Super Rugby: Jeremy Paul says the Highlanders are "starting to hit their straps" after a 30-26 win over the Waratahs.
THE Melbourne Rebels were always going to be a part of history in Tokyo yesterday.
Thankfully for Tony McGahan’s side it was a positive piece of history in that it scored a convincing 35-9 bonus point win over the Sunwolves at the Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium.
In the process the Rebels became the first Australian side to notch a Super Rugby victory in Japan against the expansion franchise.
Just as importantly the club also secured a third victory in four matches - its best ever start to a season.
The Rebels’ second and back rowers were the driving force behind the win in greasy conditions.
Lock Lopeti Timani and former All Black Adam Thomson were fantastic at the break down, the No.8 playing his most impressive game for his new team, while acting skipper Sean McMahon was at his bullocking best.
But it was flanker Jordy Reid who scored the game’s first try in the 12th minute, finishing off a consolidated raid on the Sunwolves’ line.
Having led 11-6 at half time, a margin that was pegged back to two points shortly after the break, scrumhalf Ben Meehan scored the Rebels’ second five-pointer in the 49th minute before winger Tom English crossed off the back of a line-out close to the halfway line eight minutes later.
The bonus point - the Rebels’ first of the season - was all but secure 10 minutes from time when McMahon scored the team’s fourth try.
Flyhalf Jack Debreczeni (two conversions and three penalties) was deadly with the boot, missing just one shot at goal.
That the Rebels have a 75 per cent success rate is almost as good an outcome as McGahan could have hoped for given his side’s arduous fixture and injury woes.
Already the team has travelled to Perth, Pretoria and now Tokyo, but has had to do so with a casualty list that has at times included Nic Stirzaker, Mike Harris, Reece Hodge, Scott Fuglistaller, Tamati Ellison, Colby Fainga’a and Sefanaia Naivalu.
Now recovered from a shoulder injury, scrumhalf Stirzaker saw his first action since being appointed as captain in the pre-season, while flanker Fuglistaller also made his comeback from a hip injury off the bench.
Both will be better for the run ahead of Saturday’s clash with defending champion, the Highlanders, at AAMI Park.