Blood-soaked prop Matt Gibbons sums up the spirit of the Melbourne Rebels, playing a key role in an upset win over the NSW Waratahs, before giving a hilarious interview.
As well as carrying out his main duties at AAMI Park, the likable loosehead scored a memorable second-half try as he sold a dummy and split a hapless Waratahs defence.
The 34–27 victory was Melbourne’s first win of the 2023 season, following losses to the Western Force and Hurricanes.
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Gibbons told Drew Mitchell of Stan Sport, “Man, it doesn’t happen that often. As soon as I did that little thing and didn’t see anyone in front of me, it felt like I was back at school.”
“Chahu-ing, throwing the ball up in the air, loving it.”
A smiling Mitchell then apologized to the Wallabies front-rower.
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“Sorry dude I’m laughing because it’s almost like you just came from the dentist. Your bottom lip isn’t even moving. That’s why you wear your mouthguard kids.”
Waratah replacement Taleni Seau galloped in for an attractive late try that at least got NSW a bonus point when Ten Adem converted from the sideline.
Both clubs are now 1-2.
Slick NSW forward sets winger away
But it was the hosts’ night as the crowd began in a rare ‘Rebels’ chant
Rebels captain Brad Wilkin said, “That will give us the confidence that we can shake up the competition a bit. They’re a good side, the Waratahs.”
Rebels backs Lachey Anderson and Reece Hodge starred in the first half, providing kick-try assists for each other in a see-saw contest.
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The Rebels led 17–6 at halftime but NSW regained the lead before the Melbourne men kicked off again.
“Ultimately we had an almost perfect performance,” said Rebels center Stacey Iley.
“Relief – the last few games we’ve been there but couldn’t get it.”
Waratahs captain Jake Gordon, surprisingly, was not too disappointed but refused to blame the late returns of Max Jorgensen, Dave Poreecki and Ned Hannigan.
“We’re better than that,” Gordon said.
“We’re really frustrated, we’re loose at the moment. Loose around carries, loose around breaks, we got their backs on the ball the whole game, and they did a really good job.
“I was really happy with our first 20 and disappointed that we didn’t come in there with two tries, and we struggled to come back from that.
“We wanted to go set piece to set piece, and we thought about our lineout launch and maul, we were getting really good pay there, and at the beginning of the second half, we wanted to play on the right end of the field. We gave him a lot of invitations to get into our 22 late in the second half.”
Both clubs now travel to New Zealand in round four, with the Rebels visiting the first-placed Chiefs and the Waratahs facing the Hurricanes.
Nanai-Seturo gets the Chiefs off to a flying start
Meanwhile, flyfall Damian McKenzie sent the All Blacks selectors another reminder of his potential as he guided the Chiefs to a 28-7 win over the Highlanders and a 3-0 start in Super Rugby Pacific.
McKenzie contributed to all four of his team’s tries and brought several nice touches in attack and defense in a Chiefs team that did not always make good use of enough possession.
The Highlanders are now 0-3 for the season but this was their best performance after two setbacks at the hands of the Blues and Crusaders.
The Highlanders spent most of the first half inside their own half but defended very well and trailed only 8–0 at halftime.
A lapse of discipline that left a series of penalties and a sin-binning played into the hands of the Chiefs in the second half. The Chiefs took advantage of three more tries, including two by winger Shaun Stevenson, his fourth and fifth of the season.
The margin could have been larger, but McKenzie was a bit cleaner from the kicking tee, with only three goals from seven attempts.
Chief captain Sam Kane said, “We came up against a Highlanders side that is quite desperate.”
“We knew that their first two weeks were not a true reflection of where they were as a team.
“We expected a real fight and that’s what we got. The first 50 minutes was a real arm wrestle. They defended well and forced us to make mistakes. We got enough on the board for the possession we had. Score not found.”
McKenzie quickly made his mark. As the Chiefs attacked openside in the sixth minute, McKenzie saw a numerical advantage on a wide blindside, changed the direction of the attack and sent Aten Nanai-Ceturo over for the first try.
The Chiefs could not muster another try before half-time as the Highlanders continued to hammer their attacks and were well out of the way with a long kick from former England flyhalf Freddie Burns, playing at fullback.
The Chiefs’ next try came in the 51st minute when McKenzie raced to an elusive line and Rameka Poihipi handed a superb ball to Stevenson, who cut straight through the gap to score.
Poihipi’s score ‘fastest effort ever’
Five minutes later Alex Nankivel broke down the left flank and McKenzie was there to take his inside pass. When he was stopped, Kane and Brad Webber headed in before Samipeni Finau scored.
Stevenson’s second came in the 75th minute, this time from McKenzie’s final pass. In the middle for the Highlanders scored through Moses Dawai.
McKenzie could again be looked to by the All Blacks selectors for a playmaker role with flyhauls Beauden Barrett and Richie Mounga both set to play in Japan after this year’s World Cup.
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