The Melbourne Rebels are through to their first Super Rugby finals after a last-gasp try to Cabous Eloff sealed a tense 34-30 victory over the Western Force.
The Rebels had to win by four points or more to jump ahead of the NSW Waratahs and qualify in third spot.
The Waratahs were playing all the mind games they could with Alex Newsome turning up to training on Friday in the colours of his old teammates.
“They’re obviously favourites but you know, you’d been feeling a little nervous wouldn’t you,” Newsome told the Sydney Morning Herald.
Nervous is how Rebels fans would have been feeling right up until the 79th minute, when it was well and truly getting to desperation stakes as they trailed by two points.
It was then that Eloff crashed over to seal the win.
The Force appeared destined to go on with the job and take their first victory of the season, almost seeing off constant pressure from being camped on their own line defending against the desperate Rebels.
The pressure told though and it ended in heartbreak, not just for Force but the Waratahs too.
The early jitters with so much on the line seemed to get to the Rebels as Michael Wells and Tom Pincus got in each other’s way to send a try begging.
It proved a minor blip though as Melbourne got off to a strong start when Matt To’omua held the ball up beautifully for Pincus to steam through in the 18th minute.
The Force replied with a well-worked try of their own as Henry Taefu cut through to score.
In a seesawing affair during the first half, Reece Hodge was next to go over after a charge down saw Cameron Orr throw a looping pass over the top to put him in space.
The Force gained ascendancy though as Andrew Ready scored both right before the halftime siren and shortly after.
Brynard Stander then extended the lead and it appeared as if Melbourne were destined for a crushing defeat with the finals in glimpse.
But Dane Haylett-Petty finished off a spectacular team effort with just over 20 minutes left to put it back within reach.
Then it was Eloff who proved the match winner to send the Rebels into a preliminary final meeting with the Queensland Reds next Saturday in Brisbane.