The Melbourne Rebels were brought crashing back to earth in brutal fashion on Saturday night with a shock 32-7 Super Rugby loss to the Western Force in Perth.
The Rebels had been irresistible in last week’s 35-14 demolition of the Cheetahs, while the Force looked set for a long season after being thumped by the Waratahs and Brumbies in their opening two games.
But the Force turned things around in dramatic style, scoring four tries in the opening 27 minutes on the way to the bonus-point victory in front of 9895 fans.
The Rebels were held scoreless until substitute Telusa Veainu scored a belated try after the fulltime siren.
The win lifted the Force off the bottom of the table, and snapped their four-game losing streak against the Rebels.
Skipper Matt Hodgson scored a try in his 100th match for the Force, while flanker Angus Cottrell, former Reds winger Luke Morahan and scrumhalf Alby Mathewson also scored.
The Force led 32-0 at halftime, with scrumhalf Mathewson key to the early onslaught.
The Rebels were beaten in nearly every aspect of the game, with the Force enjoying 75 per cent possession in the opening 30 minutes.
Rebels coach Tony McGahan made a surprising six changes to his starting line-up, and the mass changes backfired badly as the Force took control from the outset.
Mathewson started the riot in the second minute when he sold the dummy to Rebels lock Caderyn Neville before strolling over.
Hodgson’s bravery then set up the second try, with the former Wallaby launching himself at a high ball to open the door for Morahan to cross.
And the inspirational skipper had a try for himself in the 24th minute when he pounced on a lucky bounce.
The four-try bonus point was in the bag by the 27th minute when Rebels flyhalf Angus Roberts dropped a high ball, allowing Cottrell to cross a few phases later.
McGahan had seen enough by that point, dragging prop Max Lahiff and lock Neville from the field in a desperate bid to spark his side.
Flyhalf Bryce Hegarty was also thrown into the fray at halftime and the changes paid dividends as the Rebels stemmed the flow.
However, it was too little, too late as the Force cruised to their first win of the year to celebrate Hodgson’s milestone in grand style.