Naivalu double sets up Rebels’ win
A Sefa Naivalu double has lead the Melbourne Rebels to a hard-fought 27-22 win over the Western Force on Sunday afternoon.
After three consecutive losses, the home side returned to the winners list in what is the final match of Super Rugby before the June test break.
The win was soured by a hamstring injury to Mike Harris who hobbled off after setting up the opening try. He will stay in Melbourne to get treatment instead of joining the Wallabies squad.
It was the Rebels who scored first after Harris threw a dummy and split the defence, before sending Reece Hodge across the try-line. Harris was immediately withdrawn from the contest with the injury.
The Force answered with three points straight from the kick-off and soon after went ahead with a try of their own.
After executing a midfield rolling maul and gaining an advantage, fly-half Peter Grant put in a cross-field kick for Luke Morahan, who collected the ball, grubbered a kick past a Rebels defender and scored in the corner.
The Rebels regained the lead in the 25th minute when Hodge slotted a penalty after the Force were offside.
Both sides traded missed penalty attempts before half time and the Rebels went into the break with a two-point lead.
The home side extended their advantage early in the second half as a weight of numbers saw Sefa Naivalu dive over in the right corner.
It as very soon 15-all as the Force went over after a rolling maul close to the try-line. Hooker Harry Scoble the try-scorer and Grant added the conversion.
For large parts of the second half the Rebels dominated possession and field position but lacked patience in attack to make it count.
The pressure of possession and territory was eventually telling as Lopeti Timani barged his way over from close-range for another five-pointer.
The Rebels soon had their fourth try of the night and Sefa Naivalu his second as he hit an offload at pace and had too much power for the Force defence.
Down by two converted tries, the Force kept attacking and were rewarded with another try when Morahan dived in for his second of the night.
The Rebels held on to record their sixth win of the season and go into the June test break on 27 points, seven behind both the Brumbies and Waratahs.