Heartbreak for Force as Naisarani gives Rebels Super Time victory

· Super Rugby - AU
by Christy Doran

The Melbourne Rebels have survived a giant scare against the Western Force, claiming a 25-20 extra time victory at Leichhardt Oval in Sydney.

Returning Test back-rower Isi Naisarani proved to be the hero, scoring against his former side to see the Rebels to back to back victories. 

Veteran playmaker Jono Lance missed a kickable penalty after 77 minutes that would have seen them move take the lead.

It was the second time the Rebels had been involved in extra time, after they left Brookvale Oval earlier in the month with a frustrating 18-18 draw against the Reds. On that wet Friday night, extra time proved to be a kick-a-thon as neither side wanted to lose.

But after getting some good field position, the Rebels kept it in tight and managed to score through their retuning backrower Naisarani who scored in his 50th Super Rugby match.

After a slow opening to the match, it was the Force who posted the first points after 11 minutes.

It was less than a week ago that stand-in  captain Jeremy Thrush turned down multiple shots at goal against the Brumbies.

In hindsight, Thrush later revealed that taking the points on offer and applying "scoreboard' pressure would have been the better option. So when the Force got down deep in the Rebels' half, Thursh didn't hesitate in pointing to the sticks and Lance didn't miss to give them a 3-0 lead.

Moments later the Force blew a golden opportunity as Byron Ralston spilt a ball unmarked out wide after World Cup-winning All Black Richard Kahui burst onto a beautiful ball from Lance.

A minute later, the Force came close to scoring but back-rower Brynard Stander was brilliantly tackled into touch a metre short of the line by loose-head prop Cameron Orr.

It wasn't long before tempers started to flare, with a large scuffle breaking out between the two sides on the 20 minute mark. But for all the jersey pulling, it was nothing more than some wrestling between two sides with plenty of history between them. At least, that's what referee Angus Gardner said when he addressed the two captains. 

The Force made the most of the extra man, kicking  for touch and then lock Fergus Lee-Warner scored off the back of a rolling maul. Lance's conversion from out wide saw the Force skip out to a 10-0 lead after 28 minutes.

But the Rebels' response was emphatic, as Test hooker Jordan Uelese scored off the back of a neat short lineout play which saw Orr reel in a lovely ball and with some soft, quick hands and sent his teammate away down the blindside to score. Matt To'omua's sideline conversion saw the Rebels cut the margin to 10-7.

Stand-in Rebels fullback Reece Hodge then levelled the scores four minutes into stoppage time, landing a penalty from out wide just shy of halfway.

The second half started in similar fashion to the first, but when both teams rose from their slumber it was worth the wait.

Thrush's yellow card for cynical play on his own line allowed To'omua to edge the Rebels ahead after 52 minutes.

For the second time in the match though, the side with 14-men scored as the Force hit back five minutes later through Ralston, who made up for his earlier blunder by finishing a wonderful set-piece play that saw Test halfback Nick Frisby allow Lance to exploit an overlap and put Jack McGregor into some out wide.

Lance's sideline conversion saw the Force move 17-13 ahead.

Two minutes later the Rebels returned serve as replacement lock Matt Philip made his presence felt by crashing over to give them a 20-17 lead.

But Lance's penalty in the 63rd minute saw the Force draw level at 20-20.

The playmaker later missed the chance to give his side the lead with four minutes to go with an errant penalty attempt.

Long-range specialist Hodge had the chance to seal the deal after the full-time hooter, but his 58 metre attempt fell just short.

It didn't matter in the end, Naisarani's try giving the Rebels an important win.



Tries: Uelese, Philip, Naisarani

Con: To'omua 2

Pen: To'omua, Hodge

Force 20

Tries: Lee-Warner, Ralston

Con: Lance 2

Pen: Lance 2