Rebels rout 14-man rubble Reds
The Rebels were fancied, given that they added the bilk of the axed Western Force's player roster to an already established base.
However, what was not expected was how poor the Reds would be and the 45-19 scoreline probably flatters the visitors somewhat.
Losing their captain in the 10th minute – the result of a cheap shot, when Scott Higginbotham charged shoulder first into the head of an opponent – they went down to 13 men halfway through the opening half.
However, Lukhan Tui was fortunate the referee was in a forgiving mood – his yellow card for a spear tackle was far worse than Higginbotham's shoulder charge and should have been a red card.
The Reds were competitive for most of the first half and held a 14-7 lead just on the half-hour mark.
However, the Revels started using their numerical advantage and the Reds lost their composure and ultimately the game by that massive margin.
Wing Sefanaia Naivalu, fullback Dane Haylett-Petty and flyhalf Jack Debreczeni scored two tries each – to go with a score for centre Tom English.
The Reds managed three tries through centres Duncan Paia'aua and Samu Kerevi, as well as wing Chris Feauai-Sautia, with two of those converted by scrumhalf James Tuttle.
"We had moments in the game where we clocked off, but to get a win in round one and start on a positive note, I'll take that," Rebels captain Adam Coleman said.
"We are taking it game-by-game and sticking to our processes. We will learn a lot from this match."
The Rebels won one game in 2017 and were, statistically at least, the worst side in the competition, but have been rejuvenated by the arrival of coach David Wessels and a host of players from the Western Force.
The pivotal moment came when Higginbotham made a dangerous tackle, his shoulder going with force into the head of Rebels lock Izack Rodda and failing to use his arms to wrap around the player.
The Reds had made the brighter start and led until just past the half-hour mark, but the home side began to make their numerical advantage count as they spread the play and sapped the energy of their opponents.
"The boys showed a lot of fight, and at times we played outstanding. We just have to get back to the drawing board," Reds centre Samu Kerevi said.
"We had to keep our composure, especially with two men down. I'm proud of the young guys, they put in an awesome effort, unfortunately we couldn't get the result for them."
Man of the match: The Reds' contribution to the match – apart from rare bursts of energy – was a red card and a yellow card that should have been a red card. In such a lopsided game most players in the winning side look good. Our award goes to the Rebels' veteran Wallaby scrumhalf Will Genia – showing his class.
For the Rebels:
Tries: Naivalu 2, English, Haylett-Petty 2, Debreczeni 2
Cons: Debreczeni 4
For the Reds:
Tries: Paia'aua, Kerevi, Feauai-Sautia
Cons: Tuttle 2
Red card: Scott Higginbotham (Reds, 10 – foul play, shoulder charge to the head)
Yellow card: Lukhan Tui (Red, 23 – foul play, spear tackle)
Rebels: 15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Jack Maddocks, 13 Tom English, 12 Reece Hodge, 11 Sefa Naivalu, 10 Jack Debreczeni, 9 Will Genia, 8 Amanaki Mafi, 7 Angus Cottrell, 6 Lopeti Timani, 5 Adam Coleman (captain), 4 Matt Philip, 3 Jermaine Ainsley, 2 Jordan Uelese, 1 Tetera Faulkner.
Replacements: 16 Anaru Rangi, 17 Fereti Sa'aga, 18 Sam Talakai, 19 Sam Jeffries, 20 Ross Haylett-Petty, 21 Michael Ruru, 22 Semisi Tupou, 23 Billy Meakes.
Reds: 15 Aidan Toua, 14 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Duncan Paia'aua, 11 Eto Nabuli, 10 Jono Lance, 9 James Tuttle, 8 Scott Higginbotham (captain), 7 Adam Korczyk, 6 Caleb Timu, 5 Lukhan Tui, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 1 James Slipper
Replacements: 16 Alex Mafi, 17 JP Smith, 18 Sef Fa'agase, 19 Kane Douglas, 20 Liam Wright, 21 Tate McDermott, 22 Hamish Stewart, 23 Filipo Daugunu
Referee: Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Nicholas Berry (Australia), Jordan Way (Australia)
TMO: Ian Smith (Australia)