The Melbourne Rebels register opening Super Rugby win against the Western Force
Last Updated: February 15, 2013 10:40am
The Melbourne Rebels held off the Western Force to get their Super Rugby season off to a winning start.
The Rebels had trailed early on but they responded in fine fashion to register a 30-23 victory.
Ged Robinson, Hugh Pyle and Richard Kingi all crossed for tries, while James O'Connor added 15 points with the boot.
It was an early setback to the hopes of the Force, who had finished bottom of the Australian Conference last season.
With a new coach at the helm in Michael Foley - as well as and a number of new players - they had fancied their chances for the new campaign.
But they threw away an 11-0 lead and were made to pay for having Chris Alcock and Alby Mathewson in the sin-bin in the second half.
Alfie Mafi scored two tries - including the first try of the new campaign - and Richard Brown crossed late on, while Kyle Godwin slotted over two penalties and a conversion but it wasn't enough for the Perth franchise.
Both of Godwin's penalties had come in the opening exchanges - the second after Scott Higginbotham had been sin-binned - to give the Force the ideal start.
And Mafi extended their lead when he crossed for the first try of the season. Sam Wykes had initially been held up over the line after some great play from Patrick Dellit and Winston Stanley but from the resulting scrum Godwin created the space for Mafi to dot down on the left.
That seemed to act as the catalyst for the Rebels, who despite being down to 14 men, threw wave after wave of attack at the Force's line.
And the pressure told as Robinson burrowed his way over. O'Connor converted and then slotted over a penalty to cut the deficit to a point at the break.
The second half saw the Rebels pick up where they left off and superb counter-rucking from former Force back Rory Sidey provided the platform for Pyle to go over. O'Connor coverted.
The Force hit back as the impressive Mafi slid over in the corner for his second try, only for O'Connor to slot over another penalty for the hosts.
And the Force saw their hopes suffer a major setback when first Alcock and then Mathewson were sent to the sin-bin in quick succession.
The Rebels took full advantage to open up a 27-16 lead, with Kingi exploiting the space outwide to score. O'Connor converted.
The Force, though, refused to give up and Brown powered over from close range with 10 minutes left.
Godwin converted only for the Rebels to move seven points clear with another O'Connor penalty.
The Force desperately tried to find a way back into the game, however the Rebels defence held firm.