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Toomua converts as Rebels' playoff bid hinges on final kick of the game

The Rebels will face the Reds in the playoffs next weekend.

Efitusi Ma'afu and the Rebels are into the playoffs for the first time.
Efitusi Ma'afu and the Rebels are into the playoffs for the first time.
Image: AAP/PA Images

MATT TOOMUA CONVERTED a try at the death to clinch a thrilling 34-30 win over Western Force and book the Melbourne Rebels’ place in the Super Rugby AU playoffs.

The Rebels needed to beat the Force side by at least four points to clinch third spot and ensure a clash against the Queensland Reds next weekend, with the winner facing the ACT Brumbies in the 19 September final.

They got over the line, but left it very late.

Trailing by three points with 20 minutes remaining, they had two tries disallowed before Cabous Eloff finally got the breakthrough and Toomua safely converted on the full-time hooter to sneak victory.

“A little bit of relief and really just proud of the boys. It was a great effort to fight back and score that try,” said skipper Dane Haylett-Petty as the Rebels made a Super Rugby playoffs for the first time ever.

“Just another Rebels-Force nailbiter. Over the last 10 years they’ve all gone down to the wire. Another great game,” he added.

Defeat was a crushing blow for the hard-working Force who have the dismal record of eight losses from eight on their return to Super Rugby after being axed in 2017.

Force captain Ian Prior booted his side into an early 3-0 advantage.

But the Rebels dominated possession and Toomua offloaded out of a scrum to winger Tom Pincus who sprinted to the try line on 17 minutes, only for the Force to hit back through Henry Taefu, who burst through the defence to restore their lead.

Toomua converted two quick penalties to give them a 13-8 cushion and they bagged another try from Reece Hodge off a charge-down.

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The Force stayed in touch with a set-piece try by Andrew Ready from the lineout right on half-time to send them to the break trailing 20-13.

Ready pounced again soon after the restart, with Prior converting to level the scores at 20-20 then kicking a penalty to give them the lead.

Brynard Stander got a fourth try for the Force, before Haylett-Petty combined with Marika Koroibete to haul them within three points.

It set up an exciting finale with Koroibete and Matt Philip having tries disallowed before Eloff and Toomua sealed the win.

© – AFP, 2020

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