Rebels savour a rare bit of rugby joy
April 7, 2013
Damien Hill's Melbourne Rebels have come a long way the past two weeks © Getty Images
The smile beaming on the face of Melbourne Rebels coach Damien Hill told the story.
The horror start to the season had also heaped massive pressure on Hill, whose tenure at the club beyond this season had come under increasing scrutiny.
With the tension building, it wouldn't have come as a surprise to see the Rebels implode against the Western Force in their trip to Perth on Saturday night.
After all, it was just a fortnight ago they copped the mother-of-all hidings in a 10-try, 64-7 loss to the Sharks.
But the players stayed strong to record a 30-23 victory on enemy territory, the result lifting the Rebels off the bottom of the Australian conference ahead of Saturday's home clash with the Southern Kings.
The Rebels also unearthed a new strike weapon with New Zealand winger and Man-of-the-Match Jason Woodward highly impressive in scoring two tries and unlucky not to get one or two more.
Hill knows he must keep his unit competitive if he is to earn a new deal.
But the weight of the world seemed to lift off his shoulders after guiding the Rebels to their second win of the season - both against the Force.
"Every team goes through ups and downs, and it's about how you bounce back and what your reaction is," Hill said after the bonus-point win. "It was left up to those 22 players today and they did a tremendous job."
While Hill could smile, Force coach Michael Foley could only frown as he analysed his team's most disappointing performance of the season.
The Force committed a glut of handling errors throughout the match, with some of their turnovers proving costly as the Rebels ran in four tries.
Although the Force have been competitive in every game they've played this season, Foley felt the effort against the Rebels was something of a backward step.
"Consistency for us is a big thing," Foley said. "You understand it's not going to be a straight line in terms of the improvement. We need to make sure we re-establish what sort of standard of game we want to play."
The Force are sweating on the fitness of in-form lock Hugh McMeniman, who injured the AC joint in his left shoulder after copping a heavy hit. Five-eighth Sias Ebersohn (head), winger Alfie Mafi (hamstring) and props Salesi Ma'afu (knee) and Kieran Longbottom (head) were also left worse for wear.
The Force's sixth loss of the season relegated them to last spot in the Australian conference, and it doesn't get any easier with a home clash against the Crusaders to come on Saturday.
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