Super Rugby Pacific

Rebels suffer heartbreaker with late Chiefs loss

May 18, 2024 7:06 am

[Source: Super Rugby Pacific]

Melbourne’s last Super Rugby Pacific home game – potentially ever – has ended on a heartbreaking note with the Rebels falling to the Chiefs 26-23.

Star Chiefs playmaker Damien McKenzie slotted a penalty in the 78th minute to split a 23-all deadlock to secure the win.

The Rebels welcomed their largest crowd of the season to AAMI Park on Friday night with their future in the competition in major doubt.

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Rugby Australia are still to decide whether to shutter the financially-stricken club, whose fans turned out in force to honour the side.

In traditional Melbourne fashion, the team ran through a banner that read: “Thank you Melbourne, Always Rebels, Always Fighting”.

The crowd was encouraged to stand and cheer at the 14th minute of the match to celebrate the 14 seasons the club has been in the competition.

After an early Chiefs penalty goal, Melbourne got off to a strong start with young winger Glen Vaihu crossing in the sixth minute.

The teams traded points in the first half, with the visitors having the final say as McKenzie nailed a 41st minute penalty goal for a 13-11 lead into the break.

Sitting fourth on the ladder, two spots above Melbourne, the Chiefs extended their advantage five minutes into the second half through hooker Samisoni Taukei’aho.

The Chiefs lost lock Tupou Vaa’i to a yellow card for an incidental head knock on Rebels five-eighth Carter Gordon, who also left the field temporarily but was cleared in his HIA.

The visitors extended the lead to 23-11 through another McKenzie penalty before Melbourne got back into the contest when winger Lachie Anderson scored in the 56th minute.

He added his second in the 73rd minute to set up a grandstand finish, locking the scoreboard up at 23-all until McKenzie’s killer blow from a breakdown penalty.

Despite their fourth straight loss the Rebels’ season isn’t over. They still have a chance to make their first finals appearance, with a bonus point from this match likely to prove crucial.

However, they face tough away games against the ACT Brumbies and Fijian Drua to secure their spot.

The Chiefs leap-frogged the Brumbies into third but face top two sides the Hurricanes and Blues in their remaining matches.

Coach Clayton McMillan said he warned his team about the emotion the Rebels would ride into the match and was proud they could withstand the home side’s fightback.

He said it would be disappointing if Melbourne were cut from the competition.