Melbourne Rebels skipper Sean McMahon lauded his Super Rugby team’s rock solid defence as they rolled the Sunwolves for a 35-9 win in Tokyo.
The Rebels made it three wins from four rounds and added a bonus point to their luggage, running in four unanswered tries at Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium on Saturday.
Melbourne were the first Australasian side to face the expansion club but ensured their winless start continued with a dominant showing.
The Rebels’ once weak defence was key to the win, particularly in the first half when they starved the home side of a try as they battered the line a number of times.
The Rebels then forced a turnover, which finished at a telling 6-1 in favour of the visitors, or a penalty.
“The boys put in a real performance down our end, defending hard and it really got us through in the end,” McMahon said.
“The Sunwolves came out and really gave it to us the entire game.”
The Rebels only missed nine tackles for the match compared to the Sunwolves’ 29.
Lock Lopeti Timani was one of their best as he snaffled a ball when the Sunwolves were within a metre of the line, but he also spent 10 minutes on the sidelines in the second half when he was yellow-carded for an alleged shoulder charge.
Despite being down a man, the Rebels were still able to hold firm and scored themselves through McMahon.
Standing in for usual captain Nic Stirzaker, who came on in the final minutes for his first appearance of the season following shoulder surgery, Wallaby flanker McMahon proved a handful in both attack and defence.
He ran a game high 104 metres in his 15 runs.
Holding an 11-6 half-time lead thanks to a try by flanker Jordy Reid, the Rebels, on the back of trips already to Perth and Pretoria this season, could have been forgiven for running out of steam.
But they stepped up the pressure in the second half to score through halfback Ben Meehan, winger Tom English and then McMahon’s effort.
Veteran centre Tamati Ellison had a hand in a number of tries with some clever attacking play while winger Dom Shipperley was another stand-out.
The Rebels now return to Melbourne to host the Highlanders, while the Sunwolves face the Bulls at home.