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Rebels fall to Blues in Super horror start

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 23/02/2017 Melissa Woods

Melbourne Rebels coach Tony McGahan will be checking the change room for cracked mirrors, with their horror run of luck contributing to a disappointing 56-18 loss to the Blues in their Super Rugby season opener.

The Rebels were outclassed by the burly Blues, with teenage centre sensation Rieko Ioane finishing with a hat-trick among their haul of seven tries.

Melbourne started brightly but lost their skipper Nic Stirzaker to a head knock, not long after the halfback scored their first try in the seventh minute.

Stirzaker joined an already bulging bench of sidelined stars including NRL recruit, winger Marika Koroibete, and Wallabies Sean McMahon, Sefa Naivalu, James Hanson and Toby Smith among others.

They also lost experienced centre Mitch Inman, forcing a late backline reshuffle, while winger Jonah Placid was carried from the field in the second half with a leg injury.

While there were a few bright spots, particularly in the first half, the home side were outmuscled by the Blues at the breakdown.

Melbourne did themselves no favours in attack with some poor execution while their lineout struggled all night.

Stirzaker, who battled last season with various injuries, scored after the ball passed through some quick Rebels hands with debutant Jack Maddocks finding his halfback, who was able to fend off Akira Ioane.

Another Super Rugby rookie Jackson Garden-Bachop also scored in the first half after Jordy Reid charged down a kick but there was little else to celebrate.

First five-eighth Garden-Bachop missed two penalties and his own conversion, which cost his team the first-half lead and the Blues made them pay. The Auckland side went to the break leading 25-15.

Former Melbourne NRL winger Matt Duffie was among the Blues' tryscorers.

McGahan said he thought, despite the blowout in the scoreline, that his team could take some positives from the match.

He felt the Rebels had the better of the Blues in the first half, with an intercept try scored by Ioane from a loose Reid pass in the 38th minute a cruel blow.

"I was really happy with the players. Our first 40 (minutes), we probably played most of the footy and we defended pretty well as well but, in saying that, you're playing New Zealand sides who pounce," McGahan said.

"We got caught for a little bit of experience and were pushed around from 60 (minutes) onwards but those things are fixable.

"It was great to see some desire and intent in the way we want to play and we will be able to grow on that."

Blues coach, former All Blacks great Tana Umaga, said the win was a culmination of a lot of hard work in the pre-season.

"Obviously, it's just the first game of the season and there's still a lot of things to work on but the pleasing thing for us is that we stayed in the fight and we came out the other end with the rewards," Umaga said.

"We are happy with it."

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