The RaboDirect Rebels made it two from two in their short history, following up their debut win against Tonga with a 54-0 victory against the same opponents at the Latrobe City Sports and Entertainment Centre in Morwell.
Another excellent crowd of 3,853 made the Rebels feel at home in Gippsland as the Rebelution continues to gather momentum.
Tries from Laurie Weeks, Jarrod Saffy, Tim Davidson, Afusipa Taumoepeau, Cooper Vuna (2), Nick Phipps and Chris Slade did the business. Extras were provided by the boots of Danny Cipriani, who kicked a perfect five conversions, and James Hilgendorf, who slotted through a pair of his three two-point attempts.
Head Coach, Rod Macqueen, was pleased with his side’s performance, and development over the last week. “We were looking to try a few different things, and a lot of those came off tonight. Overall, we’re happy with the performance, considering it was the second trial,” he said after the match.
After such a hard fought victory first time out, the Rebels had this game in the bag by half-time. In truth, the result was never in doubt once Laurie Weeks went over in the third minute and the 35-0 score at the main break should have been more.
As with the first run-out, the set-pieces operated well, with two tries coming direct from lineouts. The problem area from the first contest, the handling, remains a concern though, with at least two early try-scoring opportunities wasted through poor control of the ball in hand.
The Rebels dominated from the off and were deservedly two tries up by quarter time. Both came from converting attacking lineouts, the first pushed over by Laurie Weeks, the second by Jarrod Saffy. The Rebels forwards completely overran their Pacific Island opponents, with props Weeks and Nic Henderson particularly dominant.
Three tries in three minutes after half an hour took the game out of reach of the Tongans. The first was finished off by Tim Davidson after a swift counterattack, while the second came from persistence and good support play down the Rebels left, creating the space for Afusipa Taumoepeau. The third in this quick burst was the best of the night. A passing move the width of the field, from left to right, resulted in Laurie Weeks cutting back inside and handing Cooper Vuna his fourth Rebels try on a plate.
After an almost complete change of personnel, the Rebels took time to gel in the second half. It took a moment of opportunism from Nick Phipps to get the scoreboard ticking over again, catching the Tongans napping in the right corner after a period of sustained forward pressure.
The Sea Eagles enjoyed their best spell of the night in the next proceeding ten minutes, controlling the ball well in their tight five and forcing the Rebels into some desperate defence. The coaching team will be pleased to see the Rebels defence secure their own try-line and withstand the kind of pressure they will face consistently in Super Rugby.
With the Rebels running the game out, there was still time for local talent Chris Slade to add a touch of Victorian gloss to the scoreboard. With ten minutes remaining, the Melbourne Unicorns star was on hand to finish a rapid break in the left corner.
Cooper Vuna rounded off the scoring on the stroke of full-time, scoring his fifth try in just two games under the posts.
Despite two comprehensive victories, Macqueen appreciates the Rebels still have plenty of work to do. “All in all I’d have to be happy with where we are,” Macqueen explained, “but it’s important to keep things in perspective and understand we’re about to enter into one of the hardest competitions in world rugby and if we play like we are now, we wouldn’t be successful.”
RaboDirect Rebels v Tonga
7.30pm, 21 January 2011
Latrobe City Sports and Entertainment Centre, Morwell