Melbourne Rebels coach Tony McGahan has blasted his team’s first-half performance as embarrassing after falling 36-15 to new Super Rugby leaders the Chiefs.
The Rebels’ hopes of playing finals football crashed and burned in Saturday’s opening stanza at Waikato Stadium, with the rampant Chiefs running in four unanswered tries.
Sitting third in the Australian conference behind the NSW Waratahs and Brumbies, the Rebels needed to topple the two-time champions to give themselves a chance with only four rounds remaining.
But the home side raced to a 26-3 halftime lead before sealing the match to climb to the top of the overall standings ahead of the Crusaders, who on Friday beat the Waratahs.
Melbourne let themselves down with too many errors, turnovers and missed tackles and the clinical Chiefs made them pay.
The Rebels scored two tries to one in the second half but the damage was already done.
McGahan was pleased his team showed some fight, although felt it was a case of too little too late.
“We needed to – we were embarrassing ourselves out there physically,” McGahan said.
“We were really put to the sword there in the first half.
“We came out and won the second half 12-10 but the game goes for 80 minutes … we went missing there in the first half.”
The Rebels made the worst possible start with Chiefs centre Seta Tamanivalu stepping back inside to touch down in the third minute.
The home side continued to pile on the points with hooker Nathan Harris, winger Toni Pulu and playmaker Aaron Cruden setting up the 23-point halftime lead.
Melbourne looked to have scored just before halftime when five-eighth Jack Debreczeni managed to get a quick ball away to winger Tom English, who dived across in the corner but the TMO surprisingly ruled the pass was forward.
There was no coming back from that for the Rebels.
Hard-working fullback Mike Harris, who was a standout, scored the first, which he converted, and also booted a penalty.
Harris also had a hand in the second try, splitting the defence for centre Reece Hodge to score late in the match.