The Melbourne Rebels have built their best springboard into a Super Rugby season after completeing a trial clean sweep.
Super Rugby battlers Melbourne Rebels have promised life will be different under Tony McGahan after completing an impressive pre-season clean sweep.
The Rebels, adventurous cellar-dwellers in their first three seasons, highlighted the aggression and starch new coach McGahan has instilled with an 18-13 trial upset of Queensland on Friday night.
The two-tries-to-one victory over the Reds at their spiritual Ballymore home followed trial wins over NSW and the Hurricanes to give Melbourne their best springboard into a season in their short history.
Replacing the dumped Damien Hill, McGahan has worked diligently at improving the Rebels’ often-brittle defence and fitness.
Led by skipper Scott Higginbotham and ex-Chiefs prop Toby Smith, the Rebels’ pack dished it out to the Reds in a scrappy but willing encounter.
The visitors piled big numbers and plenty of muscle into the breakdown and pulled off the bigger hits of the night in front of 8788 stunned Brisbane fans.
The Rebels also showed composure and belief to come back from 13-0 down after just 22 minutes.
Young five-eighth Bryce Hegarty was instrumental in the comeback, setting up Angus Roberts for their first try with a perfect grubber and showed confidence in attack.
But McGahan – whose first decision on being appointed last year was cutting free James O’Connor – wasn’t getting carried away as his side have a first-up bye before hosting the Cheetahs.
“To play the Reds in our pre-season is going to give us a lot of learning opportunities and, from tonight, we have a heap of opportunities to fix up.
“We’re on a very steep learning curve and that was evident tonight with how we started the game.
“We have a lot of good attributes in the group, they have a great spirit about them and a great mateship and those things were evident there and they will never be in question.
“There’s a lot of tactical and technical things we need to continue to improve on but we’ll take some good points moving forward.”
Reds coach Richard Graham was disappointed with a flatness in both attack and defence from his side.
“Our first 25 minutes was really good quality but, after we built up that lead, we fell away,” Graham said.
“There’s a lot to work on heading into the Brumbies next week.”