The Melbourne Rebels will host the Hurricanes at AAMI Park this Friday night in what should prove to be an exciting encounter between the two sides. The Rebels have a good home record and always look dangerous in Melbourne, while the Hurricanes are one of the most attacking teams in the competition.
The Rebels went down in a bonus-point loss to the Sharks last week in their third consecutive 22-16 scoreline match. Just two losses from their five home games this season, the Rebels are turning AAMI Park into a tough ground to play at for an away team as they went the distance with the league-leaders last weekend.
The Hurricanes -- after starting the season off slowly -- are picking up the pace and scoring heavily. A winning streak of four games was cut last weekend with a 9-point loss to the Waratahs, but they'll be out to bounce back and show that they can score just as effectively even in Australia.
With big names littering the Hurricanes backline, it is going to be a tough ask for any side to limit the capabilities of Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara, Alapati Leiua, Julian Savea, Andre Taylor, Conrad Smith and Cory Jane all at once, but Melbourne are in improving defensive team.
It is easy to now say that the Rebels have improved in great amounts in all areas of the field since their first month of the season and now show great ability in defence -- both in desperation times on their own line, and also in showing their muscle around the ground -- and attack.
Where Melbourne need to be careful of the Hurricanes, the Hurricanes need to also show caution to the increasingly dangerous Rebels backs. Jason Woodward joins the hundred-club this season for scoring over 100 points, while Tamati Ellison, Mitch Inman, Bryce Hegarty and Male Sau were all able to expose the best defence in the competition a number of times in last weekends match against the Sharks.
Again, the no.8 battle proves to be an interesting one with Victor Vito being Scott Higgnbothams direct opponent in this match-up. Higginbotham has had less of an impact in the last few games as a result of his teammates collectively lifting in their efforts.
'Higgers' has had a smaller presence at the lineout -- Luke Jones and Caydern Neville now doing most of the work -- and at the ruck with Colby Fainga'a, Scott Fuglistaller, Laurie Weeks and Shota Horie pulling their weight to greater lengths.
With All Blacks caps to his name, Vito is tough no.8 to stop, and you would expect him to have more of a say in the contest this week than what Sharks no.8 Ryan Kankowski did last week.
Luke Burgess will once again start for the Rebels at scrumhalf, and his expert passing alongside Bryce Hegarty's blistering speed will be needed more than ever in their match-up with Perenara and Barrett -- a dangerous pairing.
The Hurricanes established scoring and running power against the Rebels backline of the same qualities -- albeit still in the "improving" stage -- at AAMI Park means we should see an explosive encounter.
HAVE YOUR SAY: The Rebels are becoming tougher to beat at home, and with the Hurricanes down after a loss last weekend to the Waratahs, do you expect the Rebels to get a valuable victory?
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