Rebels snatch first win
Cipriani impresses before injury allows Force to fight back
Last Updated: 23/03/12 11:30am
The Rebels clung on to secure their first victory of 2012 as they edged out the Force 30-29.
The home side, who had lost James O'Connor and Richard Kingi before the start of the game through injury, had looked on course for a big win as they raced in to a 21-0 lead after 23 minutes, with Danny Cipriani form.
But following the loss of the England fly-half with a hamstring injury three minutes later, the wheels threatened to come off.
And it took a late penalty from Mark Gerrard to snatch the win for the Rebels, whose last success had also come against the Perth-based franchise.
Cipriani had landed 11 points, while Lachlan Mitchell and Lloyd Johansson also crossed for scores during a blistering opening before Julian Huxley (2) and Gerrard stepped up to slot over penalties.
The defeat was tough on the Force, who had responded from their slow start to lead 29-27 with 10 minutes left.
David Pocock, Winston Stanley, Alfie Mafi and Nick Cummins all scored tries to at least clinch a bonus point, while David Harvey slotted over nine points.
The Rebels had raced out of the blocks - and were rewarded with the opening score on eight minutes when Mitchell ran on to a perfect pass from Cipriani to cross. Cipriani tagged on the extras.
The Melbourne side doubled their advantage when Johansson, a late replacement for O'Connor, dummied his way over for a try, with the Force stretched by the constant wave of attacks from the hosts. Cipriani converted.
Harvey missed a simple looking penalty chance on 18 minutes to pull the visitors back into the game - and the Rebels made them pay as Cipriani crossed.
Great turnover ball in their own 22 released Gerrard down the right, with the winger finding Cipriani on the inside for the Sale-bound fly-half to race away for the try. Cipriani converted.
However that was Cipriani's last involvement as he hobbled off with a hamstring strain he picked up in scoring.
And the Force took advantage of the disruption as Pocock pounced on a loose ball - with the Rebels defence guilty of failing to clear the danger. Harvey converted.
The Rebels were on target with a penalty through Huxley, but the Force hit back with their second try - Stanley dummying his way over from close range before the interval.
The Force struck again after the break as Mafi made the most of some weak tackling to score - with the winger beating four defenders. Harvey's conversion cut the deficit to 24-19.
That lead was down to just two points after Harvey slotted over another penalty - only for Huxley to give the Rebels some breathing space.
The Force were not to be denied, though, as Cummins scooted in on 63 minutes to level the scores - again questionable defending costing the Rebels - before Harvey put the Force in front with the conversion.
The Rebels, though, kept their cool and with 10 minutes left they snatched the win through Gerrard's long-range penalty.