Rebels consign Waratahs to winless season

·3-min read

The Melbourne Rebels have consigned the NSW Waratahs to an unprecedented winless Super Rugby AU season with a 36-25 victory in the battle of the competition's two also-rans.

The Rebels overcame two red cards to humiliate the Waratahs one last time at Bankwest Stadium on Saturday night.

While only a truncated competition, Saturday night's defeat marks the first time any Australian team has finished a Super Rugby campaign without a win.

The Western Force's shock victory over the previously-unbeaten Queensland Reds on Friday night eliminated the Rebels from the finals race and only time will tell if their consolation win saves embattled coach Dave Wessels from the sack.

The Rebels' 2021 record reads three wins from eight, having painfully lost four contests on the final play of the match.

Missing the finals has Wessels under extreme pressure to keep his job after four years of under-achieving from the Rebels under his tenure.

"We could be sitting here telling a whole different story," Wessels said of Melbourne's series of near-misses.

"I don't get anxious about it. I don't stressed about that kind of stuff because I'm getting what I signed up for."

The Rebels fared significantly better than the Waratahs, who dispensed with coach Rob Penney following the side's first five defeats, before finishing none from eight.

"It definitely hurts. It's definitely disappointing. The whole year's been disappointing for us," said Waratahs captain Jake Gordon, who remains convinced the side can turn around their fortunes during the upcoming trans-Tasman competition.

"We're definitely trying to resurrect our season. We actually do think we're improving. We've just got to sort out our discipline a little bit."

With little more than pride and the Weary Dunlop Shield to play for, the Rebels - having managed to score only 10 tries in seven previous games - crossed after only 40 seconds on Saturday through centre Stacey Ili.

Wessels' men ended an eventful point-a-minute first half with a 21-18 lead despite having Wallabies No.8 Isi Naisarani sent off for high tackle on Waratahs lock Max Douglas in the 19th minute.

Naisarani was making his first appearance of the year following off-season knee surgery and only minutes earlier set up the Rebels' second try from the back of a scrum for Michael Wells.

But his mis-timed tackle on Douglas sparked a melee and also seemed to jolt the Waratahs into action.

Trailing 15-6 before Naisarani saw red card, the Waratahs cut the halftime defict to three points with two tries in eight minutes before the break, to Mark Naraqanitawase and Jack Maddocks.

But that was as close as the home side got, with second-half tries to Robert Leota and Matt Gibbon sealing the Waratahs' fate, after Rebels prop Pone Faamausili was red-carded three minutes from fulltime, also for a high tackle on Douglas.

One shining light for the Waratahs was another outstanding performance from powerhouse centre Izaia Perese, who has emerged as a genuine Wallabies prospect with his eye-catching form over the past month.