Stormers see off brave Rebels

The Melbourne Rebels signed off their home campaign with a gritty display, going down to the Stormers 31-57 at AAMI Park on Saturday.

The visitors outscored the Rebels by seven tries to four as both sides piled on the points under the lights in Melbourne for the final time this year.

After trailing to an early penalty goal, it was the Rebels who notched the opening try of the match thanks to Sefa Naivalu.

Quick hands from an attacking lineout saw the Rebels backline open up plenty of space for Naivalu to cross over in the eighth minute.

Jean-Luc Du Plessis briefly kept the visitors in touch from the kicking tee, before the Rebels extended their advantage to eight points with Ben Meehan peeling off the back of a maul to dart over in the corner.

The hosts lost both locks to concussion within ten minutes before half-time. Lopeti Timani was substituted in the 22nd minute before Luke Jones, playing his last home game for the Rebels, followed shortly after.

The Stormers went into the break with the upper hand with tries from Jean-Luc Du Plessis and Vincent Koch taking the South African side out to a 23-17 lead.

Both sides continued to trade blows in the early stages of the second half. Jonah Placid gave the Rebels the lead initially, only for towering Springbok lock Eben Etzebeth to charge across the whitewash for the Stormers.

The try came at a cost though, as the injury toll continued for the Rebels with Placid substituted after suffering a heavy knock diving into the corner to score. Replacement Paul Asquith came on to make his Super Rugby debut.

Jack Debreczeni levelled the scores five minutes later by touching down under the posts after a penetrating break by Tom English, setting up an intriguing final twenty minutes.

However, the undermanned Rebels couldn’t stay in touch with the Stormers in the closing stages as they scored 26 unanswered points to seal the result.

Nicholas Groom, Damian De Allende, Leolin Zas and Siyabonga Ntubeni were all on the scoresheet, helping to clinch an important bonus point win for the visitors.

“It was a really gutsy effort, we had a pretty disrupted week losing Nic Stirzaker, Mike Harris and Adam Thomson, and then to lose two locks and play with No.7’s for a fair period,” McGahan said.

“I thought the players really dug deep and played with great spirit and endeavour but unfortunately three late tries put the hole in us.”

Stormers 57 (du Plessis, Koch, Etzebeth, Groom, de Allende, Zas, Ntubeni tries; de Plessis 5 cons, 4 pens) defeated Rebels 31 (Naivalu, Meehan, Placid, Debreczeni tries; Debreczeni 4 cons, 1 pen)