Vuna powers Rebels to Tonga victory
January 15, 2011
The Rebels Hugh Pyle stretches the Tonga defence during a Super Rugby warm-up match in Melbourne © Getty Images
Melbourne Rebels celebrated their first official match with a 43-13 victory over Tonga at Olympic Park in front of an impressive 8,123 fans.
The Rebels, who will join the Super Rugby competition next month, fielded many of their high-profile recruits including Englishman Danny Cipriani and former league star Cooper Vuna with the latter grabbing a second half hat-trick.
Tonga, who will compete at this year's Rugby World Cup, worked hard for a 13-12 lead at half-time thanks largely to a try from Taumei Hikila but they were swept aside by a fresh-looking Rebels side in the latter stages of the clash with the hosts eventually outscoring their visitors by seven tries to one.
Outside centre Afusipa Taumoepeau grabbed the Rebels' first-ever try with another league recruit, JP du Plessis, Lachie Mitchell and Peter Betham also touching down. Scrum-half Richard Kingi produced an eye-catching display while Cipriani began the game at fly-half and opened his account with a conversion but was withdrawn at the break with a back complaint.
"There was a lot of mistakes out there but the whole idea of this was not about winning or losing, it was about trying a lot of things," said coach Rod Macqueen. "All in all that's what trials are for, [I was] disappointed with some areas of it, very happy with other areas."
Asked about Cipriani's input, Macqueen added, "Danny threw a couple of really good passes that weren't taken. If they had been scooped up we might have been away a bit more."
Six key members of the squad were unavailable due to injury with Stirling Mortlock (back), Adam Freier (back), Julian Huxley (osteitis pubis), Luke Rooney (calf), Sam Cordingly (hip) and Mark Gerrard all sitting out the historic clash. The two sides will meet again next Friday in Morwell in regional Victoria.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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