Reece Hodge’s nasty hand injury rubbed salt into the wounds of the Melbourne Rebels, who were brought back to Earth with a 44-25 loss to the pacesetting Chiefs in Hamilton.
Wallabies veteran Hodge had his right arm in a sling and was grimacing in pain as he left the field after 23 minutes and watched the action unfold from the sidelines on Saturday.
“He’s got quite a significant injury there, there’s tendons and the bone came out of his skin,” Rebels coach Kevin Foote said.
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“It’s a finger, I haven’t seen the doctor yet but she was quite concerned about it.
“So we’ll see if we can get him operated on as soon as possible.”
The Rebels led the top-of-the-table Chiefs 8-0 early on but a familiar story then unfolded with a New Zealand Super Rugby Pacific team punishing an Australian one with lethal attacking play off turnover ball.
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The Rebels are now 1-3 after upsetting the NSW Waratahs last weekend.
“We started the game how we wanted to, fast and with good intent, got out to a good lead but ill discipline and just inability to sort of exit, get out of our half hurt us in that first half,” Rebels captain Brad Wilkin said.
“We definitely came here confident. We knew that if we played good rugby, then would give them a good crack. But yeah, credit to the Chiefs. They’re a really strong side.”
The now 4-0 Chiefs rested first-choice halves Brad Weber and Damian McKenzie, although McKenzie was a late addition to the bench for Josh Ioane (personal reasons).
“They’ve got great depth and that made it a really hard game out there,” Wilkin said.
“I guess we’ve got to look at it overall. I think you look at the 20 minutes, second quarter probably is where we let ourselves down and that’s probably been a theme throughout our season far. So just finding the small one percenters in those zones we’ll work on and move forward.”
Chiefs winger Emoni Narawa was a standout and scored a thrilling 34th minute try – although even his teammate and housemate Alex Nankivell thought he had put his boot in touch while tiptoeing down the sidelines.
“I thought he did – when I saw the jumbotron or whatever it’s called, it looked like he stepped out,” Nankivell said.
“I thought they might check it but they didn’t check it. Play on, five points.”
One positive for the Rebels was the continued fine form of young five-eighth Carter Gordon, who entered round four as the co-leader of Stan Sport’s Australian player of the year standings.
The Kiwis are also impressed.
“If he keeps playing like this, Eddie Jones will be looking at him for sure,” New Zealand sevens great Karl Te Nana said.
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“Obviously a communicator, a leader, but what I like about him too is he takes the ball to the line and he challenges it. He’s very strong in contact, through contact and he’s got the skills to throw those (out the) back balls well. Very impressed with Carter Gordon.”
The Chiefs now travel to Sydney to take on a Waratahs team that coach Clayton McMillan said “looked amazing on paper.”
The Rebels will host the Queensland Reds in round five.
CHIEFS 44 (Shaun Stevenson 2, Rameka Poihipi, Emoni Narawa, Tyrone Thompson, Etene Nanai-Seturo tries; Bryn Gatland 4 con, 2 pen) REBELS 25 (Alex Mafi, Stacey Ili, Nick Jooste, David Feliuai tries; Carter Gordon con, Reece Hodge pen) HT: 27-15
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