Reece Hodge scored a hat-trick to help the Rebels claim a 42-15 win over the Sunwolves in Melbourne on Saturday. DYLAN JACK reports.
After the Waratahs were beaten by the Blues earlier in the day, this match gave the Rebels a chance to put a gap between themselves and the chasing pack in the Australian conference. The Melbourne side did just that, with a three-try half-time lead ultimately proving too big a gap for the Sunwolves to bridge.
It was an encouraging start for the Rebels, who saw plenty of the ball and gave it air. They eventually found the breakthrough when Hodge ran on to a flat pass from Will Genia to go over from close range.
The Sunwolves won possession from the proceeding kick-off and applied some pressure of their own. Sharpshooter Hayden Parker kicked his 33rd consecutive goal to ensure the visitors escaped with some points. However, Hodge then went over for his double after he was on hand to finish off an excellent break from Tom English off a scrum.
The hosts extended their lead when Quade Cooper toed the ball through the defence and a miscommunication between Keito Shigeno and Ryohei Yamanaka allowed the chasing Billy Meakes to pounce and score.
On-form wing Semisi Masirewa, who got a hat-trick against the Waratahs last weekend, finished brilliantly in the corner to get the visitors’ first of the match.
The Rebels struck again just before the break as Hodge broke through and looked set for his hat-trick, but was reeled in, not before getting his offload to Cooper, who dived in under the poles to give the home side a 28-8 half-time lead.
The hosts were on the back foot for large parts of the second half as the Sunwolves upped their tempo after the break in search of a comeback. The deficit was narrowed when Masirewa stepped past Genia with ease and showed his pace to go over for his second.
However, the game was ultimately decided when after surviving a prolonged period of pressure the Rebels got a quick-fire double as Hodge charged down an attempted clearance and got to the ball first for his hat-trick, before Genia made a break off a lineout for a fine solo try.
The final 10 minutes saw each side receive a yellow card as the Rebels lost Semisi Tupou for repeated infringements, before Nathan Vella was sent to the bin for a dangerous cleanout.
Rebels – Tries: Reece Hodge (3), Billy Meakes, Quade Cooper, Will Genia. Conversion: Cooper (6).
Sunwolves – Tries: Semisi Masirewa (2). Conversion: Hayden Parker. Penalty: Parker.
Rebels – 15 Reece Hodge, 14 Jack Maddocks, 13 Tom English, 12 Billy Meakes, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Isi Naisarani, 7 Angus Cottrell (c), 6 Luke Jones, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Matt Philip, 3 Jermaine Ainsley, 2 Anaru Rangi, 1 Tetera Faulkner.
Subs: 16 Hugh Roach, 17 Matt Gibbon, 18 Pone Fa’amausili, 19 Ross Haylett-Petty, 20 Rob Leota, 21 Michael Ruru, 22 Campbell Magnay, 23 Semisi Tupou.
Sunwolves – 15 Ryohei Yamanaka, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 Jason Emery, 12 Harumichi Tatekawa, 11 Semisi Masirewa, 10 Hayden Parker, 9 Keito Shigeno, 8 Hendrik Tui, 7 Dan Pryor (c), 6 Ben Gunter, 5 Luke Thompson, 4 Mark Abbott, 3 Jiwon Koo, 2 Jaba Bregavadze, 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Subs: 16 Nathan Vella, 17 Masataka Mikami, 18 Hiroshi Yamashita, 19 Uwe Helu, 20 Grant Hattingh, 21 Jamie Booth, 22 Takuya Yamasawa, 23 Josh Timu.
Photo: Mike Owen/Getty Images