The Crusaders defeated the Melbourne Rebels 25 points to 19 in front of 13,942 people at Melbourne's AAMI Park on Friday to claim their second victory of the season, while the Rebels now have two consecutive losses to their name after a win in round 3.
A loss, but a better loss than last weekends performance from the Rebels. Both teams were quite even throughout the night in the contests, but the Rebels gave away several penalties and were wastefl with posession in the second half which is what gave the Crusders advantages to ultimately get them the result.
Melbourne had a lot more of the ball in the match, ending with figures of 58% possesion to the Crusaders 42%, 99 total phases to 88, 63 runs to 49, and 477 metres to 261 throughout the game. Yet despite the ball dominance, Melbourne refused to run the ball and take the Crusaders line on. Instead, Tony McGahan made metreage his main objective, choosing to use brute force to try and push the Crusaders back. This tactic was always going to be difficult, considering all but hooker Ben Funnell had All Black experience to their CV's.
That being said, the match was definitely one for the big bodies. The front pack for both sides definitely saw plenty of action on the night, with Melbourne's Laurie Weeks, Toby Smith, Paul Alo-Emile, Hugh Pyle, Scott Fuglistaller and Sean McMahon all featuring heavily in the warzones. Likewise for the Crusaders with Keiran Read, the Whitelock brothers and Luke Romano flinging their large frames into the rucks.
The Rebels were shaky, with the kicking side of their game still needing plenty of improvement. Hegarty was okay with the boot, but players like Jason Woodward and Angus Roberts still need to develop their kicking game in order to make it effective. Also, Pat Leafa's lineout throwing was incosistent all night, throwing too deep, too high or not straight on several occassions.
It wasn't until the game was pretty much lost in the second half where we saw the Rebels actually take the game on with Mitch Inman and Telusa Veainu runing at the lines several times; but then it was the passing errors that would halt them. The Rebels were off target, throwing behind the target too many times, hindering the momentum forwards.
One area of the match where the Rebels succeeded was the scrum. Despite all that experience up forward for the Crusaders, the Rebels had 6 scrum wins to 1, with props Weeks, Smith and Alo-Emile getting better as the game went on and performing solidy throughout the night.
On the scoresheet there were penalty goals aplenty, with Melbourne being awarded one inside the first three minutes of the game which Jason Woodward converted with ease. Four more penalty goals were scored by the Rebels in the game, while Tom Taylor converted all seven attempts for the Crusaders.
The first try came after the 55th minute when stand-in hooker Ben Funnell went into the in-goal to try first for the Crusaders after they exposed Melbourne's open flank. The Melbourne try came in the second last minute of the match when a maul featuring upwards of nine players for the Rebels formed 10 metres out and pushed Scott Fuglistaller over for the try-line to claim a bonus point.
Melbourne definitely improved since last weeks shocker in Perth, but there is still a lot left to do before they'll be challenging the top teams of the competition. The Rebels go down into 10th position on the ladder and will face the Waratahs in Sydney next weekend, while the Crusaders jump into 8th for now with the bye ahead of them.
FT: Melbourne Rebels 19 def. by Crusaders 19
Rebels: Weeks (concussion/head), Woodward (knee)
Crusaders: Dagg (knee)
Where do the Rebels go from here? Two losses in a row and the Waratahs awaiting them in Sydney next week; what does Tony McGahan change midweek?
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