Winning Rebels sweating on injury front

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Winning Rebels sweating on injury front

The Melbourne Rebels will be sweating on the fitness of a trio of players heading into next Sunday’s clash with the Bulls in Pretoria.

The Rebels overcame a curse of the playmakers to post a 25-19 win over the Western Force in Perth on Saturday night.

First-choice Rebels flyhalf Jack Debreczeni was forced to pull out before the match because of illness, and his replacement Mike Harris injured his quad during the last kick of the warm-up.

Harris still took the field heavily strapped, but he lasted just 22 minutes before limping off.

The Rebels were also without injured captain and halfback Nic Stirzaker, who is nursing a shoulder injury.

In the absence of the key trio, debutant winger Reece Hodge stepped up with two tries in a dream start to his Super career.

The Rebels will be aiming to make it two wins on the trot when they take on the Bulls in Pretoria next Sunday.

The Bulls were humbled 33-9 by the Stormers in their season opener.

Rebels coach Tony McGahan said Harris, Debreczeni, and Stirzaker would all be assessed before the team flies out on Monday.

McGahan was thrilled with the performance of Hodge, who was initially listed on the wing, before being forced to play at fullback, flyhalf, and in the centres at various points throughout the match.

“It was his debut in Super Rugby, and he’s played four positions, which is a fair effort,” McGahan said.

“His contribution to the game was immense. Super Rugby can be unforgiving, but all in all he can be really pleased with his contribution.”

The Force were also dealt an injury blow, with centre Kyle Godwin to undergo scans on his right knee after limping off early in the second half.

Force coach Michael Foley was pleased his side embraced the new attacking tactics he has implemented this season.

But a glut of handling errors cost the home side dearly, with numerous attacking forays coming unstuck through fumbles.

“We were breaking the line and creating opportunities. We just weren’t finishing them off,” Foley said.

“The thing for us is to be brave and stick with it.

“It’s hard not to be disappointed when you lose a game. But I’m pleased with some of the things I saw out there. We just have to be tougher in a couple of areas.”

Captain Matt Hodgson required two sets of stitches in his head after copping a heavy knock that left blood streaming from his forehead in the first half.

“Lucky I’m married so it doesn’t matter,” Hodgson joked.

The Force will be aiming to bounce back when they take on the Queensland Reds at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night.

The injury-hit Reds lost 30-10 to the Waratahs in their season opener.

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