The Melbourne Rebels have wrapped up their off-season campaign claiming their third straight win, as the Club continues to grow its on-field connection and comradery ahead of the fast-approaching 2023 Super Rugby Pacific season.
Following back-to-back wins over Victoria’s best state players and the Brumbies in Albury, Melbourne’s off-season training block culminated with a five-day trip to Japan, where the Rebels celebrated their market-leading alliance with the Hanazono Kintetsu Liners, by playing out a hard-fought but highly entertaining game in Osaka.
On a hot autumn’s day, the Rebels impressed under fierce pressure from the home side, with Lachie Anderson crashing over to open Melbourne’s account in the 20th minute, before slick passing from Cullin Cooper-Jones and Monty Ioane led to Richard Hardwick running through his first of two tries.
After an intense opening forty-minutes, the Rebels surged away in the second half, registering 19-points in just 9 minutes, with Hardwick, Ioane and Josh Kemeny all scoring.
The tourists weren’t done yet, with Victorian Isaac Aedo Kailea scoring his first try of the off-season, before speedster Joe Pincus showed why he was primed for a big second year at The Stockade, with an impressive breakaway try in the 72nd minute.
The Rebels wrapped up the thrilling affair, winning 50-17, before coming together with Liners players to celebrate the historic occasion with a jersey exchange and post-game function as players, coaches and staff toasted to the two Club’s market-leading friendship.
Melbourne Rebels Head Coach, Kevin Foote, said the tour was a highly beneficial experience for the entire Rebels playing group.
“ It’s been a huge experience for us as – we’re trying to build a spirit at the Rebels that the players play for each other, so to have a tour like this where the players get to get away to a beautiful culture, that opportunity is really important,” said Foote.
“To see Sam Talakai lead our players – a lot of whom had never left Australia – through Japan and protect them was great. It’s been a really special time for all of us to connect both on and off the field.”
The overseas experience served as an opportunity to build personal growth and strengthen the squad’s Team Work Index (TWI), with players immersing themselves in Japanese culture, exploring the Osaka community and engaging with fans and the next generation of Hanazono Kintetsu Liners, through Academy Clinics and taking part in the Liners traditional Walk to School “Eye Guard” program, which saw Rebels players welcome students to school alongside Liners players, teachers and parents.
Melbourne Rebels GM of Rugby, Nick Stiles, said it was a fantastic ending to a strong month of growth, which saw the Rebels win three-straight matches against quality opposition.
“It’s been an amazing trip for our players. The ability to connect with the people and culture of Osaka and Japan was so rewarding for the entire group, and something that will hold us in good stead for next season,” said Stiles.
“It was a phenomenal experience to deepen our ties with the local community and show our gratitude for their support, and great that Saturday’s game was so entertaining and kept the fans cheering through the match.”
“The week was a major celebration for both the Melbourne Rebels and the Hanazono Kintetsu Liners, and coming together to toast the amazing friendship our two Clubs have built, the Liners promotion to Japan League One and the future our two Clubs have ahead.”
“Finishing the week with a win was a great way to end what has been an important block for our Club. We’ve done all we can to get valuable match practice in to our players and build our TWI, so we’re really pleased to win three games in a row, both at home, interstate, and overseas.”
“It’s a great launching pad for our pre-season which begins in three weeks’ time.”