An 80th minute try just to make the finals was the pressure-reliever the Melbourne Rebels needed to attack Saturday’s final against the Queensland Reds with the free minds needed to pose a scary Super Rugby threat.
Three times in a Tuesday interview Rebels skipper Dane Haylett-Petty pointed out the fact his team had played in a “do-or-die” match, and that Reds, who trounced the Brumbie in the final round, hadn’t.
Melbourne’s do-or-die victory was against the previously winless Force, but came after the Rebels trailed by as much as 10 points in the second-half, knowing they needed to win by four-points to progress to the finals for the first time ever.
Haylett-Petty was on the bench in the final few minutes, nursing a sore knee he conceded wouldn’t be “perfect” this weekend
But he saw both the resilience he was after in the victory, and the relief after it, that fuelled his hopes for what would be an upset win at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday.
“That was probably one of the highlights of the last couple of weeks, we haven’t played our best footy but we have shown a lot of resilience and stuck at it for the full 80 minutes and never given up,” Haylett-Petty said.
“It sets us up well. We’ve had to play a do-or-die game already, the Reds haven’t.
“I think we’re in a really good position now, we can play free. The Reds are favourites playing at home, we’ve got nothing to lose.”
It might be the first final for most of the Rebels, but Haylett-Petty, like half a dozen of his teammates, have played in the cauldron of a Test match.
“Experience is important but to be honest, looking at the Reds team, I can’t imagine many of them have played any finals footy, they have a lot of young guys,” he said.
“And having to play in a pressure game, a do-or-die game already, suits us quite well.”
Last week’s game was Haylett-Petty’s first fir six weeks, and he conceded his knee would have to be managed now, and in to the immediate future as he prepares for Wallaby duties.
“The knee is something that is going to grumble away for a while,” he said.
“It definitely wasn’t perfect on the weekend and won’t be this weekend either. I’m working through that at the moment.”
The Reds are $1.35 TAB favourites to win this week, playing at home, with the expectation more than 25,000 fans could attend.
The Rebels $3.25 outsiders, having drawn with the Reds in Round 2, before failing to score a try in a 19-3 loss at Suncorp Stadium less than a month ago.
But Haylett-Petty said those numbers didn’t tell the whole story, and didn’t matter much this weekend. It’s a whole new ball game.
“We got over the (try) line five times last time, but were held up, so we definitely take a lot of confidence in,” he said.
“We enjoy playing the Reds. In recent history we have won more than we have lost. I’d say for large parts of both games this season we have dominated.
“We know that at our best we are good enough to beat them. We don’t feel like we have fired yet, and haven’t clickedin the last couple of weeks. we are one game away from really clicking.”