Quade Cooper sent a timely reminder to the Wallabies selectors with a composed performance in the Rebels’ 15-20 defeat against the Waratahs in Melbourne on Friday.
The surprise result takes the Waratahs within three log points of their victims, who remain in second place in the Australian conference.
Despite the result going against his team, Cooper was at his mercurial best, outperforming Bernard Foley who is the Wallabies’ flyhalf incumbent. Cooper accounted for 10 of the hosts’ 15 points with a try, conversion and penalty.
The Waratahs made a perfect start to the game when veteran centre Adam Ashley-Cooper finished off a brilliant team try which Foley converted.
The Rebels enjoyed a decent share of the possession and territory, but struggled to convert pressure into points and soon found themselves trailing 13-3 after Foley had managed to extend the Waratahs’ lead with a couple of penalties.
The second half belonged to the Rebels, but unfortunately the damage had been done in the first half and the margin was just too big to overcome.
A self-converted try from Cooper soon after the restart brought the score to 10-13, but the Waratahs would land a telling blow when they scored against the run of play.
A dazzling run from Kurtley Beale set-up wing Curtis Rona for the try to extend the visitors’ advantage. The Rebels again hit back, this time through Will Genia. But despite dominating the closing stages, the Waratahs’ defence somehow kept them out to secure an unlikely victory.
Waratahs – Tries: Adam Ashley-Cooper, Curtis Rona. Conversions: Bernard Foley (2). Penalties: Foley (2).
Rebels – Tries: Quade Cooper, Will Genia. Conversion: Cooper. Penalty: Cooper.
Rebels – 15 Dane Haylett-Petty (c), 14 Jack Maddocks, 13 Reece Hodge, 12 Matt To’omua, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Isi Naisarani, 7 Richard Hardwick, 6 Luke Jones, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Matt Philip, 3 Jermaine Ainsley, 2 Anaru Rangi, 1 Tetera Faulkner.
Subs: 16 Hugh Roach, 17 Matt Gibbon, 18 Sam Talakai, 19 Ross Haylett-Petty, 20 Angus Cottrell, 21 Michael Ruru, 22 Billy Meakes, 23 Tom English.
Waratahs – 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Alex Newsome, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Lalakai Foketi, 11 Curtis Rona, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Michael Wells, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Lachlan Swinton, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Ned Hanigan, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Damien Fitzpatrick, 1 Tom Robertson.
Subs: 16 Andrew Tuala, 17 Harry Johnson-Holmes, 18 Chris Talakai, 19 Jed Holloway, 20 Will Miller, 21 Jake Gordon, 22 Mack Mason, 23 Cameron Clark.
Photo: Getty Images