Rugby Union 4 years ago

Preview: Rebels v Force

  • Preview: Rebels v Force

The Melbourne Rebels host the Western Force in round 10 of the Super Rugby season at AAMI Park on Friday night, and it's the second time the two teams will meet this year, with the Rebels seeking vengeance.

It was a humiliating 32-7 defeat for Melbourne back in round 4 at NIB Stadium, in a game where the Rebels had for tries scored against them, and the first time the Force had won a 4-try bonus point in almost two years.

Since then, a lot has changed for both teams.

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The Force have turned themselves into the in-form side of the competition and are currently on a five game winning streak. Results against teams like the Chiefs, Brumbies and Waratahs were games that many pundits had expected the Force not to win, but getting the big victories in these match-ups has given them a lot of confidence and momentum.

Players like Nick Cummins, Kyle Godwin, Luke Morahan and Jayden Hayward have all turned themselves into househld names in Perth for their exciting work in the backline, while Alby Matthewson and Sias Ebersohn have been able to forge a great partnership in midfield. Likewise, Matt Hodgson and Ben McCalman have been game-winners from the back row.

The Force have shown they're an opportunistic side, as shown back in that round 4 game where they jumped like hounds on the Rebels turnovers. This was seen again last week in Nick Cummins' performance, where he was able to read the bad Waratahs passes and turn them into tries.

For the Rebels, while they haven't won as many games as they would've like (just the one), there has been a vast amount of improvement since round 4. They're now one of the most successful teams from the lineout and the shaky kicking game has departed the Rebels strategy, now opting to keep the ball under the arm and bust their way through the oppositions line.

Possession retention has been a big plus for them, earning the majority of possession in most games. It's what they do with the ball that can hurt them at times. Fumbles and turnovers are still costing them, but at a decreasing rate, and this part of their game is beginning to be ironed out.

Defending has also seen some improvement; the Rebels are able to defend desperately hard on their own line, but around-the-ground defending is something coach Tony McGahan is currently working on. They have the ability to win the ball back from an opposition ruck, but also have a frustratingly great knack of giving away copious amounts of penalties. Other aspects -- like keeping their own line tight -- still needs a bit of work, and will be something the Force will look to exploit.

Young players like Nic Stirzaker, Bryce Hegarty, Tom English, Jason Woodward, Jones and Fainga'a have all stepped up, while older heads like Scott Higginbotham and Laurie Weeks have also impresed.

The Force have a lot of momentum heading into this encounter and almost look unstoppable, but outs to key players like Jayden Hayward, Luke Morahan, Alby Matthewson and Sam Wykes is going to open the door for the promising Rebels team to pounce.

The Rebels have always played better at home, and this game being played at AAMI Park will give the side a better chance at putting up a fight.

The Higginbotham-McCalman match-up is going to be a mouth-watering clash, as both men are in very strong contention for the no.8 position in the Wallabies side later this year. Likewise, the promising flyhalf in Hegarty is going to be well-matched to his flyhalf counterpart in Ebersohn, but it's going to be Jason Woodward who will be his opposition in front of the goals.

A win for the Force, and they could be leading the Australian Conference by the end of the round. The current leaders, the Brumbies, have they bye this week, but have a 28-point lead in the points difference. A bonus point victory will disregard the points difference and get the Force to outright first in Australia.

HAVE YOUR SAY: Who is going to win? Will Cummins, Hodgson and Ebersohn be too much for Melbourne to handle? Or will the Rebels turn things around back at home in Good Friday rugby?

Follow @JordanKounelis on Twitter for his views on the world.

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