The NSW Waratahs have defeated the Melbourne Rebels at the SCG 23-20 to retain the Weary Dunlop Shield.
A scoreless second half by the Rebels saw NSW run down the Melburnians with sixteen unanswered second half points.
Both teams seemed uncertain of the much publicised SCG surface in the early exchanges with both sides putting boot to ball in favour of sustaining possession.
An early head knock to Jack Maddocks saw the leading Super Rugby try scorer removed from the game early; Campbell Magnay introduced into the fray much earlier than he would have anticipated.
Two failed efforts to find touch via penalty by Bernard Foley meant that territory was evenly shared, and when Anaru Rangi was struck with a high tackle, the right foot of Quade Cooper offered the opening points of the game.
Veteran centre Adam Ashley-Cooper opened the Waratahs account when Karmichael Hunt threw a cut out to Jed Holloway on the left edge in the seventeenth minute. The big second rower broke into the backfield and offered a no look inside ball to Ashley-Cooper for an easy twenty metre stroll to the line.
The Rebels turned to their forwards to gain revenge, with a series of short passes amongst the big men allowing the Melburnians to advance inside the Waratahs quarter. A misplaced pass from Genia found the grass and in the confusion Billy Meakes pounced on the pill and sliced through a confused defence for the score.
The slippery conditions made the ball resemble a cake of soap and both teams struggled to adjust. As a result, box kicks became the order of the game and when Alex Newsome failed to handle a highball, Hodge was able to use the turnover to punch a hole through the backpedalling NSW defence for a try in his 50th Rebels appearance.
Hodge would play another telling role moments later with a forty-five-metre penalty on halftime, punishing the Sydneysiders for illegal entry during a Rebels rolling maul.
The set piece infringements were reversed in the opening exchanges of the second half. A collapsed Rebels scrum afforded the Waratahs a kick to the line and the ensuing five-metre lineout drive was desperately held up over the line by Anaru Rangi.
The Waratahs would have to settle for a pair of penalty goals from repeated Rebels offside penalties in exchange for all the territorial pressure they were amassing.
Just when the momentum appeared to be turning in favour of the men in navy blue, an overthrown Rebels lineout found its way into the hands of Bernard Foley and the Waratahs number 10 was able to run unimpeded to the tryline for an equalling score.
Repeated infringements from the Rebels were earning the ire of referee Damon Murphy, and Foley was only too happy to accept the three point opportunities being offered his way.
The blow of losing Genia in the seventieth minute through injury was compounded shortly after when the referee lost patience with the Rebels discipline and sent Sam Talakai to the bin.
The seventh yellow card of the Rebels season made the task of chasing down the Waratahs all the more difficult and the hosts were able to hold onto their three-point lead for an important win.
Tries: Meakes, Hodge
Conversions: Cooper (2)
Penalties: Cooper, Hodge
Tries: Ashley-Cooper, Foley
Conversions: Foley (2)
Penalties: Foley (3)