Reece Hodge scored a brace as the Rebels thumped the Cheetahs 36-14 in Melbourne. JON CARDINELLI reports.
The final scoreline doesn't tell the full story. The Cheetahs led 14-7 after 35 minutes. The next 45 belonged to the Rebels, who proceeded to score 29 unanswered points.
The Cheetahs came into this clash on the back of a 92-17 win against the Sunwolves. They played with authority and confidence in the first half-hour of the match in Melbourne.
Their scrum and lineout looked to be in dominant form. Their loose forwards were firing at the collisions, and their backs were making excellent use of the platform provided by the pack.
The Rebels were clearly rattled. The hosts' forwards appeared to have no answer to the challenge of the Cheetahs pack. Rebels flyhalf Jack Debreczini missed two shots at goal in the first half. The Cheetahs led 14-10 at half-time.
The momentum shifted immediately after the break. Lopeti Timani crashed over after a great buildup by the hosts. The Rebels continued to run at the Cheetahs, and the visitors began to miss tackles.
In the 62nd minute, Jonah Placid crossed for an important try and Debreczini kicked a conversion to stretch the lead to eight points. Hodge scored his second try of the evening shortly after that, taking advantage of some poor Cheetahs defence.
The hosts had the result in the bag as the hooter for full-time sounded. The Cheetahs attempted to finish the game on a high, but a handling error was swooped on by Tamati Ellison. The centre ran 45m to score the Rebels' bonus-point try.
Rebels – Tries: Reece Hodge (2), Lopeti Tomani, Jonah Placid, Tamati Ellison. Conversions: Jack Debreczeni (4). Penalty: Debreczeni.
Cheetahs – Tries: Torsten van Jaarsveld, Clayton Blommetjies. Conversions: Niel Marais (2).
Rebels – 15 Jonah Placid, 14 Cam Crawford, 13 Reece Hodge, 12 Tamati Ellison, 11 Sefa Naivalu, 10 Jack Debreczeni, 9 Nic Stirzaker (c), 8 Adam Thomson, 7 Sean McMahon, 6 Jordy Reid, 5 Lopeti Timani, 4 Luke Jones, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 James Hanson, 1 Toby Smith.
Subs: 16 Pat Leafa, 17 Cruze Ah Nau, 18 Jamie Hagan, 19 Sam Jeffries, 20 Colby Fainga'a, 21 Ben Meehan, 22 Kotaro Matsushima, 23 Sione Tuipulotu.
Cheetahs – 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Nico Lee, 12 Francois Venter (c), 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Niel Marais, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Paul Schoeman, 7 Uzair Cassiem, 6 Hilton Lobberts, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Lood de Jager, 3 Maks van Dyk, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Charles Marais.
Subs: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Danie Mienie, 18 Luan de Bruin, 19 Carl Wegner, 20 Henco Venter, 21 Oupa Mohoje, 22 Tian Meyer, 23 Fred Zeilinga.
Photo: Robert Cianflone/Getty Images