Amid continued uncertainty over their future in the competition, the Rebels have managed just one win in 2017 and their hopes of claiming a second were hit inside two minutes on Sunday as Hodge hurt himself tackling Israel Folau and was forced off on a stretcher.
Although Melbourne’s attack posed a threat in Hodge’s absence, they were out-scored eight tries to three as the Waratahs claimed a welcome victory and a bonus point to move second in the Australian Conference.
After Nick Phipps’ early score, Dean Mumm, Ned Hanigan and Folau all crossed for the Waratahs in a 10-minute period of dominance before the interval that earned a 24-11 lead.
Prior to that, the Rebels had held a slender advantage, thanks chiefly to Amanaki Mafi going over after a string of penalties had seen Silatolu Latu yellow carded.
When the Tahs were reduced to 14 men again early in the second half, Bernard Foley heading to the sin bin for an intentional knock-on inside his own 22, Melbourne again capitalised immediately through Jonah Placid.
Although Folau claimed his second try soon after, Placid rounded off a swift counter-attack on the hour to again get the Rebels within one score.
Yet it was the Tahs who finished much the stronger, Michael Hooper touching down at the end of an eye-catching move before late tries from Damien Fitzpatrick and Bryce Hegarty brought up the hosts’ half-century.
— NSW Waratahs (@NSWWaratahs) May 21, 2017
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