May 26, 2023
Melbourne have put a major dent in the Western Force's Super Rugby Pacific finals aspirations and farewelled Rebels stalwart Reece Hodge from AAMI Park as a winner with a thumping 52-14 victory.
The loss wasn't the only damage to the Force's play-off hopes, with the WA club relegated to ninth by Queensland's last-gasp loss to the Highlanders earlier on Friday night.
They were unable to pick up a point in the eight tries to two romp, while the Rebels, who will require a miracle in the last round to make the finals, at least gave their fans something to cheer about with the bonus-point victory.
The match was the last at home for France-bound centre Hodge, who overtook Tom English as the most-capped Melbourne player with 99.
The 28-year-old was unable to get amongst the tryscoring action, with five of the Rebels' forwards - Brad Wilkin, Sam Talakai, Josh Kemeny, Richard Hardwick and Vaiolini Ekuasi - sharing some of the spoils.
Melbourne set up the win with their go-forward and dominance at the set-piece and breakdown.
The rest of the tries were scored by Ryan Louwrens, Lachie Anderson and Nick Jooste in Melbourne's biggest ever score posted at AAMI Park.
Five-eighth Carter Gordon, who missed last week's loss to the Highlanders with a knee injury, and veteran halfback Louwrens combined to spark the relentless Rebels attack.
Bullocking centre Sam Spink scored a try in each half for the Force - intercepting a Gordon pass for his second.
But it was otherwise a disappointing performance to follow their breakthrough win over the Brumbies last time out.
Currently 10th, the Rebels take on the third-placed Brumbies in Canberra in the final round.
The Force will need to beat the ladder-leading Chiefs in Perth to force their way back into finals contention.
REBELS 52 TRIES: Louwrens, Wilkin, Talakai, Kemeny, Hardwick, Anderson, Jooste, Ekuasi CONS: Hodge 6/8
FORCE 14 TRIES: Spink 2 CONS: Burey 2/2
REBELS (1-15): Matt Gibbon, Jordan Uelese, Sam Talakai, Josh Canham, Matt Philip, Josh Kemeny, Brad Wilkin (c), Richard Hardwick, Ryan Louwrens, Carter Gordon, Monty Ioane, Reece Hodge, Lukas Ripley, Lachie Anderson, Andrew Kellaway
RESERVES: Theo Fourie, Isaac Aedo Kailea, Pone Fa'amausili, Trevor Hosea, Vaiolini Ekuasi, James Tuttle, Nick Jooste, Joe Pincus
FORCE (1-15): Angus Warner, Folau Fainga'a, Siosifa Amone, Felix Kalapu, Jeremy Williams, Michael Wells (c), Carlo Tizzano, Rahboni Vosayaco, Issak Fines-Leleiwasa, Max Burey, Manasa Mataele, Hamish Stewart, Sam Spink, Zach Kibirge, Chase Tiatia
RESERVES: Tom Horton, Marley Pearce, Bo Abra, Izack Rodda, Tim Anstee, Isi Naisarani, Ian Prior, George Poolman
Referee: Dan Waenga
Assistant Referees: Paul Williams, Mike Winter