Five things we learnt from Rebels-Waratahs

Fri, Mar 10, 2023, 11:23 AM
Jim Tucker
by Jim Tucker
Carter Gordon helped steer the Rebels to victory. Photo: Getty Images
Carter Gordon helped steer the Rebels to victory. Photo: Getty Images

The huge surge of belief through the entire Melbourne Rebels organisation cannot be overstated after the upset 34-27 win over the NSW Waratahs tonight. 

Not only did they beat their arch rivals for the fifth time in seven clashes since the start of 2020, they did it in style when threatened. 

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The first success for the Rebels in Super Rugby Pacific for 2023 was finally concrete proof that the improvements seen from within are worth wins in the outside world. 

What did we learn? 


Law variations, tech gizmos and fancy coloured boots may all be modern elements to rugby but nothing really matches an old-school flash of front-row skill. 

Rebels prop Matt Gibbon produced the moment on the hour mark with a classic bit of trickery...a little dummy to his left for a try. 

The NSW defence was fooled like Gibbon had pulled a con worthy of the Leonardo DiCaprio character in the move Catch Me If You Can. 

NSW centre Izaia Perese certainly bought it. 

The bloodied Gibbon put in a big 80-minute effort and started the night with a ripping front-on tackle on Perese.

The Rebels win would surely have put a smile on the face of Taniela Tupou knowing he has signed with an improving club for 2024-25.  


Rebels flyhalf Carter Gordon had one of his most significant games as a key architect when his team was down 20-17 and needed to lift in the second half. 

A Latham-like torpedo punt for a 50-22, a sidestep through the defence to put backrower Josh Kemeny into the clear and his own dummying try all unfolded in a seven-minute burst. 

He helped wrestled back momentum after the Rebels could have lost their way. 

Rebels coach Kevin Foote has spoken continuously about his team having a fearless character to play fast and bold.  

Five tries to capitalise on some really loose play from the Waratahs was clear proof. 


Ben Donaldson is a flyhalf. The classy Waratahs back adds little from fullback because he is no big-bang running threat entering the line like your classic fullback. 

It is a dilemma for the ‘Tahs because they want to give both Donaldson and Tane Edmed plenty of exposure. 

The bigger issue now is finding a fullback with more punch and moving some pieces around to make that happen. 


It’s not just the Brumbies rejoicing at picking up a gem in winger Corey Toole from the Aussie Sevens program. 

The Rebels are getting great value from winger Lachie Anderson, a Tokyo Olympian in 2021. 

In the first half, he dabbed the neat kick over the top for the Reece Hodge try. Overall, 12 runs for 88m was good quality outside standout centre Stacey Ili and his steppy moves and offloads. 

The sevens program is doing exactly as it should be...identifying talented footballers, developing them and creating more players for the professional system in this country. Tim Anstee (Western Force) is another. 


The Waratahs did the talking when circling a top four spot as their aim this year. 

With a 1-2 start to the season and two losses to Australian opponents, this was a bracing night of reality. 

At their best, that eight-pass sweep across the full width of the field was superb for the Mark Nawaqanitawase try. 

Likewise, the try on full-time to Taleni Seu was a long-range beauty after the big lock was one of the few bench players to make an impact. 

Such tries are fine but they don’t rate if you are beaten at the breakdown by the hungry hands of Richard Hardwick, get sloppy and tread water when the accelerator is needed instead.