Star Rebels young gun Jack Maddocks has put together a marvellous Wallabies audition, scoring two tries and saving another as Melbourne claimed a 40-13 win over the Sunwolves.
Rebels coach Dave Wessels has been forced to play Maddocks across the backline this season in order to keep him in the starting XV - an indication of how hot his form has been this season - but his performance against the Sunwolves was arguably his best yet.
His ability to read the play and pop up in support was the catalyst for his first try, before showcasing his innate finishing talent by squeezing down the right sideline with centimetres to spare to score his second.
While the double was well deserved, it was a desperate try saving tackle with the game delicately poised at 28-13 with 20 to play which best captures the talent Maddocks really possesses.
After Hosea "Tongan Godzilla" Saumaki left Tom English and Dane Haylett-Petty for dead and set off for the line, Maddocks almost covered the width of the field before executing a copybook tackle and bundling the runaway winger into touch.Melbourne kicked clear in the 10 minutes that followed, Marika Koroibete nabbing two of his three tries in that block to put the result beyond doubt.
While Maddocks starred, the Rebels looked a largely restless outfit desperate to put the Sunwolves away without first putting in the hard yards in the opening 40 minutes.
They repeatedly kicked the ball away for no particular reason, pushed too many passes and kept to the norm as the most penalised side in Super Rugby by giving away too many penalties.
It was one of those silly penalties - conceded by Amanaki Mafi in the 2nd minute - which gifted the Sunwolves attacking ball in the opening minutes and the visitors immediately made Melbourne pay through a patient try to Lomano Lemeki.
The Rebels immediately responded through Koroibete - Billy Meakes setting the Fijian flyer up when he split a fractured Sunwolves defensive line on halfway, drew the final defender and popped a perfect pass.
Melbourne insisted on playing cute rugby which cost them countless opportunities before Reece Hodge straightened the attack and created a half chance in the 17th minute, Michael Ruru putting Maddocks through a hole from the following phase to set up the Rebels' second.The forwards took control for the next five minutes, powering through the Sunwolves pack and putting Melbourne close enough for Mafi to reach out and score the side's third five pointer of the night.
But a pair of penalties - one a cynical offside tackle from Hodge at the base of the breakdown - gifted Parker two more penalties and he duly narrowed the gap to leave the match precariously poised at 21-13 when the half time siren rung out.
Melbourne's attack had a different tact to it as soon as play resumed in the second term.
The forwards were running better timed, more accurate lines which stretched the Sunwolves and Maddocks' second try was manufactured by a well oiled machine.
Mafi made 10 metres off the back of a strong scrum 40 out from the Sunwolves line, a strong carry from Adam Coleman following before clean, recycled ball created the space for Maddocks to slip down the right hand sideline to score.Maddocks' miraculous try saver soon followed and Saumaki was in the thick of it again as the clock ticked past the 63 minute mark, blocking an Angus Cottrell offload off the turf as Melbourne threatened to score and subsequently sent to the sin bin.
Koroibete nabbed a double of his own after a pair of dominant scrums on the Sunwolves line followed, a perfect Haylett-Petty cutout hitting him on the chest five out from the line.
The Fijian flyer was forced to work a bit harder for his third, beating the final defender with a dummy before palming the cover defence after a deft pass from Lopeti Timani put him away.
That was the final nail in the Sunwolves coffin, keeping Melbourne in touch with the Waratahs atop the Australian Conference.
Tries: Koroibete 3, Maddocks 2, Mafi
Cons: Hodge 5
Pens: Parker 2