The Melbourne Rebels celebrated their return home after a tough year on the road with a rousing 33-14 win over the New South Wales Waratahs in a Super Rugby AU match on Friday.
Having been chased out of Melbourne due to repeated COVID-19 outbreaks since March 2020, the Rebels made up for lost time with a pair of sparkling first half tries to cheer rugby-starved fans at the Rectangular Stadium.
“It was pretty special,” said inside centre Reece Hodge.
“Hopefully our fans can be proud of us. Bit of a shame with the finish but it’s great to be back.”
Stand-in captain Matt Toomua scored 18 points and put in a bid for try-of-the-season with a brilliant individual effort three minutes before the break.
The flyhalf launched from near the halfway mark, charged though a gaping hole in defence then regathered his own chip kick to cross near the right corner.
The Rebels’ first try was almost as thrilling with winger Lachie Anderson completing an inspired backline move in the 12th minute after sharp hands from Reece Hodge and a dash to the line by Stacey Ili.
The Rebels were 23-0 at the break, their biggest halftime lead since joining the wider Super Rugby competition in 2011.
. @mtoomua invokes the spirit of 'turn of the century Carlos Spencer'
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) March 19, 2021
Replacement hooker Jordan Uelese grabbed the Rebels’ third try from the back of a maul in the 66th minute.
The winless Waratahs were scoreless until the 77th minute and slumped to their fourth defeat of the season, heaping more pressure on embattled coach Rob Penney.
Waratahs replacement lock Jeremy Williams finally put the visitors on the scoreboard with a late try set up by a deft inside pass from winger Jack Maddocks.
Former Rebel Maddocks salvaged some more pride for the Waratahs after the final siren as he bolted down the right touch-line to score their second try.
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