Ta-ta Tahs! Rebels score with 60 seconds left against Force to seal maiden finals spot

· Super Rugby - AU
by Christy Doran

They were pushed all the way to the end, but the Melbourne Rebels have qualified for their maiden Super Rugby finals series after a dramatic 34-30 win over the Western Force in Newcastle.

Needing to win by four points to leapfrog ahead of the NSW Waratahs on 19 points, the Rebels left it until the final minutes of the game to win and break their 10-year finals duck.

A horror out-on-the-full kick from replacement halfback Nick Frisby allowed the Rebels some field position with just five minutes left in the match.

The Rebels then got another leg-up as blindside flanker Fergus Lee Warner was sin binned for "cynical play".

But after turning down the chance to level the scores up at 30-30 and go for a final-sealing five-pointer in Super Time, the Rebels instead went for the line and tried to seal the match in regular time.

They got there, but they dropped the ball just inches short of the line.

With yet another advantage though, the Rebels thought they had sealed the deal in the 79th minute but Matt Philip was deemed to be held up over the line.

After being held up, the Rebels opted for another scrum given they had just demolished their opponents.

It proved to be the right decision, just.

Initially the Rebels celebrated when replacement hooker Efi Ma'afu thought he had scored, but the TMO ruled it was planted just short of the line. Fortunately though the ball squirted backwards and straight into the hands of reserve loose-head prop Cabous Eloff, who picked up the loose ball on the deck and scored just next to the uprights.

Needing to slot the conversion to move ahead of the Waratahs on points differential, Matt To'omua made no mistake and banged the ball through the middle.

By doing so, the Rebels qualified for the finals and will take on the Queensland Reds in Brisbane on September 12.

The winner of the preliminary final will take on the Brumbies in Canberra on September 19.

The Rebels appeared on track to qualify for their maiden finals campaign after taking a 20-13 lead into half-time.

But that lead could have been much bigger.

Dave Wessels' men bombed two tries in the first half, but still managed to cross twice through Reece Hodge and Tom Pincus.

A try to hooker Andrew Ready in the 40th minute cut the score to seven points.

Ready's second try and Ian Prior's conversion shortly after half-time saw the Force level the scores up at 20-20.

Prior's penalty shortly after extended the Force's lead out to three points.

And when flanker Brynard Stander dived over from close range the Force's lead grew to 10-points after 57 minutes and they could sniff a historic victory.

But the Rebels hit back immediately through their captain Dane Haylett-Petty who finished off a cracking counter-attacking try.

Eloff's try a minute from full-time sealing a dramatic win and, more importantly, some history.

MELBOURNE REBELS 34 (Pincus, Hodge, Haylett-Petty, Eloff tries; To'omua 4 con; To'omua 2 pen) bt WESTERN FORCE 30 (Ready 2, Taefu, Stander tries; Prior 2 con; Prior 2 pen)

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