Zebo magic triggers memories of Campo
February 7, 2013
Simon Zebo scored one try and played a key role in another as Ireland overcame Wales in Cardiff last weekend © PA Photos
Around 5am, your mind loves playing tricks with you. Your eyes start to flutter out of control. Your fingers begin to twitch. The link between brain and mouth suffers an almighty meltdown. Basically you start talking Martian.
Just before dawn on Sunday morning (Australian time), Matthew Burke, Russell Barwick and myself, who were fronting ESPN's southern hemisphere coverage of the Six Nations, were going through the tries scored on the opening day when suddenly the man of the moment became our Rubik's Cube.
We had just shown Simon Zebo deliver his 'knees up mother brown' foot flick in the lead up to the Cian Healy try for the umpteenth time, when suddenly none of us could come even close to pronouncing the Irish winger's name. He became Zombo, Zebro, Zebra, Gazebo, even Zorro.
Sorry Simon, it wasn't intentional. Just blame it on the Down Under fatigue factor. And we can also assure you that our mumbles did not diminish our thoughts of your impact on the first afternoon of the championship.
For me, that Saturday Night Fever moment at the Millennium Stadium when a back flick of his left leg saw the ball magically return to his hands after a wayward pass from Jamie Heaslip was the highlight of the first round. It was like something you would see from one of the dancers at the old Cotton Club. Razzamatazz with a heavy Ellington jazz beat.
And it also brought back vivid memories of another classic moment of footwork which occurred in the general vicinity to where Zombo, Zebro, Zebra, Gazebo, Zorro or whatever weaved his magic.
Australian Rugby can boast some reasonable Test tries over the years, but one of the most memorable remains David Campese's solo act of defiance against the Barbarians at Cardiff Arms Park in 1988. Not since 1964 had the Park shown its approval of an overseas player in such a way after Campese had completed the most astonishing of tries, which combined all of his finest attributes.
Campese went one way, then another, zig-zagging here and there, stepping, swiveling and swerving as he found his way around Gavin Hastings, Jonathan Davies and countless others to complete his 12th try of that particular northern hemisphere tour.
After scoring, Campese returned to centre-field to see the rest of the Australian team, led by centre Michael Cook, who had thrown the last pass, standing to attention and showing their approval by clapping him back to his wing spot. High above in the terraces, the fans left their seats to make the Campese tribute echo to almost thunderous proportions.
Russ Barwick and Greg Growden pick through the opening Six Nations action
A somewhat bemused Campese looked up and decided to clap them back in appreciation of their fine gesture, the most rousing since the Cardiff crowd sang 'For He's a Jolly Good Fellow' to All Black captain Wilson Whineray at the end of the 1964 Barbarians game.
After the 1988 match, four spectators ran onto the field with a sign which proclaimed 'David Campese Walks on Water.' More than an hour after the game, hundreds of Welsh spectators stood outside the Australian dressing room waiting to see, touch or just get an autograph from the phenomenon. He responded to everyone's wishes. It then took Campese nearly an hour to negotiate the normally five-minute walk back to the Angel Hotel, where the team were staying.
Then came the problem of organising a press conference. Due to the clutter in the hotel foyer, we eventually interviewed Campese in a telephone booth. That night it would not have surprised any of us if he had emerged from the booth at the end of the interview wearing a Superman suit, and flown off into the night sky.
Twenty five years on, no-one is saying that Zombo, Zebro, Zebra, Gazebo, Zorro or whatever is the next Campo. But what occurred on the weekend was a mighty fine start.
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