Rebels punish bumbling Blues

JON CARDINELLI reports on the Rebels’ 34-23 win against a hapless Blues outfit on Friday.

It was fitting that the Rebels scored a seven-pointer on the hooter, because the Blues didn’t deserve a bonus point. They were outplayed at the collisions on this occasion and their lack of leadership, synergy and unity continues to hamper their performances.

They were on top for much of the first half, although the half-time scoreline won’t reflect the fact. With Tony Woodcock back, the Blues pack had the Rebels on the rack, and if not for some schoolboy handling errors the visitors may have earned more than nine first-half points.

The Rebels hung on during the early stages. Their defence did an admirable job, and it was on the back of a determined defensive effort they Kurtley Beale snatched an 80-metre intercept try. Their forwards continued to beat the Blues to the breakdowns, and their defence swallowed up Blues ball-carriers who were guilty of standing far too flat.

The pressure applied by the Rebels often forced the Blues to make poor decisions which inevitably led to turnovers and lost possessions. The Blues took the lead through some smart handling at the start of the second stanza, but this was rare example of the visitors’ ability to string several passes together or indeed show any kind of synergy.

Jarrod Saffy had an outstanding game on defence and at the breakdown, while James O’Connor exposed some tired and patently disinterested Blues defence. O’Connor scored 23 points on the night, and aside from an important goal-kicking display, his surges with ball in hand allowed the Rebels to cross the gainline regularly.

The performance will serve as confirmation that the once mighty Blues have hit rock bottom. They continue to struggle at the lineout while their overall forward play hasn’t been up to standard.

They will argue that the loss of All Blacks Anthony Boric, Jerome Kaino and Daniel Braid has impacted on their forward effort, but there just doesn’t seem to be much direction in their game nor the necessary leadership when the game is tight.

The Rebels deserve credit for what is a valuable, and rare, win. They were always going to be tough to beat in Melbourne, but they will need to start beating sides away from home if they want to be taken seriously in this competition.