Rebels beat Cheetahs 35-14 in Super Rugby
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — The Melbourne Rebels, with a new coach and eight players on debut, lived up to the promise of their preseason, opening their Super Rugby campaign with a 35-14, five-try win over South Africa’s Cheetahs on Friday.
Captain Scott Higginbotham created one try and scored the last in the 83rd minute as the Rebels posted their largest win, carrying on the form of a preseason in which they won three trial matches.
The Rebels are the last team to start the season after having a bye in last weekend’s second round, which followed an all-South African first round.
They scored three tries to lead 17-0 at halftime - the first time in their history they have held an opponent scoreless in the first half - and clinched their win with a fourth, bonus-point try in the 58th.
Veteran back-rower Higginbotham engineered the Rebels’ second try with a brilliant cross-kick from a penalty which found fullback Jason Woodward unmarked in the in-goal area. He then finished, with a deft touchdown in the corner, a stoppage-time movement which sprawled the length of the field and which gave the Rebels their fifth try and a record winning margin.
The Cheetahs had outscored the Rebels 14-13 in the second half until Higginbotham’s try made the home team’s win emphatic.
Lachlan Mitchell opened the Rebels’ try-scoring account for the season in only the third minute and Woodward and scrumhalf Luke Burgess added tries before halftime.
Bryce Hegarty scored the try that brought a four-try bonus point in the 58th and Higginbotham’s extra-time effort added gloss to a strong all-round performance. The main concern for the Rebels was their goalkicking: They employed three kickers in the match who collectively missed four shots at goal.
“It’s a great way to start the season and nice to get a bonus point,” Higginbotham said. “They really came back at us in the second half.
“Credit to the boys, it’s what we worked on and we really held on.”
Jean Cook and Ryno Barnes scored second-half tries for the Cheetahs, who have one win and two losses from three games and are at the start of a four-match tour of Australia and New Zealand.
Melbourne Rebels 35 (Lachlan Mitchell, Jason Woodward, Luke Burgess, Bryce Hegarty, Scott Higginbotham tries; Hegarty 2 conversions, Angus Roberts penalty, dropped goal), Cheetahs 14 (Jean Cook, Ryno Barnes tries; Johan Goosen 2 conversions). HT: 17-0.