The Rebels made a fine start to their Super Rugby campaign when they claimed a 35-14 victory over the Cheetahs in Melbourne on Friday.
The hosts started brightly and showed their intent from the outset by running the ball from deep inside their half. Their adventurous style was rewarded as early as the fifth minute when Lachlan Mitchell rounded off a superb team try.
This after the hosts' forwards and backs combined brilliantly in the build-up, from deep inside their half, before Luke Burgess spun the ball wide inside the Cheetahs' 22.
There was still work to be done, however, and Bryce Hegarty and Mitch Inman did well to draw in a couple of defenders before Inman offloaded to Mitchell who scored in the right-hand corner.
Jason Woodward failed with the conversion and also missed a kickable penalty five minutes later. The Cheetahs got their first genuine points-scoring opportunity shortly afterwards but Johan Goosen also failed with his shot from the kicking tee.
The Rebels doubled their lead in the 22nd minute thanks to enterprising play from their captain Scott Higginbotham. The Wallaby back row opted to play quickly, after the Rebels were awarded a penalty right in front of the posts, and delivered a perfectly-weighted cross-kick which Woodward gathered inside the visitors' in-goal area before dotting down.
Both sides continued attacking during the rest of the half but the poor-goal kicking continued as Goosen missed another shot at goal, two minutes before half-time, after the Rebels' backs were penalised for straying offside.
That miss proved costly as the Rebels struck back with their third try shortly before half-time. Burgess, playing his first Super Rugby match since a stint in France, got his name onto the scoreheet when he broke around the fringe of a ruck, close to the Cheetahs' try-line, after Sean McMahon - who was superb throughout - laid the groundwork with a bullocking run which caught the Cheetahs defenders napping.
After their lethargic first half display the visitors showed greater urgency after half-time. They took the game to the Rebels and were rewarded, five minutes after the break, when Jean Cook scored from the back of a driving maul after a line-out 15 metres from the Rebels' try-line.
Goosen added the extras, and with 35 minutes left the Cheetahs had their tails up. The Rebels did not retreat into their shells, however, and continued to attack.
The homeside suffered a setback in the 52nd minute when Scott Fuglistaller was sent to the sin bin for punching Jean Cook at a scrum.
But despite their numerical disadvantage, they extended their lead when Bryce Hegarty scored their bonus-point try under the posts, after running onto a pass from Tamati Ellison, who set up the score with a clinical line break.
Hegarty dusted himself off to add the conversion but despite trailing by 17 points, the Cheetahs continued in their bid to salvage something from the game.
They struck back with another converted try from a driving maul in the 70th minute. This time Ryno Barnes was the man who got up with the ball, under a pile of bodies, but the Rebels sealed the win with a drop goal from just outside the visitors' 22 by Angus Roberts, in the 77th minute.
Roberts added a penalty shortly before full-time and Higginbotham put the final nail in the Cheetahs coffin when he scored the Rebels' fifth try, in the right-hand corner in injury time, after they launched a counter attack from deep inside their half.
Tries: Mitchell, Woodward, Burgess, Hegarty, Higginbotham
Cons: Hegarty 2
Drop goal: Roberts
Yellow card: Fuglistaller (52 mins - punching)
Tries: Cook, Barnes
Con: Goosen 2
Melbourne Rebels: 15 Jason Woodward, 14 Lachlan Mitchell, 13 Tamati Ellison, 12 Mitch Inman, 11 Tom English, 10 Bryce Hegarty, 9 Luke Burgess, 8 Scott Higginbotham (captain), 7 Scott Fuglistaller, 6 Sean McMahon, 5 Luke Jones, 4 Hugh Pyle, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 Pat Leafa, 1 Toby Smith.
Replacements: 16 Steve Fualau, 17 Max Lahiff, 18 Paul Alo-Emile, 19 Cadeyrn Neville, 20 Colby Fainga'a, 21 Ben Meehan, 22 Angus Roberts, 23 Tom Kingston.
Cheetahs: 15 Willem le Roux, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Pieter Labuschagne, 6 Johannes Prinsloo, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Lodewyk de Jager, 3 Coenraad Oosthuizen, 2 Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1 Caylib Oosthuizen.
Replacements: 16 Ryno Barnes, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Nicolaas van Dyk, 19 Rynhardt Landman, 20 Jean Cook, 21 Sarel Pretorius, 22 Elgar Watts, 23 Hennie Daniller.
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant referees: Matt O'Brien (Australia), Michael Hogan (Australia)