MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — The Melbourne Rebels are set to play their first Super Rugby home match in more than a year.

The Rebels spent all of last season on the road due to COVID-19 restrictions, and were forced to leave Victoria state a month ago during the start of this season to escape a new virus outbreak.

They finished a month-long road trip Friday with a 10-7 win over the Western Force and now play the first of four home games on March 19 when they take on New South Wales.

Their last home game was March 7, 2020, when they beat South Africa’s Lion 37-17 — when Super Rugby was still an international competition before the coronavirus stopped all overseas flights from coming to Australia.

This season, teams from Australia and New Zealand are playing domestic tournaments but will also play a five-round “Trans-Tasman" competition between teams from the two countries, culminating in a final, in May and June.

On Friday, the Rebels played the final 11 minutes with 14 men after lock Ross Haylett-Petty was red-carded.

The Rebels took a 10-0 lead in the 62nd minute when Marika Koroibete set up a try for scrumhalf Joe Powell. But in the 69th minute the Force scored a try through substitute Jack McGregor and Haylett-Petty struck Force substitute Tomas Lezana in the head with his shoulder as he went in to tackle.

The lights at the stadium went out in the 74th minute, just as the two teams were about to pack down for a scrum near the Force’s try line, halting the game for 10 minutes. The Rebels were forced to defend for the rest of the match and won a penalty on the Force’s scrum feed in the final minute to seal their first win of the season.


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