A try and crucial bonus-point victory were deserving reward for Melbourne centre Tamati Ellison, who made a huge personal sacrifice to play according to Rebels Super Rugby coach Tony McGahan.
Ellison intercepted the ball after fulltime at AAMI Park to score the bonus-point try and cap the Rebels’ 36-14 win on Friday night over the Cheetahs – their biggest winning margin at home.
The veteran centre missed the birth of his fourth child, a second son, who arrived at a Melbourne hospital just before kickoff.
“It was really fitting it was Tamati who scored it (the bonus-point try) in the final play of the game because he has a new-born baby just before kickoff and he stayed here and played the game,” McGahan said.
“He gave his all for the team and made a big sacrifice.”
Ellison will be given extra time to spend with wife Meremaraea and newest addition but will definitely play against the Blues next Saturday afternoon in Auckland.
The Rebels edged a point ahead of the Brumbies on the Australian conference due to that extra point for winning by three tries or more.
It could be short-lived as the Brumbies host the Crusaders on Sunday afternoon in Canberra.
McGahan said while the Rebels had made the win more difficult than it needed to be, they deserved a little luck given the run of injuries to their outside backs.
It was nice to get a little bit of luck our way, a little bounce of the ball,” McGahan said.
“We haven’t had too many intercepts, we have given plenty away but it was nice to get one back our way.”
Key to Melbourne’s win was the performance of Reece Hodge in his first start in the centres after playing fullback, wing and five-eighth in his debut year.
The rangy 21-year-old scored a try in each half and set up another.
“He’s come straight out of club rugby in Sydney and, to come straight in here and make an impact, he’s made a real contribution to what we’ve done,” McGahan said.
“He’s a really humble guy who fits in well in the group and works hard.”