Rebels make sparkling debut - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Rebels make sparkling debut

By Melissa Woods 15/01/2011 10:07:08 PM Comments (0)

In the shadows of the MCG and nestled next to the venue for next week's Australian Open, the Rebels showed there was still room for another sporting team in Melbourne as they made their historic first appearance.

The Rebels, who will play in the Super rugby competition starting next month, drew a crowd of over 8,000 to their Saturday night clash with Tonga at Olympic Park and opened with a 43-13 victory.

The Tongans, who are trialling players for this year's Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, toiled hard on a warm Melbourne evening and led 13-12 at halftime.

But they were over-run by a fresh Rebels line-up as coach Rod Macqueen looked to give all but his injured players a run in the trial.

The locals, who will play their home games out of the adjacent AAMI Park, ran out easy winners scoring seven tries to one.

While it was difficult to judge performances with most players only completing a half and with plenty of ball going to ground as they looked to test new combinations, the stand-out was former NRL player Cooper Vuna, who scored a hat-trick of tries in 19 minutes during the second half.

The 23-year-old inside centre, who played union in Auckland until he was 15 when he switched to league, joined the Rebels from the Newcastle Knights, where he played over 50 games.

Vuna's father, John, represented Tonga in rugby, with his son now a chance to follow in his footsteps.

Another player recruited from the NRL, South African-raised JP du Plessis, who played with the Sydney Roosters, scored two minutes later.

The halfbacks in both halves, Nick Phipps followed by Richard Kingi, both impressed and are set to cause a selection headache for Macqueen, with veteran Sam Cordingley also a contender although he missed the match with a hip injury.

Outside centre Afusipa Taumoepeau earned the honour of being the first man to score points in the Rebels' navy blue, touching down after eight minutes.

Taumoepeau joined Melbourne after three seasons with the Brumbies.

English import Danny Cipriani, who is looking to re-ignite his career in Australia, did little in the opening half at five-eighth and didn't play in the second due to a back complaint.

The two teams will meet again next Friday night in Morwell in regional Victoria.

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