Isi Naisarani scored a try in Super Time as the Melbourne Rebels sealed a 25-20 win over the Western Force in Friday’s Super Rugby AU clash in Sydney.
AS IT HAPPENED | Force v Rebels
The big Wallabies No 8 dotted down from close range after an intense build-up from the kick-off of 'Super Time', a new rule that sends a game into an extra five minutes each way if tied at full-time, with the first to score winning.
It was a cruel blow for the Force who battled hard to be 20-20 after 80 minutes. They have now gone four games without a win - their worst start to a Super Rugby campaign since 2010 when they lost six in a row.
In contrast, the Rebels are unbeaten since their opening-day loss to the Brumbies, building momentum with two wins and a draw.
"There was a real pick-up of intensity in that Super Time, it was almost like we woke up," said Rebels skipper Matt Toomua after the clash at Sydney's Leichhardt Oval.
"If we had taken a leaf out of that book for the whole game, it probably would have been easier for us. But credit to the Force, they put us under a lot of pressure."
It was an handling error by Force captain Jeremy Thrush that gave possession to the Rebels from the kick-off of extra-time and resulted in the winning try.
"I dropped that one to put us under pressure and I guess that was a bit of the story of the night for us," said the former All Black. "It's pretty gutting to lose like that."
The Rebels started strongly but their momentum was stymied when Force flanker Tevin Ferris sustained a neck injury and had to be stabilised and stretchered off.
When play resumed, it was the Perth team who bagged the first points, courtesy of a Jono Lance penalty, and they began dominating possession.
Their persistence paid off with Fergus Lee-Warner slamming the ball over the try line from a well-worked driving maul on 26 minutes.
But despite the Rebels being a man down with Naisarani in the sin-bin, hooker Jordan Uelese hauled them back into the game with a diving try from a set-piece, and a long-distance Reece Hodge penalty sent them to the break at 10-10.
Handling errors marred the start of the second half, but it sparked to life with 20 points in barely 10 frantic minutes.
Toomua slotted a penalty before a quality converted try from the Force's Byron Ralston, which Lance converted, only for the Rebels' Matt Philip to barge over for a try after a series of pick-and-drives.
A Toomua conversion and a Lance penalty made it 20-20, sending the game into extra-time where Naisarani emerged as the hero.
Tries: Fergus Lee-Warner, Byron Ralston
Conversions: Jono Lance (2)
Penalties: Lance (2)
Tries: Jordan Uelese, Matt Philip, Isi Naisarani
Conversions: Matt Toomua (2)
Penalties: Matt Toomua (2)
15 Jack McGregor, 14 Byron Ralston, 13 Kyle Godwin, 12 Richard Kahui, 11 Marcel Brache, 10 Jono Lance, 9 Ian Prior (captain), 8 Brynard Stander, 7 Tevin Ferris, 6 Henry Stowers, 5 Fergus Lee-Warner, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Kieran Longbottom, 2 Feleti Kaitu’u, 1 Chris Heiberg
Substitutes: 16 Andrew Ready, 17 Pek Cowan, 18 Tom Sheminant, 19 Johan Bardoul, 20 Ollie Callan, 21 Nick Frisby, 22 Henry Taefu, 23 Brad Lacey
15 Reece Hodge (co-captain), 14 Tom Pincus, 13 Andrew Kellaway, 12 Billy Meakes, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Matt Toomua (co-captain), 9 Ryan Louwrens, 8 Isi Naisarani, 7 Richard Hardwick, 6 Michael Wells, 5 Trevor Hosea, 4 Esei Haangana, 3 Jermaine Ainsley, 2 Jordan Uelese, 1 Cameron Orr
Substitutes: 16 Efitusi Ma’afu, 17 Cabous Eloff, 18 Pone Fa'amaluli, 19 Matt Philip, 20 Rob Leota, 21 Brad Wilkin, 22 Frank Lomani, 23 Andrew Deegan