‘Own worst enemy’: Rebels’ month from hell continues as Brumbies smash Aussie rivals, Lolesio’s timely reminder

The Melbourne Rebels’ month from hell has continued, as the Brumbies picked off the embattled Super Rugby franchise one lineout after another to go down to their Australian rivals 30-3 at AAMI Park.

Following weeks of dire headlines surrounding their future after falling into voluntary administration, the Rebels fluffed their lines and couldn’t take their chances on an emotional evening in Melbourne.

The embarrassingly low turnout, which came off the back of tickets not being able to be sold until Monday afternoon, summed up the sorry state of affairs at the franchise.

It also was a concerning warning ahead of next weekend’s Super Rugby, where all 12 franchises will descend on Melbourne for the third straight year.

Indeed, one of the showpiece events on the Super Rugby calendar could well expose the competition’s shortcomings.

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Rob Leota’s Rebels suffered another blow on Friday night as the under-pressure Super Rugby franchise were smashed by the ACT Brumbies at AAMI Park, on February 23, 2024. (Photo by Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images)

Off the back of a strong set-piece, Brumbies playmaker Noah Lolesio outplayed his opposite No.10 Carter Gordon.

Lolesio set up Corey Toole’s second try after a clever decision to attack the short side from a lineout and helped them to a 17-3 half-time lead.

Then, after some more brilliance from Nick Frost at the lineout in the second half, No.8 Charlie Cale scored a phenomenal individual try to ensure the Brumbies would leave Melbourne with a bonus point fourth try.

Cale’s second try in the 78th minute put the cherry on top of a strong first performance, which rubberstamped the Brumbies once again as Australia’s premier side.

Charlie Cale STOP. THAT. ????‍????#SuperRugbyPacific #REBvBRU pic.twitter.com/BXvcX5Ypot

— Super Rugby Pacific (@SuperRugby) February 23, 2024

The Rebels will rue several blown chances.

After Toole’s early five-pointer showcased the winger’s incredible speed, the Rebels had the chance to respond quickly with a five-metre lineout, but Leota was pinged at the rolling maul.

Later, on the stroke of half-time, Matt Gibbon was penalised at the scrum when the Rebels had been peppering the Brumbies’ line and dominating their opponents previously at the crucial set-piece platform.

But Leota’s cancelled try after Vaiolini Ekuasi held back Tom Hooper at the scrum rubbed more salt into the wound.

The Rebels will hope the lacklustre display isn’t the nail in the coffin that cements the thinking around the future of the franchise, who need a white knight to save them after sinking into $22 million of debt.  

Leota said the Rebels didn’t help themselves and were their “own worst enemy”.

The Brumbies raced out to an early lead when Toole was freed up by fullback Tom Wright. The rapid-fire winger only needed an inch as he broke free and chipped ahead to score easily out wide.

The sevens international had his second try after 15 minutes when Lolesio opened up some space for Toole to explode into and suddenly the Brumbies had a 14-0 lead.

New season, same Corey Toole #SuperRugbyPacific #REBvBRU pic.twitter.com/erFdJFp5Ph

— Super Rugby Pacific (@SuperRugby) February 23, 2024

After struggling from the kicking tee during his maiden international year, Gordon’s kicking woes returned as the 23-year-old banged a simple penalty into the left-hand upright midway through the first half.

A lifting tackle from Rebels recruit Filipo Daugunu allowed Lolesio to extend the lead out to 17-0 in the 27th minute.

Gordon didn’t make the same mistake from the kicking tee in the 32nd minute, as the Rebels finally got on the scoreboard.

The home side looked like they would add some more points on the stroke of half-time after camping down at the Brumbies’ line.

Luke Reimer was one of the Brumbies’ best during their season-opening win over the Rebels in Melbourne. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

Even referee Angus Gardner came to the party, showing Len Ikitau a yellow card for being offside, but the Rebels blew the chance to take some confidence into half-time as Gibbon infringed.

If it wasn’t the excellent Luke Reimer, who was at his lethal best on the floor, making life hell for the Rebels, it was the men from Burn City themselves as their lineout struggles continually plagued them throughout the entire match.

Taniela Tupou made his arrival felt after making his Rebels debut, but the home side couldn’t execute the strong go-forward the Wallabies prop provided in the second half.

Cale’s second half double ensured it was a frustrating evening for the Rebels, who were in desperate need for a happy finish to one of the club’s most difficult months.

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