The Melbourne Rebels have gone down to the Western Force 27-5 in the first trial match of the year at Bond University on Monday.
The Forced outscored the Rebels five-tries-to-one to claim the pre-season victory in warm and steamy conditions on the Gold Coast.
“I thought the Force were really good tonight, they were really committed, looked well organised and really won the battle around the contact,” Rebels head coach Tony McGahan said.
“We just made too many unforced errors. I know it’s the first trial but we were disappointed that we really didn’t get into the game at any point.”
With 13 uncapped players in the extended playing squad, including backrower Harley Fox, fly-half Jackson Garden-Bachop and fullback Jack Maddocks in the run-on team, the Rebels couldn’t have asked for a better start.
The Rebels made no mistake with the early man advantage as they converted territory and pressure into points when quick hands put Steve Cummins into the corner to give his side a 5-0 lead after four minutes.
With winger Chance Peni still in the bin for his yellow card in the opening minutes, the Force responded to level the scores after 10 minutes when Brynard Stander crashed his way over the chalk.
Force new recruit Bill Meakes doubled his side’s lead just before the quarter-time drinks break when he cut through the Rebels defence to score his first try for the club.
Little could separate the two sides as resolute defending held both sides scoreless for the next 14 minutes until the Force broke the deadlock in the shadows of half-time.
Peni made amends for his earlier misdemeanor when the winger broke through the last line of defence to finish a well executed set piece to give his side a 15-5 advantage at the main break.
The Force picked up where they left off after half-time when Luke Morahan extended the Western Australian’s lead with a try down the right-hand wing.
Wholesale substitutions from both sides stemmed the flow of scoring until James Verity-Amm found his way through the defensive line before an offload put Alex Newsome under the posts to complete the scoring in the 63rd minute.
“We had a lot of guys getting a start tonight and we’ll be better for the run,” McGahan said.
“We’ve got a good week of training this week, the Brisbane Tens on the weekend and Reds trial match following so we dipped our toe in tonight and that’s what pre-season is all about.”
Western Force 27 (Stander, Meakes, Peni, Morahan, Newsome tries; Prior conversion) defeated Melbourne Rebels 5 (Cummins try)