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Resurgent Rebels hold to Super finals goal

Thu, 05/05/2022, 11:01 pm
AAP
by AAP
The Melbourne Rebels hosted Moana Pasifika in their first ever match on Australian soil.

Melbourne Rebels have clawed their way into Super Rugby Pacific finals contention and victory over the competition-leading Blues would be a huge boost to their cause.

The Rebels' season looked shot after a horror start but three recent wins have bumped them up to eighth on the ladder, with the top eight in the 12-team competition all moving in the play-offs.

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There's still four rounds to play, all against Kiwi opposition, including Friday night's clash with the Blues at Auckland's Eden Park, where an upset victory would give Melbourne's run home a big push.

It has been done before with the Rebels beating the Blues 20-10 in their last trip to Auckland in 2018, however their opponents are now a different beast, winning 16 of their last 17 games including the last nine straight.

The home side will be without star All Blacks playmaker Beauden Barrett, who is being rested with youngster Stephen Perofeta at 10.

Test duo Rieko Ioane and Hoskins Sotutu return after sitting out their four-point win over Western Force.

The Rebels say it's "chalk and cheese" between their early season and current form, which is why they think they are capable of staying in the eight.

"We definitely want to play finals - there's no doubt that that we are ambitious about getting there," said Rebels coach Kevin Foote. 

"We've got a six-day turnaround going to Auckland to play the Blues so we'll just stay present and take every day as it comes in but we definitely want to play finals."

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The Rebels will be without their hard-working skipper Michael Wells, who suffered a head knock during their last-round win over Moana Pasifika.

Lock Matt Philip has taken over the captaincy while fellow Wallaby Rob Leota has shifted to No.8 to replace Wells.

Carter Gordon has a new partner in the halves with Joe Powell picked ahead of James Tuttle, while Junior Wallaby Lukas Ripley has replaced suspended centre Ray Nu'u.

"We have really come into the week with a great focus and energy to be better, so we're excited for this week's challenge and the opportunity for more growth," Foote said.

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