Genia guides Rebels to huge win

Super Rugby
by Sam Phillips

They say revenge is a dish best served cold and Will Genia was as cool as they come in his return to Super Rugby, steering the Rebels to a breezy 45-19 win over the Reds at AAMI Park.

Genia's masterclass was a cruel reminder for Reds fans that the star halfback no longer plies his trade at Ballymore but Queensland have far bigger concerns on their plate, with a suspension hanging over new skipper Scott Higginbotham's head.

Higginbotham was shown a red card for a high shoulder charge on Matt Philip in the 10th minute, putting his side on the back foot from the outset.

By the letter of the law the decision to send Higginbotham for a particularly early shower may have been the right one as his shoulder did make direct contact with Philip's head but Higginbotham argued his case that the Rebels lock was falling, with the no. 8 unable to wrap his arms around in the tackle.Scott Higginbotham saw red early. Photo: Getty ImagesA suspension would have followed regardless of the colour of the card, but that it was a red ultimately proved game-defining.

The Reds hung tough in the  20 minutes that followed and actually crossed for a serendipitous first try through Duncan Paia'aua but it was largely downhill from there.

The Rebels, in contrast, took 10 minutes to shake the early nerves but under the guidance of Genia, looked a far more settled side than what was expected, given seven of their starting XV weren't in Melbourne this time last year.

Sefa Naivalu nabbed a first-half double - he collected a suspect Lopeti Timani pass adjudged to be flat before Jack Maddocks threw a crisp cutout to set up the flying Fijian's second - but it was the playmaking hand of Genia that will have put smiles on Rebels fans' faces.

It was his initiative that created two tries inside six minutes before the half-time siren sounded, sending Tom English over after the forward pack won a penalty against a six-man Reds scrum feed before drawing two men and putting Dane Haylett-Petty over for his first of the night.Rebels fans are happy fans after a big win at AAMI Park. Photo: Getty ImagesThat sent Melbourne into the sheds up 26-14 and things were well and truly one-way traffic from there.

Brad Thorn has preached defence all preseason but there was none of it to be seen when Jack Debreczeni glided over from short range just two minutes into the second term, leaving the Reds staring at a 19-point deficit.

The lacklustre defence was followed by a lazy pass from Paia'aua to gift Haylett-Petty a double, the Rebels fullback plucking a flashy no-look pass and racing away to score untouched from 70 out.

The 56th minute arrived and Genia's number was called but not before he set up Debreczeni's second, Eto Nabuli offering a lazy tackle attempt as the flyhalf trotted over.Chris Feauai-Sautia was a shining light for the Reds. Photo: Getty ImagesFeauai-Sautia scored a deserved consolation try with 15 to play but it was too little, too late.

The Rebels were mighty impressive in a performance that broke plenty of records, with their highest score ever and the first game in which they have scored more than six tries.

Genia and Debreczeni looked as though they had been playing together for years, the forward pack dominated the battle of the gain line and the lineout wreaked havoc with Queensland's ball.

That creates a solid foundation to work with from this point forward but the caveat to all of that is that they only faced 14 men for the majority of the match, making this performance a fair bit harder to gauge.

The Reds have an obvious excuse in being a player short for almost 70 minutes but there were some soft tries leaked in the second half and Thorn will have that in his sights come Monday.

RESULT

Rebels 45

Tries: Naivalu 2, English, Haylett-Petty 2, Debreczeni 2

Cons: Debrecezni 5

Reds 19

Tries: Paia'aua, Kerevi, Feauai-Sautia

Cons: Tuttle 2