The Rebels got their Super Rugby season off to a winning start on Friday as they defeated the Western Force 30-23 at AAMI Park.
The Rebels got their Super Rugby season off to a strong start on Friday as they defeated the 30-23 in a come-from-behind success at AAMI Park.
Second-half yellow cards shown to Chris Alcock and Alby Mathewson saw Michael Foley's outfit struggle to halt the home side's resurgence.
The Force had been 0-11 ahead with half-an-hour played when Alfi Mafi crossed the whitewash following two penalties from Kyle Godwin.
However, the home side gradually fought their way back into matters and ultimately prevailed thanks to scores from Ged Robinson, Hugh Pyle and Richard Kingi, with James O'Connor kicking strongly off the tee with fifteen points to his name.
The match began with the underdog Force on the front foot and they fully deserved their early 0-6 lead when Godwin pushed them ahead after missing his first shot at goal. Those points came either side of Scott Higginbotham being sent to the sin-bin for an alleged punch on 22 minutes.
Foley's men were in great form and looked hungry to cause an upset in the campaign opener, a result that looked all the more likely when Mafi crossed wide on the left after good initial driving saw lock Sam Wykes held up over the line.
With 30 minutes gone at AAMI Park the Rebels looked slightly flat until one of their more consistent players from last season, Ged Robinson, sliced through a hole on halfway to spark something of a resurgence in the Melbourne camp.
Higginbotham was now back on the field when the Rebels won a line-out and then drove over the line, with the aforementioned hooker the last man up from the scoring move.
O'Connor's conversion was good to make it a four-point ball game on 34 minutes as the Rebels continued to dominate the latter stages of the opening half. They added to their tally before the break when the Wallaby back kicked a penalty that sent the teams in at 10-11.
The second-half continued as the first ended and with more pressure applied, the hosts took the lead for the first time in the game thanks to a well-worked try. It came from a lovely inside ball from Kingi, who had worked a one-two with Hugh Pyle before the lock carried over. O'Connor was again successful with his kick as the Rebels went 17-11 ahead.
The Force weren't done however and when a nice set-move off a scrum saw them go blind via Sam Christie and Winston Stanley, the space was created for Mafi to grab his brace. Unfortunately for the visitors though Godwin's kick was wide so they remained behind.
However, the Force saw their hopes of claiming victory suffer a major setback when first flanker Alcock and then former Blues scrum-half Mathewson were sent to the sin-bin.
That allowed the Rebels to take the game by the scruff of the neck and they moved 27-16 ahead when wing Kingi pounced on a long pass to score in the corner. O'Connor added the extra two before the Force admirably hit back through replacement Richard Brown's converted try, which set up a grandstand finish that the Rebels managed to see off.
Tries: Robinson, Pyle, Kingi
Con: O'Connor 3
Pen: O'Connor 3
Yellow: Higginbotham (22 mins)
Tries: Mafi 2, Brown
Pen: Godwin 2
Yellow: Alcock (58 mins), Mathewson (61 mins)
Melbourne Rebels: 15 James O'Connor, 14 Lachlan Mitchell, 13 Mitch Inman, 12 Rory Sidey, 11 Richard Kingi, 10 Kurtley Beale, 9 Nic Phipps, 8 Gareth Delve, 7 Scott Fuglistaller, 6 Scott Higginbotham, 5 Luke Jones, 4 Hugh Pyle, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 Ged Robinson, 1 Nic Henderson.
Replacements: 16 Shota Horie, 17 Paul Alo Emile, 18 Cadeyrn Neville, 19 Jarrod Saffy, 20 Nick Stirzaker, 21 Alex Rokobaro, 22 Tom English.
Western Force: 15 Will Tupou, 14 Patrick Dellit, 13 Winston Stanley, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Alfie Mafi, 10 Sam Christie, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Chris Alcock, 6 Angus Cottrell, 5 Toby Lynn, 4 Sam Wykes, 3 Tetera Faulkner, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Pek Cowan (c).
Replacements: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Kieran Longbottom, 18 Phoenix Battye, 19 Richard Brown, 20 Mick Snowden, 21 Sias Ebersohn, 22 Junior Rasolea.
Referee: Angus Gardner