The Melbourne Rebels have claimed the Weary Shield after a dogged 24-10 win over the NSW Waratahs at AAMI Park.
The victory marks the Rebels first victory over their northern neighbours since 2016, and secures them their first win of the 2020 campaign.
An exchange of penalty goals early on settled the teams as they both looked to break their winless drought.
The dust had barely settled when a botched exit off the restart by the Waratahs afforded the Melbourne men a 5-metre lineout. On cue, the heavens opened and the Rebel forwards took it upon themselves to inch their way towards the line.
With a penalty advantage up their sleeve, the ball was released to reigning John Eales medallist Marika Koroibete to open his 2020 account.
The greasy conditions were becoming increasingly obvious.A spilled ball by Kurtley Beale in the backfield was quickly turned over and with space in the backfield, To’omua was able to grubber the ball in behind the defence, only for a desperate Cam Clarke to save the day.
The ensuing 5 metre scrum splintered, giving Ryan Louwrens little option but to dart the short side where he came within millimetres of scoring his first Rebels try.
A similar situation would present itself soon after; a Rebels attacking 5 metre scrum giving the team position to launch an attack.After multiple phases, a flat ball to Billy Meakes found the inside centre crossing the chalk only to be denied after the TMO spotted an obstruction in the build-up to the play.
The momentum the Rebels were riding in the first half was quickly eroded early in the second stanza. Waratahs half Jake Gordon capitalised on some lax defence around the fringes of the Rebels scrum to dart within 2 metres of the line.
Moments later it was Harry Johnson-Holmes converting the linebreak into points and handing the Waratahs a 2 point lead.
To’omua replied immediately with another penalty as the heavy rain made way for a light sprinkle which would remain for the rest of the contest.
The second half would be characterised by long kicking duels as the two desperate sides adopted a safety-first mentality.
A trademark Ryan Louwrens snipe down the short side paid dividends when he found an unmarked Isi Naisarani in support. The Fijian advanced the ball into the 22, and an ensuing penalty allowed Matt To’omua to add three more points.
Louwrens was in the thick of it again, capitalising on a matt Philip lineout steal to boss his big men into the 22. Eventually with the defensive line contracted, quick hands from captain Dane Haylett-Petty found an unmarked Andrew Kellaway for the decisive score.
Without the clock ticking down it would be the replacement wing Kellaway giving the crowd one final reason to cheer, after a Theo Strang bullet found him unmarked in the corner to secure the 24-10 victory.
REBS 24 Tries: Koroibete, Kellaway (2) Conversions Penalties: To’omua (3)
WAR 10 Tries: Johnson-Holmes Conversions: Harrison Penalties: Harrison
Halftime: 8-3 (Rebels)