England international flyhalf Danny Cipriani kicked a last-minute penalty to snatch a euphoric first Super 15 victory for newcomers the Melbourne Rebels on Friday.
Cipriani’s nerveless kick clinched a thrilling 25-24 win for the Rebels over two-time champions ACT Brumbies to emphatically bounce back from their deflating debut a week ago.
The Rebels were a far different proposition from the team that was flogged 43-0 by the NSW Waratahs, overcoming a massive disparity in possession to defeat the Brumbies with commitment and work rate.
It was a crowning night for Cipriani with five penalties and a conversion from seven attempts, plus a sublime general kicking performance in a week where he was put under a club investigation for a nightclub incident.
“I was very delighted to kick the goal, but it was a whole team performance and right when it counted our experience came through and everything that we’ve worked for,” Cipriani said. “Defence is something I’ve had to work on a lot to make sure that I can front up because this is the best league in the world.
“People writing us off kind of took the pressure off us and allows us to play our game and that’s what we tried to execute all night, and the boys tremendously did so.”
Former Wallaby skipper Stirling Mortlock scored the Rebels’ first Super 15 try to put the newcomers in front 22-19 with seven minutes left.
But it looked as though their inspired performance would come to nothing when Fijian winger Henry Speight scored the Brumbies’ second try off a suspiciously forward-looking pass in the corner minutes later.
The Rebels regrouped for one last effort and Cipriani got his chance to kick for goal when South African referee Jonathan Kaplan controversially reversed a scrum penalty after prop Salesi Ma’afu was nabbed for pushing.
Cipriani guided the ball between the uprights to set off wild celebrations among the home crowd.
“I’m extremely happy with the effort. That was a game either team could have won and I’m just happy to see Danny knock that one through the posts,” Mortlock said.
“It was a full 22-man effort and everyone played their role in an arm-wrestle and there are a lot of things we can learn from it as well.”
Brumbies’ skipper Matt Giteau, who kicked 14 points, was annoyed that his side threw away victory with the late scrum penalty.
“We just couldn’t get into it,” Giteau said. “Any good ball we had they would slow it down and full credit to them, they lifted and we probably didn’t.
“We can’t give away stupid things like that, we had the scrum feed and we were going to play field position, but we’ll learn from it.” — AFP