MATCH REPORT: Rebels kick season off with big win
RUGBY LEAGUE: On a balmy Sunday afternoon at McKittrick Park, where the weather was dropping forwards like flies, one bull making his return to Rebels colours was a standout.
Big Xavier Sullivan was monstrous in his attacking efforts for the home side, consistently making 10 metres and even picking up his own crash across try late in the second half.
The points flowed for both sides early in the first stanza after Sawtell half back Lachlan Miller cut back through lazy goal line defence from the Rebels.
It was not long before the Rebels hit back though with a try of their own through winger Jade Duroux.
It was a well-worked play through impromptu five-eighth Hughie Stanley before Nick McGrady drew the winger and sent Duroux into the corner.
The Rebels extended their lead on the other side of the field through workhorse Grant Stumpy Stevens before Sawtell drew the scores back level.
As the half progressed, the balmy conditions at McKittrick Park began to take their toll on the forwards and the quick men of South Grafton were quick to capitalise.
Stanley was instrumental in tries to Nick McGrady and Jade Duroux while also crossing for one himself to give the Rebels a commanding lead heading into the half-time break.
The Rebels continued their dominance in the second half as their forward pack returned with renewed vigour.
It was a stalemate for much of the second half with both sides struggling to keep control of the pill.
It took a moment of attacking brilliance from Rebels' new half Kieren Stewart, who hit the line before swivelling and offloading to a charging Grant Brown who sailed in under the sticks.
The points broke the second-half deadlock and it was not long before South Grafton were in again through Sullivan and Duroux picking up a brace in the corner.
After two players went to the bin late in the second half, South Grafton closed out their first outing at home with a try to Queensland Cup signing Theeran Pearson.
South Grafton Rebels 54 (Duroux 2, Stevens 2, Stanley 2, McGrady, Brown, Sullivan, Pearson tries; Duroux 7 goals) def Sawtell Panthers 22 (Miller, Clarkson, Watkins, Wicks, tries; Miller 3 goals)