RYAN VREDE watched the Rebels romp to an emphatic 42-25 victory over the Hurricanes in Melbourne.
You would have been forgiven for switching channels 18 minutes into the match, convinced that at 17-0 the Hurricanes were en route to a vital away win. But few teams do spectacular capitulations quite like the Canes, and after a first quarter that promised much, they absolutely fell to pieces.
Credit must go to the Rebels for not surrendering meekly when most expected them to. They displayed tactical intelligence that they haven’t to date, were precise in most things they did on attack and remedied defensive failings mid-game, never an easy thing to do. They made the Canes look ordinary, and this performance suggest they’re starting to find the synergy that will make them difficult to beat going forward.
Canes scrumhalf Chris Eaton opened the scoring in the fourth minute and they gifted their next two tries through defence of a schoolboy variety – Lachlan Mitchell and Alister Campbell falling off straight up hits in the build-up to Victor Vito and Daniel Kirkpatrick’s tries.
Notwithstanding the Rebels’ charitable defence (they missed 14 tackles in the first 18 minutes), the Canes’ attack featured patient phase play, with an emphasis on dominating the collisions. However, having established a commanding lead, they became complacent and their play got loose. That veer away from the relative structure that had troubled the Rebels would ultimately be terminal to their cause.
The Rebels – led by the dynamic and irrepressible Jarrod Saffy – improved their defence as the match wore on and launched an effective assault on the Canes at ruck time. This eased their defensive task, and with some of that pressure alleviated, they could shift their focus to chipping away at the deficit.
They controlled the ball superbly through phases, denying the Canes any opportunity to stifle their attacking flow. Rodney Blake set the rebound mission into motion, before Alister Campbell and Michael Lipman swung the momentum in their team’s favour. Danny Cipriani’s 45m penalty just before the break levelled the scores at 20-all.
The directive to the Rebels would undoubtedly have been to continue to starve the Canes of possession, but even their coaches wouldn’t have predicted the 20-minute blitz that ensued after the restart. Campbell grabbed his second and the best attacking manoeuvre of the match culminated in Cooper Vuna bulldozing Cory Jane. The big winger then turned provider, creating a try for Nick Phipps through a powerful and pacey run up the wing.
Dan Coles scored a late try to bank the point for four tries, but that was scant consolation for the Canes. They have massive improvements to make. The Rebels deserve to celebrate lavishly tonight. They were outstanding.