Cessnock hooker Billy Gilbert was among a host of stars as the Newcastle Rebels kicked off their representative campaign with an emphatic 36-4 win over Illawarra in Wollongong yesterday.
It was tough and physical early in the Steel City Challenge clash but Newcastle's class shone out as the Rebels crossed for three tries in the opening 15 minutes to leave the home side floundering and unable to recover.
Gilbert was a constant threat out of dummy half and was one of six try-scorers for his side with James Bradley, Joe Woodbury, Dylan Phythian, Cameron Anderson and Luke Higgins also crossing.
While the Goannas' No.9 picked up the player of the match and players' player awards, he had plenty of support with Maitland prop James Taylor and Cessnock halfback AJ Davis also standing out.
The Rebels were rarely threatened and had the game in their keeping at halftime after building up a 26-4 lead.
"They were willing early and it was pretty physical but we dominated them once we got on top," Rebels coach Aaron Watts said.
"I can't fault any of the guys that we put out there. The attitude was really good and we got some good reward for some set plays we'd worked on. Billy Gilbert picked up all the awards and I thought James Taylor was really strong for us while AJ stood out as well and kicked six from seven."
In the Under 20's game, the Rebels held off a fast-finishing Steelers to win 26-22.
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