Thirteen years after bursting into the international spotlight as a baby-faced debutant, Matt Giteau returned to Twickenham as Australia’s cool head in a Rugby World Cup crisis.
Giteau marked his milestone 100th Test with a priceless man-of-the-match display in the Wallabies’ 35-34 quarter-final Houdini act against Scotland on Sunday.
A far cry from the timid reserve who feared he’d be a one-Test wonder following his nervy late cameo in a one-point loss to England in 2002, Giteau this time often steadied the ship in a dramatic one-point win over at the so-called home of rugby.
Under-rated for his defence, Giteau pulled off a series of desperate scrambling tackles, set up tries, kicked astutely and provided much-needed calm as his Wallabies teammates ran around like headless chooks in the cut-throat Cup pressure cooker.
The 33-year-old midfield general typically played down his part in Australia scraping through to the last four, eight years after his last World Cup quarter-final ended in a demoralising 12-10 loss to England.
“I’m not sure who votes for man of the match but I’ll happily accept it because there’s a lot of other people who deserved it,” said Giteau, one of Australia’s most consistent performers this campaign after being controversially overlooked by former coach Robbie Deans for the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand.
“It was a tight game and we showed some character to win at the end.
“There’s lots to work on.”
Giteau and skipper Stephen Moore, another of the four survivors including wingers Drew Mitchell and Adam Ashley-Cooper from the Wallabies’ Marseille meltdown in 2007, became the seventh and eighth players to join the 100-club.
“I’ll just really cherish this moment for me and for Steve,” Giteau said.
“It’s very special and, as a team, we pushed through to the semi-finals.
“So we got what we wanted.”