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Rebels too good for Cheetahs

Melbourne Rebels opened their Super Rugby season with a commanding 35-14 victory over the Cheetahs at AAMI Park on Friday.

Coach Daniel Hill departed in the off-season along with Australia international backs Kurtley Beale and James O'Connor but the Rebels showed no ill-effects as they eased to victory.

Under the new leadership of coach Tony McGahan and skipper Scott Higginbotham, they raced out to a 17-0 lead at half-time courtesy of tries from Lachlan Mitchell, Jason Woodward and Luke Burgess.

The Cheetahs, who bounced back from an opening round loss to the Lions with victory against the Bulls, offered some resistance after the break.

Jean Cook and Rayno Barnes both crossed over for the visitors but Bryce Hegarty and Higginbotham put the game to bed.

The Rebels opened the scoring after just five minutes as some flowing rugby stretched the Cheetahs' defence and Mitchell went over in the corner but Woodward missed the conversion.

The full-back more than made amends midway through the half, though, when he gathered Higginbotham's kick to the corner and went over but once again he was wayward with the boot.

The Cheetahs must have thought they would reach the interval without sustaining further damage but, with just a minute left in the half, some smart play from Sean McMahon helped send Burgess in and Hegarty added the extras.

Five minutes after the break, the visitors got on the board thanks to their forwards with Cook bundling over the line after a rolling maul and five points became seven courtesy of Johan Goosen.

Scott Fuglistaller was then sin-binned but that did not stop the Rebels regaining their 17-point advantage on the hour as Tamati Ellison freed Hegarty who added seven more points to his personal tally.

The Cheetahs' saving grace was in the pack and another maul resulted in a try through Barnes with Goosen's conversion closing the gap to 10 points.

But that was a s good as it got for the South Africans with Angus Roberts adding a drop-goal and a penalty to the Rebels' tally before Higginbotham went over in the corner after great work from Hugh Pyle and Ben Meehan.

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