Rugby-Rebels hammered 30-3 in bleak opening night to Super season

  • Rugby
  • Friday, 23 Feb 2024

Rugby Union - Rugby World Cup 2023 - Pool C - Wales v Australia - OL Stadium, Lyon, France - September 24, 2023 Australia's Carter Gordon during the warm up before the match REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier/ File photo

MELBOURNE (Reuters) -Besieged by creditors and living on borrowed time, the Melbourne Rebels opened what may be their last season in Super Rugby Pacific with an error-strewn 30-3 defeat by the ACT Brumbies in front of a disappointing home crowd on Friday.

The future is uncertain and the present is bleak for the Rebels' staff and players, with the club mired in more than A$20 million ($13.11 million) of debt and given no guarantee they will remain in the competition beyond 2024.

With match ticket sales held up until Monday following a last-minute deal brokered between Rugby Australia and Melbourne Rectangular Stadium's operator, the crowd was sparse.

They were also largely disappointed as the Rebels botched a string of lineouts early and flyhalf Carter Gordon pinged a penalty kick off the post.

It wasn't until the 32nd minute that the Rebels had their first and only score when Gordon found his radar on a second kick for goal.

By that time, though, the Brumbies had already converted two tries to winger Corey Toole, the former national rugby sevens player completing a neat chip-and-chase for the first five-pointer.

The Brumbies blew out the lead after halftime to 27-3 with a couple of penalties and another kick-and-chase try by number eight Charlie Cale.

Rebels captain Rob Leota briefly raised the crowd's spirits by peeling away from a scrum and bolting over the try-line.

But the try was cancelled after a review by the television match official and Cale completed the rout with a second try late on for the Brumbies.

The Rebels unveiled a raft of new signings, including former Wallabies lock Lukhan Salakaia-Loto and prop Taniela Tupou, who started on the bench.

Along with new scrumhalf Jack Maunder and second-season flyhalf Gordon, the group were meant to help them transform into a team capable of winning playoffs and pushing for championship trophies over time.

Instead, their playing contracts now have queries over them and they may wonder what club will have them in 2025.

Tupou's debut was a painful one, the Wallaby attended by trainers soon after coming onto the field in the second half after his wrist was caught under the ball in a tackle and crushed under his body weight.

The Waikato Chiefs earlier got a measure of revenge for their loss in last year's Super Rugby Pacific final with a 33-29 victory over the Canterbury Crusaders in the opening match in Hamilton on Friday.

Replacement flyhalf Josh Ioane slotted two penalties in the last five minutes to secure the win after the Crusaders had rallied from a 17-point halftime deficit to take a slender advantage with 12 minutes to go.

Wellington Hurricanes eased to a six-try 44-14 win over the Western Force in Perth, a reality check for the Australian side against their slick New Zealand opponents.

The visitors had the physical edge, with the Force missing 39 tackles and losing six lineouts on their own throw in a ragged performance.

Number eight Peter Lakai, lock Caleb Delany, hooker Asafo Aumua, wings Joshua Moorby and Salesi Rayasi, and debutant scrumhalf Jordi Viljoen scored tries for the Hurricanes, who led 22-0 at halftime.

($1 = 1.5253 Australian dollars)

(Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne and Nick Said in Cape Town; Editing by Toby Davis)

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