Rebels coach Kevin Foote had a pretty simple explanation for his side’s second half capitulation against the Blues.
“Oh, we lost the hookers,” Foote told Stan Sport after a crushing 54-17 loss at Melbourne’s AAMI Park.
“That’s the whole game right there.”
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While that doesn’t tell the full story, the Rebels completely lost their way after Alex Mafi and Jordan Uelese were ruled out with injury.
Prop Sam Talakai was forced to step in at hooker while starting locks Trevor Hosea and Josh Canham were also forced to the sideline.
Mafi and Hosea’s injuries looked particularly concerning.
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“Obviously we lost momentum out of that, you know,” Foote said.
“Sammy, I thought it was brave for him to come on there but disappointing, you know, and then we lost the discipline.
“I didn’t think our discipline was good when the pressure was on and we’ve been the best team in the comp for discipline. So we let ourselves down there, but obviously losing those two hookers hurts.”
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The Rebels led 17-13 at halftime before the Blues went ballistic behind Beauden Barrett and scored 41 unanswered points.
Winger Mark Telea and halfback Finlay Christie scored two tries each.
“We wanted to go to tempo because we didn’t want to go to set-piece. So we were prepared to be fearless around driving tempo,” Foote explained.
“But obviously, if they were smart and went to structure then eventually the dam wall broke.
“So unfortunately for us it’s a hard pill to swallow when you lose two hookers… against the Blues backline, good luck with that…
“Not going to make excuses for what the Blues executed well, but it’s just disappointing.”
The 2-5 Rebels are sitting ninth on the Super Rugby Pacific ladder while the 4-3 Blues are fifth.
Both teams have byes next weekend which comes at a good time for the injury ravaged Rebels.
”We’ve got options, Anaru Rangi is a very good hooker as well. So I’ll have a look, Alex’s finger got dislocated and I’ll see how bad that is and I’ll see how bad Jordie’s is.”
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