Lions chase down Rebels

· Super Rugby
by Rebels Media
The Melbourne Rebels unbeaten start to the2019 Super Rugby season has come to an end, falling after the siren in a heartbreaking 36-33 loss to the Lions in Johannesburg.

A 26 point first half against the 2017 and 2018 Super Rugby finalists wasn’t enough for the Melburnians, as two second half yellow cards and a very lopsided penalty count brought the Lions back into the contest.

The Lionswere first to scorewhen hooker Malcolm Marx caught the visitors napping from a set piece lineout move. An unmarked Dylan Smith took a lineout on the 5m line and quickly dispatched it back to Malcolm Marks on the sideline, leaving the Springbok hooker with a short, uninterrupted run to the tryline.

Two minutes later and the Rebels had responded through newly promoted starting wing Reece Hodge.

When the Lions failed to exit their quarter from the Rebels kickoff, Genia looped Cooper from a center field scrum on the left and found an unmarked Hodge 10 meters from the line for the tying score.

The left edge would again prove fruitful for the Rebels, as they looked to exit their quarter ball in hand. An opportunistic offload from Anaru Rangi created the linebreak for Cooper who found Billy Meakes in support. With just the fullback to beat, Meakes returned the ball to Cooper for the flyhalf’s first try in Rebels colours.

Meakes would be rewarded for his gift moments later when he intercepted a midfield Elton Jantjies pass after a Lions lineout for an easy 20-meter stroll to the tryline.

The Lions barely had a chance to catch their breath when Meakes again was punching holes in the Lions defense.

A strong crash ball from a scrum originating in the Lions quarter got the Rebels on the front foot and a phase later Isi Naisarani capitalised on that momentum when he planted the ball down against the base of the goal post.

The 21-point lead could have been extended further moments later when a dancing Genia placed blindside flanker Luke Jones into a gaping hole. As Jones broke into the 22 he desperately searched for a support runner to link with but to no avail.

Tom English understood his frustration when he was on the end of a counter attack sparked by a Jack Maddocks kick return. Released on the left edge, English was ankle tapped 2 meters short of the tryline and knocked on over the line.

Just as impressive as the opportunities being created was the lineout defense of the Melburnians. Back to back 5-meter defensive lineouts in the shadows of halftime were clinically repelled by the Rebels pack to ensure the score remained at 26-5 when the oranges were served.

Tom English found his 4thtry season of the season in just the 2ndminute of the new half, following a deft offload from Meakes 5-meters from the line.

In the 46th minute Meakes was shown a yellow card for repeated team infringements inside their own 22.

The extra man advantage would prove telling, when Marnus Schoeman tested the Rebels goal line defence one time to many in the 49thminute.

Hi effort was repeated by Andries Coetzee minutes later and suddenly the momentum was turning the hosts way. When Lionel Mapoe crossed in the 55thminute, it would be the third try scored by the men from Johannesburg whilst a Rebel sat in the sin bin.

The fight back continued when Malcolm Marx generated a turnover, which was quickly distributed to Kwagga Smith. Smith broke into the Rebels half and put speedster Courtnall Skosan away to draw the scores level.

In the 68thminute it appeared as though a Cooper offload to Koroibete had split the deadlock, only for the referee to rule a knock on by Cooper.

When replacement Angus Cottrell was found to have infringed at a maul, the penalty count had climbed to 19-1 in favour of the hosts. Cottrell was sent to the sin bin and the Lions inexplicably turned down a gift three points in favour of a scrum.

The Rebels willingly repelled the Lions, who had enjoyed 76% possession in the second half, in an energy sapping defensive effort at altitude. But the game would come down to the wire with the Rebels penalised in the final scrum of the match and the Lions opting for the penalty shot. Replacement Gianni Lombard stepped up to take the 83rd minute penalty and completed a remarkable come back for the home team.