Bloodied prop Matt Gibbon summed up the spirit of the Melbourne Rebels, playing a key role in an upset win over the NSW Waratahs before delivering a hilarious interview.
As well as fulfilling his core duties at AAMI Park, the likeable loosehead scored a memorable second half try as he sold a dummy and split a bemused Waratahs defence.
The 34-27 triumph was Melbourne’s first of the 2023 season having let leads slip in losses to the Western Force and Hurricanes.
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Rebels prop fools Waratahs defence
“Mate, that doesn’t happen usually. As soon as I did that little thing and saw no-one ahead of me, it was back like I was at school again,” a delighted Gibbon told Stan Sport’s Drew Mitchell.
“Chahoo-ing, throwing the ball in the air, loving it.”
A grinning Mitchell then apologised to the Wallabies front-rower.
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“Sorry mate I’m laughing because it’s almost like you’ve come from the dentist. Your bottom lip’s not even moving. That’s why you wear your mouthguards kids.”
Waratahs replacement Taleni Seu galloped away for an eye-catching late try that at least gave NSW a bonus point afterTane Edmed converted from the sideline.
Both clubs are now 1-2.
Slick NSW forwards set winger away
But it was the night of the hosts as the crowd launched into a rare ‘Rebels’ chant.
“That’ll give us belief that we can shake up the competition a bit. They’re a good side, the Waratahs,” Rebels captain Brad Wilkin said.
Rebels backs Lachie Anderson and Reece Hodge starred in the first half, providing kick try assists for each other in a see-sawing contest.
‘Magician’ Anderson scores thrilling try
The Rebels led 17-6 at halftime but NSW gained the lead at one stage before the men from Melbourne kicked again.
“We finally put together a near complete performance,” Rebels centre Stacey Ili said.
“Relief – the last couple of games we’ve been there but just couldn’t get it.”
Waratahs captain Jake Gordon, not surprisingly, was very disappointed but refused to blame the late withdrawals of Max Jorgensen, Dave Porecki and Ned Hanigan.
“We’re better than that,” Gordon said.
“We’re really disappointed, we’re just loose at the moment. Loose around the carry, loose around the breakdown, we invited their backrow over the ball all game, and they did a really good job of that.
“I was really happy with our first 20 and disappointed we didn’t come away with two tries there, and we struggled to come back from that.
“We wanted to go set piece to set piece, and we thought around our lineout launches and maul, we were getting really good pay there, and at the start of the second half, we wanted to play at the right end of the field. We just gave them too many invitations into our 22 late in that second half.”
Both clubs now travel to New Zealand in round four with the Rebels visiting the first placed Chiefs and the Waratahs taking on the Hurricanes.
Nanai-Seturo fires Chiefs to flying start
Meanwhile, flyhalf Damian McKenzie sent another reminder of his ability to the All Blacks selectors as he guided the Chiefs to a 28-7 win over the Highlanders and to a 3-0 start in Super Rugby Pacific.
McKenzie had a hand in all four of his team’s tries and produced several nice touches in attack and defence in a Chiefs team which didn’t always make good use of ample possession.
The Highlanders now are 0-3 for the season but this was their best performance after a two floggings at the hands of the Blues and Crusaders.
The Highlanders spent much of the first half inside their half but defended extremely well and trailed by only 8-0 at halftime.
Lapses of discipline which gave up a series of penalties and led to a sin-binning played into the Chiefs’ hands in the second half. The Chiefs took advantage with three more tries including two to winger Shaun Stevenson, his fourth and fifth of the season.
The margin might have been larger but McKenzie was a bit wayward from the kicking tee, with only three goals from seven attempts.
“We came up against a Highlanders side that is pretty desperate,” Chiefs captain Sam Cane said.
“We knew their first two weeks weren’t a true reflection of where they are as a team.
“We expected a real battle and that’s exactly what we got. The first 50 minutes were a real arm wrestle. They defended well and forced us into mistakes. We didn’t quite get enough points on the board for the possession we had.”
McKenzie made his mark early. As the Chiefs attacked on the openside in the sixth minute, McKenzie spotted a numerical advantage on a wide blindside, changed the direction of the attack and sent Etene Nanai-Seturo over for the first try.
The Chiefs couldn’t score another try before halftime as the Highlanders continued to repel their attacks and exit well with the help of long kicks from former England flyhalf Freddie Burns, playing at fullback.
The next Chiefs try came in the 51st minute when McKenzie ran an elusive line and Rameka Poihipi handed off a brilliant ball to Stevenson who cut straight through a gap to score.
Poihipi scores ‘quickest try of all-time’
Five minutes later Alex Nankivell broke down the left flank and McKenzie was there to take his inside pass. When he was stopped Cane and Brad Weber carried the move on before Samipeni Finau scored.
Stevenson’s second came in the 75th minute, this time from McKenzie’s final pass. In between the Highlanders scored through Mosese Dawai.
McKenzie might again be looked at by the All Blacks selectors for a playmaker role with flyhalves Beauden Barrett and Richie Mo’unga both off to play in Japan after this year’s World Cup.
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