GARETH DUNCAN watched Rebels flyhalf Kurtley Beale kick a late penalty to clinch a 32-31 win over the Force in Perth.
It looked like the Rebels were going to cruise to victory. They grabbed the four-try bonus point before the break and held a 26-15 half-time lead. However, the Force won the ascendancy in the third quarter and broke down the visitors’ advantage. With 14 men, they led 31-29 in the dying moments, but Beale saved the Rebels’ blushes with a 77th minute penalty to edge the result.
The Rebels displayed their best 40 minutes of their Super Rugby tenure during the opening stanza. They were clinical on attack and troubled the hosts’ defence with strong ball carries and impressive interplay – the victory over the Crusaders last weekend clearly boosted their confidence. They returned with four tries from five visits to the Force’s red zone, with Beale slotting three conversions and playing a key role at pivot.
Lock Cadeyrn Neville starred for the Rebels up front, grabbing a brace, while No 8 Gareth Delve and wing Cooper Vuna also rushed in at the corner.
However, the Melbourne side would’ve be disappointed with their ill-discipline and defensive lapses. This allowed the Force to score two tries against the run of play through wing Napolioni Nalaga and No 8 Ben McCalman. Fullback David Harvey also slotted a conversion and penalty.
The Force built strong momentum after the restart as the Rebels’ attack staggered. Replacement fullback Alfie Mafi crossed the chalk to start the comeback run, before scrumhalf Brett Sheheen (penalty) and flyhalf Ben Seymour (a conversion and two penalties) converted 11 points from the kicking tee to give the Force the lead at the death. This was despite the blow of losing flank Matt Hodgson to the sin bin for a breakdown foul in the 69th minute.
However, Beale did the job with the boot as he kicked the match-winning penalty to seal the Rebels’ first win on the road this season.