McGahan : Loss leaves a sour taste in our mouths

Melbourne Rebels Head coach Tony McGahan says that losing to the Western Force 11-13 in their final round match at AAMI Park has left a “a sour taste in our mouths”.

The Rebels enjoyed their best ever year in 2016 and were hoping to finish the season with a fifth straight win at home. However the Rebels delivered a below par peformance by their standards and they struggled to to get their game going against a dogged Force team.

The Force scored the only try of the match which has left Coach McGahan plenty to ponder over the off-season and pre-season, as Scott Higginbotham and Paul Alo-Emile were denied a fairytale finish in their last appearance before heading overseas.

The Western Force were the first on the board as Zach Holmes knocked over an early penalty, however the Rebels dominated the opening stages of the match in terms of both possession and territory, desperate defence keeping first Nic Stirzaker and then Pat Leafa at bay from point blank range.

Mike Harris slotted an equalising penalty after fifteen minutes, only for Holmes to hit back immediately, before both Bryce Hegarty and Lopeti Timani had to be replaced early after sustaining injuries.

The Rebels looked to have found the line on the half hour mark, only for Cam Crawford to be denied a first Rebels try when the TMO found an obstruction offence in an earlier phase, and both sides went into the break try less after Chris Heiberg’s effort for the visitors was also disallowed upon referral, the Western Force leading 6-3 at half time.

The Rebels began the second half in the ascendency, continuing to dominate and upping the tempo but unable to find their way across the line. Harris evened up the scores with his second penalty, after Higginbotham was denied out wide through some last ditch defence after a wonderful chip kick put him in great position.

Then against the run of play a Marcel Brache intercept on his own defensive line released Luke Morahan to score the game’s first try in the corner with just under fifteen minutes remaining, Holmes converting from the sideline. The Rebels hit straight back, as replacement winger Telusa Veainu got over in the corner to reduce the gap to two points with seven minutes remaining.

But it was a case of too little too late, the Rebels guilty of squandering plenty of attacking opportunities and failing to play as well as they have shown they are capable of performing.

Speaking post-game, McGahan said it was a disappointing way to finish the season.

“It leaves a sour taste in our mouths to put in that performance in our final game of the year,” McGahan said.

“We were poor tonight and failed to deal with the expectations we placed upon ourselves, and the Force were able to do what they came here to do.

“It’s difficult to reflect on what has been a year with so many positives straight after a performance like that, however we’ll certainly be able to draw upon plenty of experiences from throughout the campaign heading into 2016.”

The Rebels finish the season with seven wins, two more than ever before in the Club’s short history, and with minimal departures from an exciting young squad that have shown their commitment to the Club and Melbourne by re-committing, many until 2017.

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