses to the Brumbies and Reds to start the season.
The Rebels spent all of last season on the road, and were forced to flee Victoria again on February 12 in order to escape a fresh COVID-19 hotspot.
But they will now return to Melbourne for four straight home games, starting with next Friday’s clash with the Waratahs at AAMI Park.
It will be the Rebels’ first match in Melbourne since beating the Lions 37-17 on March 7 last year.
Toomua praised his side’s heart and resilience after their win over the Force, and said they were all looking forward to returning home.
“I’m really proud to be going home with an away win,” Toomua said.
“This is all part of our story. We’ll look back at this and know this was very important for us.
“It will be awesome to train at AAMI Park, and awesome to wake up in our own beds and see our family.
“But wins aren’t going to come just because now we’re at home, we’re not that naive.
“But there’s going to be an energy lift amongst the group.”
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) March 13, 2021
Rebels coach Dave Wessels conceded his team’s win wasn’t pretty.
But what they lacked in polish they made up for in heart, repelling the Force time and again in the dying minutes despite being down a man.
Wessels believes the team’s fighting spirit has grown because of the adversity they’ve faced being on the road for so long over the past year.
“I was racing to the border, the ACT, we had 65 people in cars,” Wessels said in reference to when the team had to leave Melbourne last month.
“I wasn’t sure where we were going to stay. It was midnight. I was lining up a night of sleeping in my car. So that’s where we started a few weeks ago.
“The players have really handled that well. Things have been thrown at us, and it’s been a blessing for the group because it’s made us more resilient.
“The connection the group has is pretty special. I think that’s what got us over the line.”
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