Midfielder Reece Hodge scored 12 points to guide the Rebels to a 27-22 victory over the Force in Melbourne on Sunday, writes MARIETTE ADAMS.
The Rebels ended a three-match losing streak and will go into the June break knowing they still have a chance of making the playoffs (they are seven log points behind the Brumbies and Waratahs).
The Rebels and Force put on a better show than many expected, with the Force playing particularly well despite having less of the possession.
The Force showed they were up for this Australian derby when they withstood a 12-phase Rebels attack early on. Fullback Dane Haylett-Petty's clearance kick didn’t go far enough, though, and in the 12th minute the Rebels struck. Mike Harris took a flat pass, flummoxed the Force defence with a step off his right foot and found Hodge, who accelerated to beat the cover defender for his eighth try of the season, a Rebels record. Harris, though, pulled up with a hamstring strain and left the field.
Peter Grant got the Force on the board with a penalty from the restart, before they hit the front with a brilliantly orchestrated score. Luke Morahan latched on to Grant’s pin-point cross-kick, decided to hack the ball down the touchline and got a perfect bounce to score.
Ill-discipline at the breakdown cost the Force their lead as Hodge popped over a penalty for a two-point advantage. The Force lost their way a little in the closing stages, conceding a number of penalties but, luckily for them, Hodge missed two attempts at goal on the stroke of half-time to leave the game in the balance at 10-8.
Both teams’ defence was worse in the second half, which resulted in five tries.
First wing Sefa Naivalu dotted down in the corner for an unconverted effort, before Force hooker Harry Scoble was driven over the line. Grant added the extras to level the scores at 15-15 with 30 minutes remaining.
The Rebels upped the ante and started to run the ball more and the Force just couldn’t keep up. They conceded twice when Naivalu and Lopeti Timani scored within five minutes of each other to put the Rebels 27-15 up.
Morahan bagged his second try and Grant succeeded with the conversion to set up an tight finish, but the Rebels held on to complete the double over the Force.
Rebels – Tries: Reece Hodge, Sefa Naivalu (2), Lopeti Timani. Conversions: Hodge (2). Penalty: Hodge.
Force – Tries: Luke Morahan (2), Harry Scoble. Conversions: Peter Grant (2). Penalty: Grant.
Rebels – 15 Jack Debreczeni, 14 Sefa Naivalu, 13 Mitch Inman, 12 Reece Hodge, 11 Tom English, 10 Mike Harris, 9 Nic Stirzaker (c), 8 Colby Fainga’a, 7 Jordy Reid, 6 Sean McMahon, 5 Lopeti Timani, 4 Luke Jones, 3 Toby Smith, 2 James Hanson, 1 Cruze Ah Nau.
Subs: 16 Pat Leafa, 17 Tom Moloney, 18 Tim Metcher, 19 Culum Retallick, 20 Scott Fuglistaller, 21 Adam Thomson, 22 Ben Meehan, 23 Jonah Placid.
Force – 15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Marcel Brache, 13 Ben Tapuai, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Luke Morahan, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Chris Alcock, 6 Brynard Stander, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Ross Haylett-Petty, 3 Guy Millar, 2 Harry Scoble, 1 Pek Cowan (c).
Subs: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Francois Van Wyk, 18 Tetera Faulkner, 19 Rory Walton, 20 Angus Cottrell, 21 Ryan Louwrens, 22 Solomoni Rasolea, 23 Semisi Masirewa.
Photo: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images