Rebels can’t handle expectation: coach

Melbourne Rebels coach Tony McGahan concedes his side have a lot of work to do as they search for a maiden Super Rugby finals berth.

The Rebels’ fifth season was their most successful, with the club grabbing seven wins and knocking off every Australian side except the NSW Waratahs.

However, Friday night’s 13-11 loss to the Western Force at AAMI Park was a stark reminder of two issues that hampered the Rebels in 2015: their trouble winning despite a glut of possession and their problems winning when they’re expected to.

McGahan was furious to end the season on such a low note.

“That let us know where we are really. We got what we deserved,” he said.

“We’ll be able to use it all pre-season.

“There’s a lot of positives this season. It’s just difficult to get over the result tonight.

“We let ourselves down.

“Playing with expectation is a difficult thing to do and we, as a club, need to get better at that.”

Outgoing captain Scott Higginbotham agreed.

“I’m extremely frustrated,” said the Wallabies’ back-rower, who will join Japanese club NEC Green Rockets after the World Cup.

“Not once out there did we feel under pressure, which has been the same story of the whole second half of the season.

“We just can’t seem to crack these wins.”

Nonetheless, Higginbotham was proud to see how far some of his younger teammates had come this year.

“It’s almost like watching kids grow up,” he said.

“It’s going to be hard to say goodbye to them, but that’s the best thing about football – the mates you make.”

The Force collected the wooden spoon, but coach Michael Foley was upbeat after their third win of the season.

“This year, there were a few things that came our way that we couldn’t control, but there’s certainly enough that we can,” Foley said.

“It all starts with that fighting spirit.”

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