The Melbourne Rebels have suffered their fourth loss of the 2021 Super Rugby AU season, going down to the Western Force, 16-15, at AAMI Park on Friday night.
After leading the closely fought battle for the first 76 minutes, a late Tim Anstee try from a Force rolling maul, followed by a successful conversion to Domingo Miotti, saw the visitors snatch an unlikely comeback win.
Melbourne Rebels’ Captain, Matt To'omua lamented his side’s missed opportunities.
“We had enough chances there and I certainly thought we were in control of the game for certain periods – we just didn’t capitalise when we needed too," said To'omua.
“We weren’t clinical enough – you can’t say we didn’t have enough chances.”
Despite the gut-wrenching result, Rebels’ playmaker, Joe Powell, played one of his strongest games for his new side, throwing 90 passes, making 7 tackles and running for 38 metres from 4 runs, with 4 defenders beaten.
The Rebels’ quest for a second consecutive finals campaign continues next weekend when they host the Brumbies at AAMI Park on Sunday afternoon - Melbourne’s last home game of the 2021 Super Rugby AU season.
The unbeaten Queensland Reds and the Brumbies, who duel in Brisbane on Saturday night, already have the top two spots sewn up with the Rebels and Force bidding for the remaining spot.
On the back of the arm-wrestle victory the Western Force moved level with the Rebels with two rounds remaining.
Third place travel to play second, while the team that finishes top hosts the winner of that play-off in the grand final.
The Rebels had 65 per cent of possession but couldn't manage a try, with the Force mauling the ball across after a five-metre lineout for their sole five-pointer. But the Force's defence deserved credit in a game marred by errors from both teams.
They also managed with 14 men for 10 minutes after Force flanker Kane Koteka was yellow-carded after repeated team infringements Left shell-shocked last week by the Reds' fast start, the Rebels began well when Reece Hodge booted a penalty from inside his own half in the second minute.
Matt Toomua kept the scoreboard ticking over for the Rebels with three further penalties for a 12-6 halftime lead, and that went out to 15-9 after 62 minutes before he was forced off with a head knock.
The Force had their own injury concern with winger Byron Ralston knocked out cold after his head hit the hip of Melbourne centre Lewis Holland.
Play stopped for 10 minutes while he was assessed by medics and stretchered off, although he was able to remain at the ground.