A 26-minute first-half showing from Danny Cipriani helped the Rebels secure their first win of 2012 in a 30-29 triumph over the Force.
A 26-minute first-half effort from Danny Cipriani helped the Rebels to secure their first win of the season in a 30-29 triumph over the Force on Friday.
It was a fine showing from the soon-to-be Sale Sharks fly-half as he set up a try and scored one of his own before being taken off with a leg injury.
That cameo helped the Rebels into a 21-0 lead with just 22 minutes on the clock and from there they held off a spirited Perth outfit to claim victory.
The Rebels were struck by a double blow during the warm-up when James O'Connor and Richard King were both forced to pull out with repspective injuries. That meant a start for Lloyd Johannson and Julian Huxley while Nic Stirzaker and James Hilgendorf were called onto the bench. However, the absence of two of their key players did not hamper the Rebels as they put in an improved start from last week's against the Cheetahs.
It took just eight minutes for the hosts to get over the whitewash for the first score of the match when a flat ball from Cipriani found ex-Wasp Lachlan Mitchell, who had been moved from wing to outside centre at AAMI Stadium. That converted score was just the beginning of a purple patch for the Melbourne Rebels.
Cipriani seemed to be enjoying the freedom of running the backline without Wallaby star O'Connor outside him and when the bulky Johannson crossed six minutes after Mitchell, the home crowd were lapping up the good start. It was about to get better as when Mark Gerrard showed good skills down the right wing, the veteran looked inside to find Cipriani on hand. The Englishman had a clear run to the line and then performed a celebratory dance. It was his last offering as the number ten had strained a hamstring in the act of scoring.
The Force took full advantage of the disruption as David Pocock pounced on a loose ball that Pek Cowan had kicked on the floor. David Harvey kicked to make it 21-7 on 33 minutes.
Third-choice kicker Julian Huxley then landed a penalty for the Rebls, but the Force replied with their second try when centre Winston Stanley crossed before the break. It looked like the tide had turned as the visitors struck again after the break as wing Alfi Mafi capitalised on some weak tackling to score under the posts. Harvey made it 24-19 from the kicking tee.
Harvey reduced the arrears to two points before Huxley gave the Rebels some breathing space ahead of a score from Nick Cummins that hinted the result was heading west. The wing hit the tail of a line-out on 63 minutes to level the scores and Harvey did the rest.
But it was to be the Rebels' day as, with ten minutes left, Gerrard's long-range penalty ended their winless drought to help them up to thirteenth in the overall standings.
For Melbourne Rebels:
Tries: Mitchell, Johannson, Cipriani
Con: Cipriani 3
Pen: Huxley 2, Gerrard
For Western Force:
Tries: Pocock, Stanley, Mafi, Cummins
Con: Harvey 3
Rebels: 15 Julian Huxley, 14 Mark Gerrard, 13 Lachlan Mitchell, 12 Lloyd Johannson, 11 Cooper Vuna, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Gareth Delve (c), 7 Tom Chamberlain, 6 Jarrod Saffy, 5 Hugh Pyle, 4 Luke Jones, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 Adam Freier, 1 Nic Henderson.
Replacements: 16 Ged Robinson, 17 Rodney Blake, 18 Alister Campbell, 19 Tim Davidson, 20 Michael Lipman, 21 Nic Stirzaker, 22 James Hilgendorf.
Western Force: 15 David Harvey, 14 Nick Cummins, 13 Will Tupou, 12 Rory Sidey, 11 Alfie Mafi, 10 James Stannard, 9 Brett Sheehan, 8 Matt Hodgson, 7 David Pocock (c), 6 Angus Cottrell, 5 Nathan Sharpe, 4 Sam Wykes, 3 Salesi Ma'afu, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Kieran Longbottom.
Replacements: 16 Ben Whittaker, 17 Pek Cowan, 18 Toby Lynn, 19 Richard Brown, 20 Justin Turner, 21 Winston Stanley, 22 Samu Wara.
Referee: Marius Jonker (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Angus Gardner (Australia), Andrew Lees (Australia)
Television match official: Matt Goddard (Australia)