The Melbourne based Rebels started their 2016 Super Rugby campaign with a 19-25 victory over the Western Force in Perth in heated conditions.
The victory is the Rebels second in a row in Perth where they have now played six matches and lost once.
The match kicked off at almost 30 degrees celsius which impacted on the flow of the game as players battled with dehydration and cramp.
The Rebels lost flyhalf Jack Debreczeni shortly before the match and moved Mike Harris from fullback to flyhalf. However 2o minutes into the match the Rebels lost Harris.
Rebels coach Tony McGahan moved Reece Hodge who was originally named on the wing to fullback and then to flyhalf after Harris left. Hodge went on to score a brace of tries, a penalty and two conversions.
The Rebels outscored the home side by three tries to one but the Perth based Force kept themselves in the match through the boot of new recruit Jono Lance.
Hodge’s twenty points out of twenty-five is one of the great Super Rugby debuts.
The former Australian under-20s centre was recruited from the Manly Marlins and could scarcely have been more impressive in his first game for the Rebels.
Hodge, 22, ran in two tries and backed it up with his powerful left boot, with two penalties and two conversions meaning he scored all but five of his team’s points in their 25-19 win.
One of his two conversions was a superb effort from the side line right on half-time which gave his side a narrow 17-13 advantage at the break.
It was Hodge who opened the scoring for the match, with a penalty which showcased the length in his kicking in the third minute.
The Force levelled the scores in the 10th minute as their new recruit, former Waratah Jono Lance, set the trend for the match with a penalty of his own.
Lance scored all of the Force’s points, including a first-half try, as he went head-to-head with Hodge on the scoreboard for most of the match.
A Timati Ellison break enabled Hodge to score the first try of the match in the 30th minute and the pair also combined in almost identical circumstances later in the match to secure the win.
Lance scored his try late in the first half and kept the Force score ticking over with penalties, but the Rebels were able to hang on in a slogging finish as players tired in the hot conditions.
It was a most meritorious win for the Rebels, who lost fly half Jack Debreczeni just before the match, and then had his replacement, Mike Harris, limp off with a hamstring problem early in the game, forcing Hodge to play three positions before the first half of his debut was over.
Rebels skipper Sean McMahon said it was an impressive win, especially given the heat the match was played in.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the boys,” he said.
“They gutsed it out, the heat here really put us in a bad way there for a while.”
Force captain Matt Hodgson conceded his side was foiled by turnovers.
“We played too much footy down our end and there were too many loose passes,” he said.
Final Score Force 19 (13) Rebels 25 (17)
Tries – J.Lance
Pen – J.Lance 5
Con – J.Lance
Tries – R.Hodge 2, A Thomson
Con – R.Hodge 2
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
Assistant Ref 1:Quinton Immelman
Assistant Ref 2:Graham Cooper
TMO : Damien Mitchelmore
1. Pekahou Cowan , 2. Nathan Charles , 3. Guy Millar , 4. Steve Mafi , 5. Adam Coleman , 6. Brynard Stander , 7. Matt Hodgson , 8. Angus Cottrell , 9. Alby Mathewson , 10. Jono Lance** , 11. Marcel Brache , 12. Kyle Godwin , 13. Ben Tapuai** , 14. Luke Morahan , 15. Dane Haylett-Petty
Replacements : 16. Heath Tessmann , 17. Chris Heiberg , 18. Jermaine Ainsley** , 19. Ross Haylett-Petty , 20. Chris Alcock , 21. Ian Prior , 22. Peter Grant** , 23. Semisi Masirewa**
** denotes Western Force/Super Rugby debut
1. Toby Smith , 2. James Hanson , 3. Laurie Weeks , 4. Luke Jones , 5. Lopeti Timpani , 6. Jordy Reid , 7. Sean McMahon (captain) , 8. Adam Thomson , 9. Ben Meehan , 10. Mike Harris , 11.Tom English , 12. Mitch Inman , 13. Tamati Ellison , 14. Dom Shipperley , 15. Reece Hodge
Replacements : 16. Pat Leafa , 17. Cruze Ah Nau , 18. Jamie Hagan , 19. Steve Cummins , 20. Colby Fainga’a , 21. Mick Snowden , 22. Jonah Placid , 23. An.Other