Rebels notch record score in win over Sunwolves

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The Rebels have taken a critical 52-7 bonus-point win over the Sunwolves in Tokyo to keep themselves in the Super Rugby finals hunt.

It was a match the Rebels simply had to win to stay in touch with the Australian conference leaders the Brumbies and the Melbourne outfit did their bit with the comfortable win.

The victory was a record-breaking one for the Rebels who have struggled on the road this season, with the 52 points their highest Super Rugby tally ever. 

After a grinding start, the Rebels turned up the pace and things really began to open up through some quick recycles and smart offloads.

Flyhalf Quade Cooper had a hand in almost every score for the Rebels with his slick, rapid passes and that proved to be the key as the Rebels mounted some dominance.

They were damaging at lineout time, picking off the Sunwolves set piece and generating some strong attack with their own.

Things weren't all rosy for the Rebels, though, with star halfback Will Genia going off after a heavy hit to the head in the 42nd minute.

Will Genia suffered a head knock against the Sunwolves. Photo: Getty Images

Genia was cleaned up by a stray shin after attempting to tackle Snuwolves no. 8 Amanaki Mafi and initially looked to be in some serious danger.

The scrumhalf eventually walked off the field unassisted but whether he will be cleared for next Friday's match against the Waratahs remains to be seen.

The Rebels certainly didn’t have things all their own way early in the afternoon in what initially shaped as somewhat of a grind.

Melbourne had some promising phases but the Sunwolves defence held firm under pressure.

It felt inevitable that the Rebels would score first and a slick Cooper pass opened up a hole for the Rebels, with Angus Cottrell finishing the passage from a Matt Philip offload.

A minute later, Cooper replicated that pass albeit from further out, and this time Reece Hodge was the beneficiary, streaking down the field and passing off to Marika Koroibete to score.

Just as the Sunwolves began to find some attacking momentum and the hosts found themselves a man up after Rebels lock Philip was binned for cynical play in the ruck.

An intercept pass that flew straight into Cooper’s hands relieved the pressure on the Rebels, giving them the chance to exit their own half.

A rapid recycle gave the Rebels their third, with a man down, with Genia sending a rocket to Cooper, who speared a long outside pass into Koroibete’s arms to finish.

The Sunwolves were their own worst enemy, coughing up the ball as they tried to keep up with the frenetic pace the Rebels set in the first half.

Quade Cooper was pivotal for the Rebels. Photo: Getty ImagesAmanaki Mafi was powerful for the Sunwolves, winning two turnovers and notching 99 run metres from nine cariries, but he couldn’t turn the momentum of the game all on his own.

The Rebels were disrupting the Sunwolves at lineout time, picking off their plans with ease in the opening 40, and shoring up their own.

Mafi picked up where he left off in the second half, making metres with every carry and steamrolling the Rebels defence.

It was one of those steamrolls that led to an early exit for Rebels halfback Genia, who copped a shin to the head after attempting to tackle the no. 8.

Some small Rebels mistakes slowed down their momentum as the second half ticked on but they managed to break the deadlock in the 52nd minute.

A massive Reece Hodge tackle forced a Sunwolves fumble and winger Jack Maddocks scooped up the ball to score under the posts

Koroibete looked like getting his hat-trick in the 57th  minute but looked inside to pass off to skipper Dane Haylett-Petty instead, stretching the Rebels’ lead beyond 30 points.

The Rebels’ chances of a shutout ended in the 66th minute with a Hodge kick charged down and punished with a try by Sunwolves fullback Jason Emery.

Jordan Uelese had a rocky return to Super Rugby, with his first lineout throw going against his throw but the 22-year-old was strong in the scrum.

It was off a scrum that the Rebels nabbed their sixth of the afternoon with Richard Hardwick running off the back of the scrum and Michael Ruru scoring through the next phase.

The Rebels hold a strong half-time lead. Photo: Getty imagesMaddocks iced the game in the 78th minute, taking a perfect running line through the Sunwolves defence to cross under the posts.

Melbourne weren't quite done yet, though, with Uelese going over in the 82nd minute after another superb lineout play from the visitors, taking their tally past 50.

While their attack was electric, captain Dane Haylett-Petty said he was just as pleased with the team's defensive effort.,

"I think we know we're a good attacking team but really proud of the defence today," he said.

"We knew we needed to improve on that and the Sunwolves are a great attacking team.

"We knew we needed to put them under pressure and we did so."

The Rebels return to Australia to take on the Waratahs in Melbourne next week while the Sunwolves host the Brumbies.


Sunwolves 7

Tries: Emery

Cons: Parker

Rebels 52

Tries: Koroibete 2, Maddocks 2, Cottrell, D Haylett-Petty, Ruru, Uelese

Cons: Cooper 6

Yellow Cards: Philip (21’)