The Melbourne Rebels thrashed the Sunwolves 42-15, scoring six tries in the rout at AAMI Park, Melbourne.
Reece Hodge scored a hat-trick as well as putting Quade Cooper away for the standoff’s 26th Super Rugby after Billy Meakes crossed.
Will Genia scored late in the game after Semisi Masirewa’s early second-half try brought the Japanese side back in the game at 28-15.
The bonus-point win is the Rebels’ fifth win from seven games and extends their lead at the top of the Australian Conference.
Cooper, the heartbeat of the Rebels, became the 11th player in Super Rugby to pass 900 points when he converted Meakes’ try.
Masirewa grabbed a brace, but the Sunwolves were off the pace on a night where their set-pieces were a mess.
The visitors lost their first four lineouts (three inside the Rebels’ 22) and their first scrum.
The Australians made them pay, opening up a 20-point halftime lead, which was insurmountable.
The second half was a slog
Hodge dotted down for his third after charging down Josh Timu’s clearance to go back on top of Melbourne’s try-scoring charts overtaking Tom English.
Masirewa crossed for his fifth try in two games straight after the interval. It was another masterful piece of finishing by the Fijian flyer.
Genia, again superb, crossed for his second try of the campaign after a wonderful linebreak to bring up 40 points with 12 minutes remaining.
Melbourne remains unbeaten against the Sunwolves in Super Rugby after their fourth win in this fixture.
Melbourne Rebels blow Sunwolves away in the first half
Tony Brown’s team were coming off a win in Newcastle against the Waratahs, but the Rebels were a different proposition.
Dave Wessels’ side has been the form team from down under. They blew away their opponents with a clinical attacking display, scoring twice inside the opening quarter.
Hodge opened the scoring with a seventh-minute try from close range. The 24-year-old had another, nine minutes later after Hayden Parker’s penalty.
Sunwolves set-piece shambles
Hooker Jaba Bregvadze had a nightmare with his lineout throwing, missing his jumpers four times in the first half, three times inside 25 minutes.
It killed the momentum his team had at the beginning of the game forcing Parker to have a shot at goal eventually.
Marika Koroibete was involved in everything, in the early exchanges, including giving away two penalties that put his side under pressure.
Koroibete’s pressure forced Jason Emery to knock on. A scrum deep in the Rebels’ half kick-started another fantastic backline move.
English drifted inside a gap from Cooper’s pass and ghosted through the hole. Hodge called for the pass, on the outside, and English put him away.
Another set-piece meltdown, this time a scrum-penalty, added to the visitors’ woes. Ryohei Yamanaka went close, but he was ankle-tapped before the line.
Bregvadze missed Hendrick Tui, continuing the hooker’s poor performance as the Rebels got out of jail.
Skipper Dan Pryor knocked on from the first lineout his forwards won, leading to Meakes’ five-pointer.
The first-phase attack from the resulting scrum saw Cooper’s well-weighted stab-kick collected by Meakes.
The centre was fortunate, capitalising on the mix-up between Kaito Shigeno – who had a poor game – and Yamanaka.
Yamanaka misjudged his scrumhalf’s pass, knocking the ball into the arms of Meakes.
The 28-year-old took advantage of the mistake and bashed through the fullback’s challenge.
Cooper brought up 900 points with the conversion. English held up Masirewa, but it only delayed the inevitable.
Parker and Emery combined off a blindside attacking move from a scrum.
The standoff’s pass to Masirewa was perfect, but the wing’s fancy footwork bamboozled Jack Maddocks, opening some space to dive in the corner. It was a sublime finish.
Parker, who had been successful with all 28 of his kicks this season, pushed the touchline conversion wide.
The miss ended a run of 33 from 33, five short of the Super Rugby record that he set last year.
Melbourne hit back before halftime
Bregvadze’s third overthrow killed any hope of a fightback. Both teams had been sloppy in possession, but the home team made fewer errors, scoring from slick moves after a set-piece.
Another try came from a scrum. Meakes put Genia through a hole with an offload. The scrumhalf raced to the 22, drew the covering Masirewa and played an inside pass to Hodge.
The fullback looked sure to score, but Yamanaka chased him down. Hodge had the strength to stay on his feet and find a support runner, which was Cooper.
The standoff, whose 31st birthday was yesterday, accepted Hodge’s gift and scored under the posts – game over.
No scares for Rebels in a scrappy second stanza
Masirewa, his team’s best player this season, was at it again after the break.
The former Western Force finisher beat Genia, Meakes, Maddocks and Rangi to score his second of the night.
He sped away down the touchline after Tui’s majestic wraparound offload and bounced Koroibete for good measure, too.
Pryor and Tui were instrumental in the try, combining with Emery from midfield after a rare lineout win at the halfway line.
At 28-15 the visitors were back in the contest; however, more handling errors and failures with the set-piece conspired against the unlikely comeback.
Melbourne controlled the game. Their experienced halfback pair dictated the play by controlling the tempo and keeping the opposition inside their half.
Josh Timu had his kick charged down at the start of the third quarter by Hodge. The Man of the Match was quicker to the bouncing ball, dotting down for his treble.
Genia wrapped up the game with a sensational 50-metre run to cap another outstanding performance.
Final Score: Rebels 42 (28) Sunwolves 15 (8)
Tries – Hodge (3), Meakes, Cooper, Genia
Con – Cooper (6)
Cards – Tupou (Yellow, 75′), Magnay (Yellow, 81′)
Tries – Masirewa (2)
Pen – Parker
Con – Parker
Cards – Vella (Yellow, 77′)
Referee: Nic Berry
Assistant Ref 1: AJ Jacobs
Assistant Ref 2: Marius van der Westhuizen
TMO: Ian Smith
15 Reece Hodge, 14 Jack Maddocks, 13 Tom English, 12 Billy Meakes, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Isi Naisarani, 7 Angus Cottrell (captain), 6 Luke Jones, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Matt Philip, 3 Jermaine Ainsley, 2 Anaru Rangi, 1 Tetera Faulkner.
Replacements: 16 Hugh Roach, 17 Matt Gibbon, 18 Pone Fa’amausili, 19 Ross Haylett-Petty, 20 Rob Leota, 21 Michael Ruru, 22 Campbell Magnay, 23 Semisi Tupou.
15 Ryohei Yamanaka, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 Jason Emery, 12 Harumichi Tatekawa, 11 Semisi Masirewa, 10 Hayden Parker, 9 Kaito Shigeno, 8 Hendrick Tui, 7 Dan Pryor (captain), 6 Ben Gunter, 5 Luke Thompson, 4 Mark Abbott, 3 Jiwon Koo, 2 Jaba Bregvadze, 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Replacements: 16 Nathan Vella, 17 Masataka Mikami, 18 Hiroshi Yamashita, 19 Uwe Helu, 20 Grant Hattingh, 21 Jamie Booth, 22 Takuya Yamasawa, 23 Josh Timu.