MELBOURNE (Reuters) - The Melbourne Rebels have focused on fixing their poor discipline ahead of the crunch match against the Wellington Hurricanes after a rash of penalties put the brakes on their strong start to the Super Rugby season.
The Rebels slumped to their fourth loss of the season in their last start against the New South Wales Waratahs, seeing a 13-point lead at half-time turn into a 23-20 defeat as they fell repeatedly foul of referee Damon Murphy and had prop Sam Talakai sin-binned for the last eight minutes.
The Rebels were similarly profligate in defeat to the Durban-based Sharks and worse against the Lions, to whom they conceded an extraordinary 20-1 penalty count and two yellow cards while giving up a 28-point lead.
Although still four points ahead of the Waratahs at the top of the Australian conference, the Rebels can ill afford to be so generous against the high-flying Hurricanes, who smashed the Waikato Chiefs 47-19 at home over the weekend.
Wallabies utility back Reece Hodge said the Rebels were keen to push the limits but had gone too far over the line, too often.
“A lot of our competition at training is about pushing the boundaries and really trying to push each other to the limits,” Hodge said.
“And I think there’s a difference in terms of pushing the limits in terms of penalties and then just blatantly going over those lines and giving the referees an easy decision.
“So, it’s about acknowledging that we’ve been quite poor in that area and there are a few repeat offenders, I guess, across the line.
“It might be one person one week and some person the next week. We’ve talked a bit about it.”
After back-to-back defeats, the Rebels were glad to have the bye after Easter to refresh and work out how to rejuvenate a usually potent attack that was shut down by the Waratahs in the second half and by the Cape Town-based Stormers the week before.
Captain and Wallabies fullback Dane Haylett-Petty, and test prop Jordan Uelese, have returned to full training after respective foot and knee injuries. They could be handy reinforcements for the Hurricanes.
“We definitely haven’t played our style of rugby and what was working for us at the start of the year,” said Hodge.
“So I think that’s more been the focus, just improving and getting back to the way we play footy.
“We need to get some momentum back into our season. It’s a huge test for us ... To go over to Wellington and win would be a huge boost for us as a club.”
Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty