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Wessels keeping lid on excitement over Rebels' success

  • September 16, 2019
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Coach Dave Wessels has cautioned against getting carried away with the Rebels’ early-season success, pointing to last year’s dramatic collapse as reason for keeping a lid on the building excitement around a possible maiden Super Rugby finals campaign.

The Rebels opened a seven-point lead at the top of the Australian conference with fullback Reece Hodge scoring a hat-trick in their 42-15 bonus-point win over the Sunwolves.

The derby victory, as well as losses to the Brumbies and Waratahs on Saturday, puts the Rebels in a commanding position just short of the midpoint of their season.

But Wessels is not prepared to take anything for granted and while pleased with the result, saw plenty of opportunities for his team to improve.

“There were definitely little technical and tactical things we did tonight that we wouldn’t be happy with but from an attitudinal point of view we were spot on,” Wessels said.

“And I think that’s the most pleasing thing.

“We’re trying to build to be a championship team and it’s good to see that we get up for every game and be competitive all the time.”

For the first time, Wessels revealed the extent of the feeling in last week’s game against the Reds – a match that marked the return of Quade Cooper and Will Genia to Suncorp Stadium.

Cooper had effectively been banished from the Reds after a falling out with coach Brad Thorn and his return after a year’s exile in club rugby was a big occasion not just for the now-Rebels flyhalf but his new teammates.

“We had a big, emotional win (against the Reds) last week and sometimes when you have a win like that you can’t get yourself up for a second week in a row,” Wessels said.

“I think probably the biggest thing for me is they’re just enjoying it.

“Everyone is working hard for each other and sharing the workload and I think that makes a big difference.

“But it’s early days.

“We’ve got to remember that this time last year we had a couple of good wins early and fell in a big hole.

“So we’ve got to keep working, keep trying to get better every week.”

Wessels believes missing the finals last year will end up being a good thing for the Force despite it stinging at the time.

A hat-trick hero against the Sunwolves on Saturday, Reece Hodge said last season’s fadeout had not been discussed by the team but it would be “silly not to think about it at all”.

“We haven’t spoken about it,” Hodge said.

“It’d be silly not to think about it at all but our focus is week-to-week at the moment and obviously we had a tough tour of South Africa and didn’t quite get the results we were after.

“We talked a lot about the local derbies in the Australian conference and getting those double points and that’s two of those back-to-back now where we’ve come away with bonus-point wins and it’s a fair bit of confidence we can take out of that as a squad.

“Being at home again next week against the Stormers, it’s another big game and a chance to really stamp our authority on the Australian conference and really get that momentum going into Sydney the week after.

“We’re enjoying our footy at the moment and it’s exciting times but we’re definitely staying grounded and know we’ve got a lot of hard work ahead of us in the next couple of weeks.”

While they scored four tries in the opening half, the Rebels failed to go on with things completely in a messy second term where three yellow cards were handed out in the final 10 minutes.

His team conceded 15 penalties overall but Wessels was not particularly concerned with discipline moving ahead.

“I thought the Sunwolves’ no.9 had his hands on the ball at the base of the ruck a fair few times and that was probably catching our line speed a bit offside,” he said.

“So it’s just something that we’ll have to work on during the week.

“But all in all I was pretty happy with that.

“I think it’s always going to be a fairly open game, both teams were chancing their arm at different times, so it was just the nature of the game.”

A hat-trick from Hodge helped the Rebels seal the bonus-point win over the Sunwolves and cement top place in the Australian conference.

The Rebels notched four tries in the opening half to take control of the match and while they added another pair of tries in the second half, they have homework to do ahead of their clash against the Stormers next week after conceding 15 penalties in the contest.

Comeback halves Will Genia and Quade Cooper both scored but it was what they were able to manufacture in the Rebels’ flat attack that again led to opportunities for their outside men.

The Rebels scored four tries in the first half to be in control against the Sunwolves, leading 28-8 as they look to cement their place at the top of Australian conference.

A Cooper try in the shadows of halftime gave the Rebels a substantial lead after the Sunwolves hit back to post a try of their own after Melbourne dominated the early exchanges.

The Rebels were on the board in the sixth minute after Reece Hodge crashed over for the first of two tries after scrumhalf Will Genia found him with a perfect pass close to the line.

The Sunwolves opened their account through a penalty when the Rebels failed to release in the tackle and while Hayden Parker converted, the Rebels extended their lead soon after when Hodge scored his second try of the night after a Quade Cooper cutout pass following a scrum put Tom English in a hole and he found Hodge on his outside to score.

Cooper was in the thick of the action for the Rebels’ third try, taking the ball to the line before kicking for Billy Meakes, whose strong chase forced Sunwolves fullback Ryohei Yamanaka to knock the ball on, straight into Meakes’ hands before he crossed for a try.

The Rebels looked in total control but their lack of discipline led to a raft of penalties inside their own territory and they were soon punished.

After scoring three tries against the Waratahs last week, Sunwolves winger Semisi Masirewa was again in the thick of the action.

Denied by match officials in the 28th minute after he was ruled to have been held up over the line, he scored in  the 30th minute after another Sunwolves penalty.

The Sunwolves hit back just minutes after the break though after Masirewa scored his second try of the night, beating several defenders on the right flank after an around-the-corner pass from Hendrik Tui.

While they dominated the scoreboard, the Sunwolves continued to press and it was only outstanding defence from lock Adam Coleman in the 55th minute that prevented Mark Abbott from scoring.

Hodge had a third when he charged down a Josh Timu clearance attempt, the play coming after Billy Meakes put a massive hit on centre Jason Emery.

Will Genia put the icing on the cake when he scored following a lineout before being taken from the park with just over 10 minutes remaining.

The teams traded yellow cards in the final minutes, with Rebel Semisi Tupou and Sunwolf Nathan Vella were sin binned before Campbell Magnay was also handed a yellow in the final minute of the match for a high tackle.

Vella could come under further attention after he was sin binned for dangerous play after charging into Magnay while he was in a vulnerable position at the breakdown.


Rebels 42

Tries: Reece Hodge 3, Billy Meakes, Quade Cooper, Will Genia

Cons: Quade Cooper 6

Sunwolves 15

Tries: Semisi Masirewa 2

Cons: Hayden Parker

Pens: Parker

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