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Underdogs turn in a display for the ages


Michael Lynch

Mitch Inman of the Rebels breaks through a tackle.

Mitch Inman of the Rebels breaks through a tackle. Photo: Getty Images

THE Rebels were rated at nearly 6-1 outsiders before they kicked off against the pretty-in-pink Bulls at AAMI Park last night — generous odds in a two-horse race, but a measure of the expected disparity between the two teams.

After all, the hosts lay 12th on the Super Rugby table while the South African powerhouses stood fourth and equal top of their conference coming into this match, a team full of skill, speed, stamina and strength, and adept at playing with power, pace and precision.

And while their lurid tops (more fuchsia than pink, really) might, in less enlightened times, have given rise to suggestions that the boys from Pretoria were getting in touch with their feminine side, there was nothing delicate about the way they set about their task of overpowering a Rebels team missing talismanic back James O'Connor and star English fly half Danny Cipriani, who has quit the club to return home.

All of which made the Rebels efforts last night even more heroic.

This game was in the balance until well into the last 10 minutes, with the Victorian side playing with fight and spirit, and enthusiasm and no little skill as it took the contest right up to its highly fancied visitors.

Kurtley Beale, who may end up replacing O'Connor at fly half in the Wallabies line-up, has taken the number 10 shirt for the Rebels. He showed just how explosive he can be, with a first-half break to set up a Cooper Vuna try, and through the evening displayed his finesse and creativity, not to mention reliability with his boot, to keep his team snapping like a persistent cattle dog at the heels of a powerful bullock.

The crowd, at 12,000, was smaller than the norm these days at AAMI and, given that the team had been on the road since its last home game against the Blues, was perhaps disappointing.

But if word of mouth is the best advertisement then those who came will surely produce the best marketing campaign the Rebels could hope for over the next few weeks.

If being competitive, having a go and giving your all is the minimum that fans can expect, then they will not be disappointed if they come to AAMI Park over the next few months to sample what is still something of an acquired taste for the majority of Victorians.

Sport does not always deliver happy endings. Mark Gerrard's 100th Super Rugby match did not end in triumph. Stirling Mortlock did not make a fairytale return. But the display gave plenty of hope for the future.

Rugby Internationals 2014

Round 1
Sat, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
SAM 18 vs TGA 18 Report Stats
FJI 25 vs ITA 14 Report Stats
NZL 20 vs ENG 15 Report Stats
AUS 50 vs FRA 23 Report Stats
Sun, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 47 vs WXV 13 Report Stats
ARG 17 vs IRE 29 Report Stats
USA 6 vs SCO 24 Report Stats
CAN 25 vs JPN 34 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Sat, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
SAM 15 vs ITA Report Stats
FJI 45 vs TGA 17 Report Stats
NZL 28 vs ENG 27 Report Stats
AUS 6 vs FRA Report Stats
Sun, 15 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 38 vs WAL 16 Report Stats
CAN 17 vs SCO 19 Report Stats
ARG 17 vs IRE 23 Report Stats
USA 29 vs JPN 37 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Sat, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
ARG 19 vs SCO 21 Report Stats
FJI 13 vs SAM 18 Report Stats
JPN 26 vs ITA 23 Report Stats
AUS 39 vs FRA 13 Stats
NZL 36 vs ENG 13 Report Stats
Sun, 22 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 31 vs WAL 30 Report Stats
USA 38 vs CAN 35 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Sun, 29 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 55 vs SCO 6 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Sun, 02 NovTimes shown AEDT
BAR vs AUS 01:30Twic
USA vs NZL 07:00Soldier Field
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Sun, 09 NovTimes shown AEDT
ITA vs SAM 01:00Stadio Del Duca
ENG vs NZL 01:30Twic
WAL vs AUS 01:30MilS
FRA vs FJI 03:45Stade Velodrome
IRE vs RSA 04:30Lansdowne Road
SCO vs ARG 04:30Murrayfield Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Sun, 16 NovTimes shown AEDT
ITA vs ARG 01:00Stadio Comunale Luigi Ferraris
ENG vs RSA 01:30Twic
WAL vs FJI 01:30MilS
SCO vs NZL 04:30Murrayfield Stadium
FRA vs AUS 07:00StdF
Mon, 17 NovTimes shown AEDT
IRE vs GEO 01:30Lansdowne Road
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Sun, 23 NovTimes shown AEDT
ITA vs RSA 01:00Stadio Plebiscito
SCO vs TGA 01:30Rugby Park
IRE vs AUS 03:30Lansdowne Road
WAL vs NZL 04:30MilS
ENG vs SAM 06:00Twic
FRA vs ARG 07:00StdF
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Sun, 30 NovTimes shown AEDT
ENG vs AUS 01:30Twic
WAL vs RSA 01:30MilS
View All Fixtures
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