Isi Naisarani scored a try in Super Time as the Melbourne Rebels sealed a 25-20 win over the Western Force in Friday’s Super Rugby AU clash in Sydney.
The match was tightly contested throughout and momentum between the sides ebbed and flowed throughout but the Rebels were able to seal the win early in Super Time after the sides were deadlocked at 20-20 at the end of 80 minutes.
The Rebels outscored the Force three tries to two, with Jordan Uelese and Matt Philip crossing before Naisarani's match-winner, while Matt Toomua slotted two conversions and a penalty and Reece Hodge also succeeded with a three-pointer.
For the Force, Fergus Lee-Warner and Byron Ralston scored tries and Jono Lance contributed 10 points courtesy of two conversions and the same number of penalties.
The opening exchanges were evenly contested and the only points scored during the first quarter was a penalty from Lance in the 12th minute.
Three minutes later, Brynard Stander went over in the left-hand corner after trading passes with Feleti Kaitu’u off the front of a lineout inside the Rebels’ 22, but he had a foot in touch after a superb cover tackle from Cameron Orr.
The Force received a shot in the arm in the 25th minute when Naisarani was yellow-carded for a cynical defensive foul inside his half. The men from Perth opted to kick the resulting penalty into touch and shortly afterwards they increased the lead courtesy of Lee-Warner’s try off the back of a lineout drive deep inside Rebels territory.
Despite that setback, the Rebels finished the half stronger and in the 32nd minute they opened their account when Uelese crossed the whitewash from close quarters after gathering a pass from Orr close to the Force’s tryline.
And on the stroke of half-time, Hodge landed a long-range penalty from close to the halfway line which meant the sides were deadlocked at 10-10 at the interval.
The Rebels were fastest out of the blocks in the second stanza and gained the upper-hand in the 50th minute when Thrush was sent to the sin bin for slowing the ball down illegally close to his tryline.
A few minutes later, the Rebels took the lead for the first time when Toomua slotted a penalty, but despite that setback and their numerical disadvantage, the Force did not panic and struck back in style with a great try from Ralston. This, after Lance and Jack McGregor combined brilliantly from a scrum midway between the halfway line and the Rebels’ 22, before the latter offloaded to Ralston, who had an easy run-in for his side’s second try.
The Rebels needed a response and that came on the hour-mark when Philip powered through two tackles before dotting down under the posts. Toomua added the extras which meant the Rebels were leading 20-17 but Lance drew his side level when he kicked his second penalty in the 64th minute.
The final quarter of regular time was tense as the teams went in search of the win and in the 80th minute Hodge lined up a 60-metre penalty. His effort fell just short of the crossbar and the Force put the ball into touch which meant the game had to go into Super Time.
The extra period started disastrously for the Force when their captain, Thrush, failed to gather the ball from the kickoff. The Rebels pounced on the loose ball and after taking the ball through several phases Naisarani went over for the match-winning try from close quarters.
Western Force - Tries: Fergus Lee-Warner, Byron Ralston. Conversions: Jono Lance (2). Penalties: Jono Lance (2). Yellow cards: Jeremy Thrush.
Melbourne Rebels - Tries: Jordan Uelese, Matt Philip, Isi Naisarani. Conversions: Matt Toomua (2). Penalties: Reece Hodge, Matt Toomua. Yellow cards: Isi Naisarani.
Western Force: 15 Jack McGregor, 14 Byron Ralston, 13 Kyle Godwin, 12 Richard Kahui, 11 Marcel Brache, 10 Jono Lance, 9 Ian Prior (captain), 8 Brynard Stander, 7 Tevin Ferris, 6 Henry Stowers, 5 Fergus Lee-Warner, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Kieran Longbottom, 2 Feleti Kaitu’u, 1 Chris Heiberg.
Replacements: 16 Andrew Ready, 17 Pek Cowan, 18 Tom Sheminant, 19 Johan Bardoul, 20 Ollie Callan, 21 Nick Frisby, 22 Henry Taefu, 23 Brad Lacey.
Melbourne Rebels: 15 Reece Hodge (co-captain), 14 Tom Pincus, 13 Andrew Kellaway, 12 Billy Meakes, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Matt Toomua (co-captain), 9 Ryan Louwrens, 8 Isi Naisarani, 7 Richard Hardwick, 6 Michael Wells, 5 Trevor Hosea, 4 Esei Haangana, 3 Jermaine Ainsley, 2 Jordan Uelese, 1 Cameron Orr.
Replacements: 16 Efitusi Ma’afu, 17 Cabous Eloff, 18 Pone Fa’amaluli, 19 Matt Philip, 20 Rob Leota, 21 Brad Wilkin, 22 Frank Lomani, 23 Andrew Deegan.
Referee: Angus Gardner
Assistant referees: Amy Perrett, Reuben Keane
TMO: James Leckie