The Melbourne Rebels kicked off their Super Rugby season with a 30-23 victory over the Western Force at AAMI Stadium in Melbourne.
The Western Force made the better start in the match and went out to a 11-0 lead after a penalty and Alfie Mafi's first try.
The match threatened to get away from the Rebels when Scott Higginbotham was sinbinned and the Force took full advantage of the former Reds flanker's absence with a second Godwin penalty and a try in the corner to winger Alfie Mafi.
When Higginbotham returned to the field the Rebels hit straight back, with hooker Ged Robinson crashing over after a Melbourne line-out close to the Force try line.
O'Connor kicked the conversion to make it 11-7 to the Force 10 minutes from halftime, then booted a penalty to send the home side into the break 11-10 down.
The Force opened the second half much like they started the first and had a chance to go further ahead when they were awarded a penalty right in front.
But they decided to go for a try instead, only to concede possession and allow the Rebels to score at the other end, with towering lock Hugh Pyle crossing after a delightful inside flick pass from winger Richard Kingi.
O'Connnor's conversion made it 17-11, but that was reduced to 17-16 moments later when Mafi scored his second in the corner.
An O'Connor penalty took the Rebels out to a 20-16 lead before referee Angus Gardner made two crucial calls, yellow-carding Force flanker Chris Alcock and then halfback Alby Mathewson.
The Force were restored to 14 men when former Wallaby Richard Brown came on for Alcock and closed the gap immediately after, Brown scoring beside the posts and Godwin converting to make it 27-23.
But O'Connor's third penalty five minutes from time made the game safe despite a late surge from the Force.
"We have to give credit to the Force, they held the ball really well the first 20 minutes," Rebels skipper Gareth Delve said.
"We're delighted to get a win and get on the board against a very tough Force side."
Final Score Melbourne Rebels 30 (10) Force 23 (11)
Tries - G. Robinson, H Pyle, R Kingi
Pen - J. O'Connor 2
Con - J. O'Connor 4
Cards - Scott Higginbotham (21st min yellow)
Tries - A. Mafi 2, R. Brown
Pen - K Godwin 2
Con - K Godwin
Cards - C. Alcock (57th min yellow), A. Mathewson 61st min yellow)
Referee: Angus Gardner
Assistant Ref 1:Rohan Hoffmann
Assistant Ref 2:Richard Goswell
TMO : George Ayoub
15. James O'Connor , 14. Lachlan Mitchell , 13. Mitch Inman , 12. Rory Sidey , 11. Richard Kingi , 10. Kurtley Beale , 9. Nick Phipps , 8. Gareth Delve (c) , 7. Scott Fuglistaller , 6. Scott Higginbotham , 5. Luke Jones , 4. Hugh Pyle , 3. Laurie Weeks , 2. Ged Robinson , 1. Nic Henderson
Replacements: 16. Shota Horie , 17. Paul Alo-Emile , 18. Cadeyrn Neville , 19. Jarrod Saffy , 20. Nic Stirzaker , 21. Alex Rokobaro , 22. Tom English
1. Pek Cowan (c),2. Nathan Charles,3. Tetera Faulkner,4. Sam Wykes,5. Toby Lynn,6. Angus Cottrell,7. Chris Alcock,8. Ben McCalman,9. Alby Mathewson,10. Sam Christie,11. Alfie Mafi,12. Kyle Godwin,13. Winston Stanley ,14. Patrick Dellit,15. Will Tupou
Reserves16. Heath Tessmann,17. Kieran Longbottom,18. Phoenix Battye,19. Richard Brown,20. Mick Snowden,21. Sias Ebersohn,22. Junior Rasolea